Outside Luang Prabang Center in One Day

We had one day to spend outside Luang Prabang center and had Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si Waterfalls to tick off from our list.

We asked from our hotel how to go there on our own, but instead, they recommended a one day tour package for these two sites for a price of 45 USD, under Manifa Travel.  Since it was December then and we are very much in the spirit of the holiday season, we decided to take it (rephrased as “we were just lazy to turn on backpacker mode”).

We had booked Pak Ou caves and Kuang Si Waterfalls ONLY, but we were surprised they’d put us on a tour that included elephant ride, which became our first stop for the day, whether we liked it or not.

Elephant Camp

I honestly wanted to try the elephant ride but I wanted to do it with an organization that truly cares about the elephants.  However, the truth is that true care for the animals is giving them freedom to roam around their natural habitat, not letting them work during the day for tourists’ enjoyment.

luang prabang elephant camp

luang prabang elephant campIt’s sad seeing the elephants chained by their legs to trees when they’re not “on the job”

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Another sad part is that we can’t do anything but waste an hour in the camp to wait for the other tourists in our group who included an elephant ride in their package.  Since there’s no other thing to do, I took the time photographing what I saw in the camp.

luang prabang elephant camp

elephant camp luang prabang

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Cutting of sugarcane, which is fed to the elephants

mekong river, luang prabang

Might as well enjoy this scenic location in the camp

mekong river

luang prabang elephant camp tourism waste

Empty water bottles wasted everyday.  We ate lunch at the camp, where they have a kitchen. Reusable and washable cups offers a better option.

luang prabang elephant camp

Tourists and the mahouts preparing to bathe the elephants

luang prabang elephant camp

Pak-Ou Caves

From the elephant camp, we drove to a village then walked a little until we reach the riverbank of Mekong River.  We boarded a small boat to cross the river and reach the cave entrance.  The 20,000 kips entrance fee is already included in the tour package.

pak ou cave

On our way to the boat that will take us to Pak-ou caves

pak ou cave

Flattened rice cakes being sun-dried

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Typical Laotian home in the village

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Pak-ou caves at the other end of Mekong River

Pak-Ou cave has been used as a pilgrimage site by the royal families and the Laotian people as part of the New Year religious observances. Buddha sculptures were brought and venerated in the caves by the people until they accumulated over the years.  I am not sure though whether this is still being practiced at this time.

pak ou cave

There is a lower level cave and an upper level cave on top of the hill.  Man-made stairs are already in place so it is not difficult to reach both caves, except for the quite steep climb to the upper cave.

pak ou cave

Steps leading to the upper cave

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A family picnic-ing along the side-stairway to the upper cave

pak ou cave

Upper cave entrance

pak ou cave

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The upper cave is bigger and unlit.  Hence, you would need a flashlight to view the Buddha images inside.

pak ou cave

The lower cave is much more lighted because this is smaller and the Buddha sculptures are located close to the cave openings.  The lower cave is also much more crowded with tourists than the upper cave.

pak ou cave

Buddha statues in the lower cave

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Marigold in banana leaf cones as offerings to Buddha

pak ou cave

Whiskey Village

Whiskey Village is close to the Pak-Ou caves, the reason why this is usually paired with a trip to Pak-ou.  The village is known for…you guessed it right, making whiskey! In local language, lao-lao means rice whiskey.  Say lao-lao in front a Filipino and I’m pretty sure they’ll give you a laugh. If you’re not Pinoy and want to find out, just Google lawlaw. Hehe.

whiskey village

The come-on here are the bottles of whiskey containing snakes, which are believed to increase a man’s sexual performance.  I don’t know if it’s legal there to use wildlife in their products but I think this should be discouraged.

luang prabang village

Traditional Laotian textile are also sold around Whiskey Village

Kuang Si Waterfalls

This is definitely the highlight of my Luang Prabang visit.  Unfortunately, we were only given one hour and 15 minutes to enjoy the area.  Entrance fee of 20,000 kips is already included in the tour package.

Then I thought of the one hour we wasted in the Elephant camp, plus the time we wasted going back and forth from the elephant camp to Pak ou cave then back to the elephant camp again for lunch.  The reason why we opted for Pak-ou and Kuang Si Waterfalls only is for us to have enough time to enjoy both sites without the cramming.

Anyway, we’re already in the situation, and we’re supposed to enjoy our vacation.  Thanks to the overwhelming beauty of Kuang Si Waterfalls, all the rantings changed to awe.

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Near the park entrance is the Asiatic Black Bear rescue centre, which houses bears rescued from poachers and traffickers. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any bear outside when we visited.

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We were not yet in what they say as the Big Falls but I’m already in awe of these small cascading falls

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kuang si falls

The main falls. I am speechless.

kuang si falls

kuang si falls

For those wanting to know the science behind why the water of Kuang Si waterfalls is blue or blue-green, here’s the answer (as written on the sign):

The water flows over many limestone rocks on its journey from the spring, over the main falls and then the stepped travertine cascades.

Limestone particles, containing high levels of calcium carbonate, collected along the way reflect light making the water appear to us as a stunning turquoise blue color.

Recommendations

Going on a tour package will give you the advantage of not having to think about you’re transportation to and from the sites.  Kuang Si falls and Pak-ou caves are quite far from the city center.  The package tour might be ideal if you are travelling with kids.  However, it is best to first research on reviews about the travel agencies (which we didn’t) offering the tour you want.  Also make sure that the places you wanted to visit matches the itinerary they are offering.

If you really like the elephant ride, choose carefully the company you will take for this service.  It is best to check whether your money will be spent in a sanctuary, in a true sense, where income is used for maintaining healthy and happy conditions for both the employees and the elephants.

I think doing the tour by yourself is the way to go.  It may not be the most convenient but it’s cheaper and it’s easy.  We saw a lot of tuk tuks near the tourist information center in the Luang Prabang center, waiting for tourists to hop on.


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10 thoughts on “Outside Luang Prabang Center in One Day

  1. Pingback: Around Town in Luang Prabang - Finding Jing

  2. Gareth

    Now this brings back a lot of memories! I loved my time in Luang Prabang and I managed to take in all the things you have listened although a particular highlight was the waterfalls. Unfortunately, I got the same feeling as you did when visiting the elephants and I can only hope that this unfortunate practice is on it’s way out

  3. Elisa Subirats

    The waterfalls look really amazing! Another option could be to hire a private transportation (+ waiting time) if you did it with 3 more people I don’t think it would be expensive

  4. pinehavenfarm

    Wow. The falls are magical!! The caves also look incredible. I definitely agree with skipping the elephant rides. The elephant you photographed looked unhappy.

  5. Vibeke Johannessen

    Beautiful photos. The waterfalls looks amazing. I would love to travel to Laos looks like a great place to visit. I also would find a good operator that really take care of the elephants. They are such wonderful animals.

  6. The Roaming Renegades.com

    Really glad that you didn’t decide to ride the elephants, I think if more tourists keep going and refusing to ride them then eventually it might stop, who knows! Also Kuang Si waterfalls are definitely the most beautiful falls we’ve ever seen and we even had a little swim! Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go see the caves but it’s something to do if we ever go back!

    1. findingjing Post author

      Thanks a lot for your comment. You are right, tourists can influence how elephant tourism goes in the future. Also, dipping into the waterfalls will be one of the things I’d like to do should I go back.

  7. Lara Dunning

    I wouldn’t be into the elephant rides at all. The falls and the caves are something I’d really enjoy. Loved the layers of the falls. Made for some really great photos!

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