Great if it has been raining
Tad Sae waterfall is an impressively wide set of falls, with turquoise water gushing through the jungle over limestone rocks into a large pool where people can splash around.
A seasonal waterfall dependent upon rainy season, Tad Sae flows around June/July until a couple of months after the rains have stopped. November/December is usually the latest it is worth visiting for the water. The rest of the dry season the falls are hardly a trickle.
The title of Luang Prabang’s top waterfall firmly belongs to Kuang Si but if time allows, also visiting Tad Sae is justifiable as they are different, and Tad Sae requires a boat ride on the Nam Khan to reach. Families with children may also appreciate that the swimming area has a concrete ledge to form an easier to access pool, though be aware that the limestone underneath remains naturally very slick.
The big difference between the two is that Tad Sae has more touristy development. Wooden walkways lead this way and that over the water, and there’s zip-lining above (we are skeptical of the safety). There are also elephants kept here so visitors can feed them bananas and take short repetitive rides, one of the least ideal situations for domesticated elephants in captivity. The park has also been known to keep other animals like monkeys on display in cages. Overall, Tad Sae is great for photos and swimming but we find the animals put a damper on the experience.
As with Kuang Si, revealing swimwear is not considered appropriate and while no one will say anything, wearing a bikini may attract stares.
Admission is 20,000 kip. A songthaew can take passengers as far as the banks of the Nam Khan 16 km from the centre of town. Then a boat transports people across to the falls (10,000 kip per person, minimum two people). To share a tuk tuk, a mob of drivers hang out at the main intersection with the post office, Joma Cafe and Indigo Cafe. Touts hustle for trips to the waterfall and they can help gather a group. Kuang Si is the most popular and so finding people for Tad Sae can take some time. Price per person depends on the number of people and if there are many, aim for 40,000 kip or less.
To privately charter a tuk tuk for the roundtrip journey, it costs around 150,000 kip including wait time. We suggest you find a lone tuk tuk hanging out well away from the central mafia, anywhere else on the peninsula. These guys tend to be more relaxed and straightforward to deal with.
Tad Sae is often a stop included on treks, kayaking trips and elephant camps on the Nam Khan river.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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