Kuang Si Waterfalls, Bears and a Massage.

Trip Start Jan 23, 2013
Trip End Jul 23, 2013

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, Louangphabang,
Thursday, February 7, 2013

We woke up at around 8:00, considerably early for us these days.

We showered and dressed and made our way into the old town for breakfast. Feeling brave, we decided on another small cafe, where Terry ordered scrambled eggs and tomatoes and I had an omelette. It wasn't very nice and we wished we had stuck to the cafe we had visited the previous day.

We walked slowly toward where we had booked the tickets the previous evening, visiting Wat Xiengthong en route. It is the oldest Wat in Luang Prabang and once again, extremely ornate and mellow. All the same, we were starting to feel a little 'Wat ted out'.

On arrival at the tour agency, we were met by our driver and another couple who had booked the same tour. We were shown to our transport, a mini van, and politely took seats toward the back. These proved to be the worse seats ever, as we were crammed in at every direction. The van smelt strongly of body odour ( not ours), but we couldn't open windows as the air conditioning was on. We stopped a few times in the local vicinity to pick up others; by the time we were truly 'en route' to the waterfalls, there were 10 people in the van, including the driver. As everybody had been waiting for their lifts in the soaring heat, the smell in the van did not improve.

We arrived at the waterfalls after a 45 minute drive South West of the old city. The terrain and scenery changed considerably during our ride; from urban to rural then into the jungle; passing individual villages and small holdings, where all the locals were selling their produce on the side of the road. Turning a sharp bend, our driver had to slam on the breaks to allow time for a herd of water buffalo to get out of the road. The drive was hazardous to say the least; a couple of the individual 'fold down' car seats did not appear to be anchored to the floor securely therefore on each corner, the people sitting on them were thrown onto the person sitting next to them.

When we arrived at the waterfalls we were told we had two hours to look around. The driver pointed in the direction of the entrance where we had to pay 20.000 kip each to get in, (£1.60). We didn't feel as though we were being screwed.

Before we reached the start of the waterfalls, we looked around a Bear Sanctuary. The bears were kept in a large enclosed natural forest areas, where they could climb trees, forage for food or find shade. All the Bears at the sanctuary have been rescued from all over the continent. We were amazed at the size of them; we couldn't recall when we had been so close to bears before. The bears completely ignored us; they were very well looked after and looked completely at home and chilled out.

Walking toward the waterfalls, we could see clear blue water pools where we could have taken a swim or paddle. It was mostly bikini and burmuda shorts clad youngsters that were in these pools. We hadn't bought swimming attire anyway, but could have skinny dipped had we been in the mood. Instead, we crossed a bridge to a 'trekking path', not really knowing where we were going. We didn't see anybody for about 15 mins, and wondered whether me might have strayed off the path by mistake. The ground had become very muddy and slippery, with trees fallen across the path and overgrown thorn clad bushes catching our clothing as we brushed past however, we suddenly saw an opening in front of us, and were welcomed by the sight of probably the deepest drop of the waterfall. We were also pleased to see other people, who were on the other side of the waterfall, who had taken the less strenuous path up!

The photos speak for themselves. We both felt that these were the best falls we had seen in our lives. We sat for a while in silence ( difficult for me) just listening to the sound of the falling water and marvelling at the array of butterflies who almost settled on us as we sat and the huge shiny green leaves of fern bushes. It was a truly wonderful and gratifying experience, and we were sorry we did not have longer to stay.

Returning to the mini van, I made sure we didn't get the seats at the back again, but we were still trapped in the middle. On our journey back to Luang Prabang, our driver stopped at a Hmong village and asked us all to disembark to look around. Quite frankly, I wish I had stayed on the smelly van as all these poverty stricken locals had their handicrafts for sale and were begging us to buy them. Not particularly needing a cushion cover, blanket, purse or bracelet; I felt very uncomfortable leaving the village without giving any money, so handed over a 10.000 kip note to a little girl, who received it gladly and ran into her home.

Walking back toward the mini van, I heard a loud crash and screech. It seemed the whole village ran past me to see what had happened. Sadly, I saw a man lying on the road who I think may have been knocked off of a motor cycle. Our driver phoned an ambulance; I'm not sure what would have happened if he wasn't there as we were in a very remote part of the country. As we drove back toward the centre, we saw the ambulance pass us.

Once back in the centre, I felt extremely tired. We walked to a Wat where, we thought I could have had a lie down in the shade however, it was full of noisy American tourists so I didn't stand a chance. The only other thing I could think of that might help keep me awake was food, so we set off to find a restaurant. We soon found one and dined on our old favourites, me; Green Curry and rice and Terry; Sweet and Sour. We finished the meal off with battered bananas in honey, scrumptious. The food did the trick and I felt alive again.

I had a massage booked for 18:30, so we slowly walked to the parlour ( very loosely said). Terry left me at the door and went to have a couple of beers. The parlour owner showed me to a room where another lady was filling a large bucket. She gave me a small towel and a saucepan - this was to be my shower.......things were NOT looking very professional. When she had left the room, I stood in the bucket and splashed the water around a bit; I didn't get undressed. I dried off my legs and feet and wandered back out of the room where a lady showed me to my 'cubicle', which consisted of a very thin mattress on the floor surrounded by curtains that didn't 'meet' at the corners. She prompted me to undress and lie down, and signalled to me that she would return in a minute.

I don't know whether by this time I had thrown all caution to the wind as really needed a lie down, but I decided to go along with it. I undressed down to my pants and wrapped the towel I had been given in the 'shower' around me. The masseur returned to the cubicle with a small jug that was steaming; I gauged this must be the aromatherapy oils, but it was for a cup of tea. Thank goodness, I thought I was going to get scalded.

The first half hour of the massage was very relaxing; the masseur made sure the whole of my body had been oiled and gently pummelled to the extreme. The second half took on a different guise as she downed the oils and started contorting every part of my body. She pulled all my fingers and toes out of joint and twisted my legs behind me in a position I would have never thought possible. She forced my shoulders back and got me in some sort of a head lock which twisted the top of my body round so I was almost facing the back. I wouldn't have been surprised if she had punched me in the face as a finale. I could have never imagined a tiny four footer could be so strong. I left the parlour feeling well handled, a little oily and slightly dazed.

I found Terry in a nearby bar and had a small beer. We then took a rather speedy walk back to the Hotel as we were both busting for the loo.

When back at the Hotel we Skyped Catherine who was at Amy and Andrews house. We were able to see Finley attempting to eat pureed sweet potato. It was good to see him smear the food all over his face; I only hope that as he gets older he manages to make less mess eating food than his Nanna does.
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