Originally, we were only going to overnight in Luang Prabang since we spent several days there on our last adventure, but over dinner last night, we decided that it would be nice to spend a day and go out to the waterfalls. Which is what we did. After breakfast. When we stepped onto the street, we saw a big, blue BMW bike with a foreign plate and a tall rider pass us. It's Hubert from the ferry crossing! We shouted his name and tried to catch him, but he was gone. Oh well. We continued on to get our sandwiches and brought them back to enjoy them on our guesthouse patio with a cup of coffee (this time, Colin had ham, and I had Laos style with tofu, omelet, and meat floss...and lots of salad on both. We do like veggies too). After wiping our faces, putting on our swimsuits and riding gear, we got on the bikes for the 20 mile ride to the Tat Kuang Si waterfall.
We continued our ride to the waterfall, down a pretty, twisty, country road. Along the way, we passed several groups of serious bicyclists on fancy, imported bicycles, wearing their stretchy, colorful pants. Have you ever noticed that you never see anyone over the age of 12 smile when they ride a bicycle? No, you probably haven't. We've seen many people touring the world on bicycles, and not a one of them looks to be enjoying it. Regardless of the terrain or weather conditions, the common expression is a pained grimace. It has become a bit of a running joke between us. We did meet up with some of the riders we passed on the way to the falls while we were locking our gear to the bikes. They were an older bunch of Germans who were touring Laos and northern Thailand on bicycles, and they actually did seem to be having a good time.
Tat Kuang Si is another gorgeous set of falls, with several large pools in which to swim, and unlike Erawan, involves an extremely easy walk to get to them. We strolled the path, stopping along the way to watch the rescued sun bears enjoying life. They have a huge enclosure with hammocks, swings, balls on the ground and on chains to play with, stumps, water features; in the bear entertainment market, you name it, these bears have it. Since it seems sensible to climb to the top of the falls and work down, that's what we did. We did stop at a particularly lovely place, parked ourselves on a bamboo platform, and talked about our plans for the post-trip future before we reached the top.
We didn't come to any conclusions, but did discard one of the two plans. Unfortunately, we added a third (the two remaining plans somehow became “Plan 1” and “Plan C”).
|Not me, but I did jump from here|
At one of the pools, we stopped to have a dip. Wading in, we only got about as far as our hips, because the water was really cold. There is a tree growing at the edge with a perfectly shaped limb to jump from. Someone has tied a rope around it, and that's just what people do. We did not. Instead, we aimed higher (Colin often tells me to do so) and walked across the rocks to the middle of the falls at this level. It was only about 15 feet high, no big deal. Except that from the top, it more closely resembled Niagara Falls. The water streaming over our feet became class 4 rapids. We walked out together. I went first. The water was bracing but felt good once I resurfaced and caught my breath. I tread water in the pool, waiting for Colin to take the leap.
Did I mention I am afraid of heights? Re and I walked out onto the rather slippery limestone edge, and after just a few seconds, Re leapt in, which left me, standing on the edge, looking down. There were between 30 and 40 people at the pool, and even though I didn't have my glasses on, I knew they were all looking at me. I thought seriously about punking out, but you know how it is. If a girl can do it, then I can do it. So with the logic of a 12-year old, I stepped to the edge and jumped. Once my feet actually left the rock, it was a blast, until I hit the cold, cold water. As I surfaced, the combination of exhilaration and cold water led to me taking a sharp breath and the sudden rediscovery of my broken ribs. My ribs have gotten better, but sneezing is still very painful. Now I can add jumping off a waterfall to the list of this that make my ribs hurt. Somehow this was much harder than walking off the side of a mountain to paraglide for him. But he did it! We spent the better part of the day soaking and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and each other's company, but before we left, I had to jump once more. Colin got it on video. We had to turn the computer sideways to watch it.
That evening, as we were heading out for the night market to get some dinner, the proprietress of our guesthouse was sitting on the patio with several friends. We had noticed that under the glass counter out front was a shelf of various Laos treats for sale, and we wanted to buy some river weed to have as a snack. She got out a package for us, but in the conversation said it wasn't cooked. We had no way to fry it and thus declined to purchase it until she offered to cook it for us if we'd like. Fresh, hot, fried river weed? Sounds great to us! It's like nori sheets only fresher and better tasting. To make it, people collect a certain type of river weeds during the dry season when the water level is lower, pound them, form them into thin, flat sheets, and air dry them on racks outside in the sun. Then, the sheets are brushed with paper-thin fried garlic, dried tomatoes, and sesame seeds, and left to dry again. Then, you fry them in a very hot wok for, I assume, a matter of seconds. It really is a terrificly addictive snack. She said they would fry it when we returned from dinner, so we headed to the market. There, we found a bustling, narrow lane with food stands set up along both sides. We made a dinner of half a grilled duck, a large plate of mixed vegetables and noodles, and spring rolls. It was pretty decent, not the best meal ever, but good enough.
|Stefano and Annamaria's bikes!|