Laos: Bears, Pools & Waterfalls

I am one of those people that absolutely love going to zoos but feel completely guilt ridden when I do, Bangkok zoo was the literal worst place I have ever been; but that’s another story. Luckily Kwang Si Waterfall doesn’t hold a zoo, but a Bear Sanctuary full of rescued animals from poachers and traffickers; finally I got to see bears that were genuinely happy and had large natural, green habitats with plenty of toys.

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There is a display of a cage that one of these bears were rescued from that you could climb into, it was awful to read but very enlightening and you can buy merch from the Sanctuary to help their funding or simply just donate.

Reading and watching the bears is a great opening to the walk up to the pools and waterfalls.

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The first pools you’ll come across look like this, it’s a slight effort getting in and out – being completely natural, rocks line the water with slippery moss all over them – not that you’ll want to get out anyway.

The water is warm, clean and completely clear; swimming here is so blissful and I have never felt so peaceful. Wooden huts line the walking trail making it easy to get changed in privacy so there’s no excuse not to jump in – unless you have lovely green infected bed bug bites all up your leg like I did on my first visit… But that’s what you get for staying in a £2 hostel I guess.

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Kwang Si Waterfall was perhaps the most impressive waterfall I have seen, the cascading water draping over the huge drop are breathtaking and you can easily make a long day trip out of this place: Watching the bears, swimming in the natural toasty pools and embracing the vast waterfall at the top of the mountain.

This is one of my favourite travel memories and isn’t hard to get to from Northern Thailand – we caught an 11 hour night bus which was a surreal experience altogether and very cheap.

How to get there;

A 50 minute drive from the centre of Luang Prabang and a cost of 50,000 kip each (£5ish) for a shared Songthaew and an entrance fee of 20,000 kip.

Make sure you bring money for snacks, and any change you’d like to donate to the bear sanctuary (they take USD, like everywhere in Laos – but the rate is always better in kip)

Bring shoes that have grip, the floor can be pretty slippery, but also bring flip flops to walk around when you’re in and out of the pools as well as a swimming costume, towel and of course mosquito repellent.

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