At Kwang Si, clear, cool water cascades gently over limestone formations and gathers into layers of stunning turquoise pools.
Follow the tumbling waters uphill for scenic views and a rope swing favoured by backpackers or downstream for a shady, shallow swimming area popular with families.
Picnic spots, public toilets and changing rooms are available. Swimming is permitted only in marked areas and modest swimsuits are most appropriate, with local people swimming fully clothed. Food stalls outside the park entrance sell baguettes, fruit shakes and skewers of grilled meat -- the perfect fixings for a picnic -- plus there are a handful of small restaurants and souvenir shops.
About halfway between the park entrance and the waterfall is the Asiatic Black Bear rescue centre, which houses a couple of dozen animals rescued from the hands of poachers and traffickers. The bears are in large enclosures with trees and some simple toys like tire swings. An elevated viewing platform has been built near the enclosure so visitors can observe these endangered animals.
Free the Bears doesn't receive any money from the Kwang Si park admission and relies on public donations. You can support the bears by making a donation to the centre or purchasing a T-shirt (60,000 kip). For full information about the centre visit http://www.bearlao.com and http://www.freethebears.org.au/.
The Kwang Si Butterfly Park opened February 2014. Well-manicured trails lead through gardens, past forest, streams and swimming holes to a netted garden full of local butterflies. While this place is still a work in progress and it will take some time for the gardens to grow in, it's worth the visit if you're there and they have a restaurant/cafe and clean Western-style toilets. It's located down from the Kuang Si Waterfall entrance/parking pad. Foreigners 30,000 kip, children 15,000 kip.
How to get there
The price for a chartered tuk tuk to go to the falls varies depending on your negotiation skills, but can be as low as 160,000 kip. The other option is to buy a seat on a minivan or tuk tuk. Many tour agencies and touts on the road will offer these waterfall trips and it's simply a matter of negotiating with them for the best deal. Bank on 60,000 kip for a shared minivan, 40,000 kip per person in a shared tuk tuk or less if you have lots of people.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 11th June, 2014.