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In the Laos rainforest, not far from Luang Prabang, the canopy parts to reveal a series of turquoise pools, connected by cascading water. The soothing trickling sounds, smooth rock and bright pools combine to create one hell of a spectacle.
The waterfalls at Kuang Si look like they’re straight out of sci-fi CGI or a celestial vision. They’re arguably even more special when you encounter them up close. Walkways and paths connect the various pools and cascades, and sunlight glints through the leaves, bouncing off the rippling water.
Visitors can sit back and admire it all from the viewing area, or splash around in the pools at the bottom, before exploring other pools uphill or climbing to the top for fine views of the surrounding greenery. There are three tiers to the falls, and the biggest drop is 60m (200ft) – this is a majestic spot for a selfie.
Kuang Si is well maintained, with picnic tables and bridges, and there’s a 20,000K (£1.75) fee for entry. It’s a popular sight, and the lower levels can get busy – things are usually quieter higher up, as many people are put off by the idea of slogging uphill. One of the pools is sacred and is closed to visitors, so check warning signs.
Kuang Si is easy to reach from Luang Prabang. It’s 30km (19mi) southwest of the Laos capital – you can hire a tuk-tuk or minivan, or head here on a motorbike yourself.
The falls aren’t the only attraction in the area. The Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, near the base of the falls, has a population of black bears rescued from poachers. There are about 20 bears, and they’re able to roam free, which means you should be able to see them climbing, drinking and playing. Nearby, the Kuang Si Butterfly Park has lush netted gardens and plenty of butterflies.
Several stalls offer hot food, snacks and smoothies for refuelling after your dip.