(There are three posts we’ve made recently; don’t miss the other two!)
So we haven’t biked in three weeks, except for the precarious trip on level ground through Bangkok (see our post). But here we were for 2 hours or so on a couple of serviceable mountain bikes climbing about a thousand feet, twice, through two passes and the rolling hills of a long valley for 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the extraordinary Kouang Si waterfalls. We must have kept in shape doing so much walking in the last few weeks since the trip was easily doable for us.
About a third of the trip was noisy and urban, as the outlying districts of town sprawled around us, with tuk-tuks, regular motorcycles, scooters and grinding trucks passing by. But the rest of the trip was fairly quiet, mostly past small farms of rice or bananas, placidly munching water buffaloes, stolidly growing teak trees in planted forests and the very wide Mekong river. A few small towns and a Hmong village showed us where people lived. We exchanged hellos (sabaidee) with many adults, but best of all were the youngsters. Some slapped hands with us as we moved by their village on our bikes; others raced us on their one-speed bicycles, nipping playfully at our heels as we passed. We shared many smiles. Oddly, we were the only ones on bicycles. Does that make us stupid, or adventurous?
Our reward for all this were the spectacular falls. They tumble 60 meters into a pool, which then tumbles into another pool, and then into another. At the middle level you can swim in the chilly but refreshing water, a real treat after our sweaty bike ride.
There the flow gushed over huge boulders in a semi-circular expanse, with small caves underneath. The falling water here seems a bit unreal, perhaps because of the smoothness or the clay base, since the water appears to glide over the top in smooth silky currents rather than ripple and froth like most waterfalls. And then there are the numerous brooks running off to the sides of the main flow, each a charm in itself.
The final section was the big falls themselves. They are extraordinary, with water pouring mightily over the rock formations above, in various streams and levels, plus water sliding in from the top and the sides – all an eye-catching sight.
(For more pictures from Laos, click HERE to see the slide show at the end of the Laos itinerary.)