SOUTH EAST ASIA 2013

LUANG PRABANG EXCURSIONS

All photos © Ruud Leeuw

 

 

 

To PAK OU CAVES


Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
Without too much preparations I was aware of two excursions from Luang Prabang, and the first we decided to undertake was to the Pak Ou Caves. It would involve a boatride, promising some cooler temperatures. We arranged this through the hotel reception desk, with a pick up (quite unnecessary really as we walked a short distance to the boat) and at a cost of LAK 342.000 (about 34 euro or 40 US dollars p.p.); am sure you'll find a better deal at the dock but we had the entire boat to ourselves and did not have to wait for anyone.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOSAfter only a short ride we stopped: we had to refuel.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
Pleasant sailing on the Mekong.
Others were already on their way back, but I had planned our return to be around sunset.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
Boats pass of all shapes and sizes.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
Fishing with nets on the Mekong river.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
No idea what these people are doing. It resembled panning for gold..?! (Tell me email)

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
A strange cow; an albino of some sort? This one wasn't the only one and looks like cross-bred with a pig.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOSApproaching our destination, a very beautiful area of the Mekong river.

 

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
Our driver approaches the floating dock of the Pak Ou Caves.
The upstream trip took longer than we expected: two hours. But then again, it is advertised as a half-day excursion! We skipped a brief excursion onshore, to the 'whiskey village', had read about a tourist trap.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
The Lower Cave.
Not a very big place, and the Buddhist statues not very beautiful but there sure were a lot, amassed over centuries.

The first use of the caves for religious purposes was at the time when the local population worshipped Phi, or the spirits of nature. It is said that the caves are associated with a river spirit.
It is believed that the Lao people first entered the river valley in the middle of the 8th century, after moving southward from south China. It was not until considerably later that Buddhism first spread into the area from the west.

By the 16th century Buddhism had been adopted by the Royal families of Lao and the caves received patronage from that time, until 1975.
Every year the King and the people of Luang Prabang made a pilgrimage to the caves as part of the New Year religious observances.

The more than 4.000 sculptures of Buddha now found in the Tam Ting caves have been placed there by worshippers. For the most part they are carved from wood or moulded from a tree resin, then coated with red of black lacquer, subsequently covered with gold leaf.

 

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
We climbed the long and winding steps to the Upper Cave. This cave is some 54 meters deep.

On the eastern bank of the Mekong River opposite the caves of Tam Ting is Ban Pak Ou. In the past the village temple ('wat') received royal patronage in exchange for caretaking the caves. Nets and fish traps at the mouth of the river Ou indicate that Ban Pak Ou is a fishing village which regularly supplies fish to the market of Luang Prabang.
This trip did not include a visit to the village. It does show how the caves gets referred to not as the Tam Ting caves, but as the caves of (Ban) Pak Ou.

There were builders at work in the grounds, visible from the steps leading to the Upper Cave; perhaps that was the restoration on the Tam Ting shrine.

 

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
At the far end it was completely dark; this was shot without tripod by the light of a mobile phone torch.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS
The plan worked, we did get a nice sunset on the 1-hour return trip.

Pak Ou Caves excursion - LAOS

 


 

 

To KUANG SI FALLS

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
Entrance fee is LAK 20.000, so 2 euro for us (p.p.)

The Kuang Si Falls, sometimes spelled Kuang Xi or known as Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls, is a three tier waterfall about 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of Luang Prabang.

I don't remember what we were charged for the excursion, but it was again arranged thru the frontdesk of the Lotus Villa hotel and a driver with a minivan picked us up as 14:00 for a fifty minute drive.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
These waterfalls are a favourite side trip for tourists in Luang Prabang.
It does offer a nice opportunity to catch some rays, which for many is a welcome diversion in absence of beaches.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
The falls are accessed via a trail to a left of the falls. The water collects in numerous turquoise blue pools as it flows downstream. The many cascades that result are typical of travertine waterfalls.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
This is the largest pool and one can jump from that tree or use the rope to do the Tarzan (or Jane..) swing.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
We hadn't realized it was a sunday and with the nice weather it had brought the locals out too...

There were far too many people around for us to really enjoy this excursion, even though you might not get the impression by my photos. But maybe our expectations had been a little bit unrealistic.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
Some seek the quiet..

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
... while some revel in escaping parental supervision.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
And finally we come to the Kuang Si Falls.

The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside; these lead to the main falls with a 60 metres (200 ft) drop. One apperently can climb up, but I didn't see how that would improve the experience nor could muster the required energy. We had the clock ticking for an agreed return time with our driver.

 

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
I can see how for some the experience of these falls increase with such bikini clad young women on the sundeck.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
I preferred these pools to the falls, actually. With some solitude these are quite enthralling.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls
I had to do without a tripod but managed to get the water 'flowing'.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears
These Malaysian Sun Bears were great fun, and may very well have been the best part of this excursion!

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears

The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is a bear found in tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia.

It is classified as 'vulnerable' by IUCN, as the large-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout Southeast Asia over the past three decades has dramatically reduced suitable habitat for the sun bear. It is suspected that the global population has declined by more than 30% over the past three bear generations.

Most of the bears arrive at the rescue centre as very young cubs having been confiscated by the Lao Government from illegal poaching and trading.  It is likely that they would otherwise have been destined for a life of torture
in a 'bile farm' outside of Laos.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears
The sun bear is the smallest of the bears. Adults are about 120–150 cm (47–59 in) long and weigh 27–65 kg (60–140 lb). Males are 10–20% larger than females.

The sun bear's fur is jet-black, short and sleek with some under-wool. There are two whirls on the shoulders, from where the hair radiates in all directions. There is a crest on the sides of the neck and a whorl in the centre of the breast patch. There is always a more or less crescent-shaped pale patch on the breast that varies individually in colour ranging from buff, cream or dirty white to ochreous.
[Wikipedia]

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears
The Sun Bear on the sun deck..

The bears @Tat Kuang Si Rescue Center do not profit from the entrance fee to the Kuang Si Falls park, so if you visit please do not forget to make a donation.

www.freethebears.org.au/web/Projects/Laos

 

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears
We certainly travelled in comfort. Although driving standards (safety) were found to be different indeed, such as passing of traffic before corners or hilltops without a clear view for head on traffic. Gave me some tense moments!

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears
Unfortunately we did not see enough of the countryside surrounding Luang Prabang. Perhaps for some future visit.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears
Distinctly a hillier countryside than what we witnessed in Cambodia around Siem Reap.
But so much we did not get to see of these countries, or even could hope ever to see.

Excursion Kuang Si Falls - Malaysian Sun Bears

 

 

External LINKS:
LAOS on Wikipedia
Luang Prabang on Wikipedia

 

 

 

BANGKOK 3-2013, a start
PHNOM PENH, CAPITAL OF CAMBODIA
ROYAL PALACE & SILVER PAGODA
STREETS of PHNOM PENH
CAMBODIA'S KILLING FIELDS
SIEM REAP
THE ANGKOR TEMPLES
LUANG PRABANG
BANGKOK 3-2013, the end

 


 

 

 

Page compiled/updated: 28-Jun-2013 / 18-Jul-2013