Day 2 in Luang Prabang was a very busy day. We had signed up for a full day tour, really just transportation between places, that included going out to Pak Ou Caves and Kuang Si Waterfalls. I was excited about the waterfalls and Raymond is always up for caves so we combined the two.
The day started early with a 7:50am pick up from our hotel and shuttle to the boat docks for a ride up the river to the caves.
The boats were nice as they were long and skinny with only one person sitting on each side (so you could see everything pretty much).
Oh it was a beautiful day. The boat ride was so nice and cool! I had thought oh, it might be too cool to go swimming at the waterfalls this afternoon, but then as soon as you stopped and stepped off the boat it was like oh, no, it is still crazy hot and humid. Nevermind.
The boat ride was about an hour up to our first stop - Xanghai Village where they make whiskey! Before we left I was like eh - whatever, but it was really interesting. Not very much is needed to make the rice whiskey and the guy who makes it was there telling us the whole process and letting you try the different ones he makes if you want to. There was a dark and white rice wines, both 15% alcohol, and a super distilled 50% alcohol one. Raymond got a small bottle of one of them to drink later as it was really inexpensive.
One of the jars of fermenting rice
And this is the whole set up. The fermented rice goes in the barrel with cold water and put over heat and the alcohol gets condensed out.
Alcohol coming out into the collection jar. It was interesting since it seems like such a simple process. The guy was also really friendly and answered any questions and whatnot.
There were butterflies everywhere which I loved, but they are had to get photos of as they don't like to just sit still for you
Then it was back to the boat for a short trip upriver to the Pak Ou Caves
The entrance to the caves - looks pretty cool from the water
The Pak Ou caves are also known as the Buddha caves because of all the Buddha statues inside. There are two caves, the upper and the lower cave. The lower cave is shown above and is not very big. It doesn't go into the hillside very far and only took a minute to wander through.
This is pretty much the entire lower cave as seen from the side
The upper cave is up a steep staircase
And you need a headlamp for it (or you can rent one there). It was still not very big - just one larger area in the back
A few Buddha's in the large, dark room
Though there were a few interesting formations in the entryway to the upper cave, overall it was a bit disappointing. Especially after we visited that awesome cave in Vang Vieng.
Then it was back to the boat to take us to our next stop - lunch
Our stop - the elephant camp.
Now we didn't sign up for any of the elephant adventures, but this is where they were serving us lunch and picking us up to take us to the waterfalls. It was a happy/sad experience. Happy because I got to see elephants and feed them and who doesn't love elephants? But sad because they just spend a few hours a day carrying people around in a loop. Though I will say we went to what seemed like a good one. The people seemed to really care for their elephants and were nice to them, even if they did have to carry people around on their backs. As much as I enjoyed being bff with elephants I wish they could just go live their lives the way they want. Oh well I enjoyed hanging out with them.
Carrying people around
But then you get to feed them bamboo! Look at us - we are totally bff. If you know me you know that I don't like animals touching me. Like non-furry animals. No fish or birds or reptiles or anything really that doesn't have fur. I wasn't really sure if I would be okay with elephants or not - like if I could touch them without freaking out. So even if I had wanted to ride an elephant, I wasn't sure if I would have been able to do it so I wouldn't have signed up for it anyways. Which was good as I would have freaked out. In the photo above I am standing as far away from the elephant as I can and still have him reach and get the bamboo. That was still a bit scary for me, but doable. Their trunks are weird and I don't want them touching me. No way could I ride on one.
After feeding the elephants we sat at a table with some ice cold water and the people there said they were making some lunch for us. So we checked to make sure it was vegan - no egg - and they were just like umm....they were making fried rice with egg, but they were super nice trying to find something for us to eat since the rice was already all mixed together. They kept checking what we did and didn't eat, onion? garlic? beans? rice? We ended up with stir fried long beans and rice which was so tasty! They gave us a giant plate of the beans and rice - the photo above is just a little bit.
Definitely could not do that!
Elephants getting a bath and keeping cool. We had to wait around a bit after lunch which was fine, it was a nice day and it was a beautiful place, but after a while I started getting antsy. Raymond had said earlier that he didn't understand how we could get everything we did for the little bit we paid. When we were waiting he was just like I guess this is the catch - you have to wait to get to the waterfalls, which would take a while to get to, and my guidebook said they closed early. We also didn't have any time to go another day as we had our cooking class booked for our last day in town. Eventually they loaded us into this broken down van, which was fine even though I didn't really fit, but we were going to make a billion stops along the way which made it seem like we wouldn't make it there in time. Most of the other people were just going back to town so I was figuring it would take us forever. Luckily we stopped at the whiskey village with another van, a nicer van, and they had room for us and were going straight to the waterfalls! So we go a ride with them and all was well.
When you get to the waterfalls you first walk through a bear sanctuary - where sun and Asiatic black bears live who were rescued from the illegal meat and medicine trade. I became bff with so many animals this day!
Now I AM bff with bears! The sign even says so!!
Now the next photos are the waterfalls. The water is not as gorgeous a color as it normally is since it had rained the night before (if you google Kuang Si waterfalls you will see how gorgeous they are when it hasn't been raining, but also a lot less water), but it was still nice. There are lots of small falls where you can swim, and you can wander the path up to the big waterfall at the top of the hill. We went up to the top to spy, then back for a bit of swimming before we left.
The big waterfalls at the top of the hill
The water was freezing!! That is my I am in the water, but quick take a photo as it is way too cold face.
Raymond didn't mind though. Also there were other people swimming and they were like oh if you stand here the little fish will nibble on your feet (like those fish massage places and Raymond confirmed this afterwards) and with my above mentioned not liking animals to touch me thing that was like okay, fish nibbling my feet + super cold water = I am not staying in the water very long. It was beautiful though
Guys jumping off the log into the water
Raymond didn't follow the sign!
After the waterfalls it was back to our room to relax until dinner. We didn't get back till almost 6 so we didn't have that long until we got hungry. We ate at one of the fancier places - a starter, two mains and beverages came to €11.50. I know - living large!
The food was tasty, but the noodles came in this long, skinny dish with the tofu on top. I was just like how are we supposed to eat this without making a mess?? It was really good, but not plated very well.
Some fancy rice based desserts at the restaurant/night market, but the ones in the foreground had flavors I am not fond of so we didn't get one. We did try one of the ones in the background though
A quick stroll through the night market picking up some souvenirs for people, another short dress for me, and a Beer Lao t-shirt for Raymond.
Then back to our room to eat our sweet potato pie treat we picked up. It was interesting, not very sweet, a bit purple colored, but tasty. So that was out busy busy day 2 in Luang Prabang. Looking back on it it seems like a lot, but at the time it really wasn't bad. It was fun. Plus I got to make so many new animal friends! Next up - Day 3 - Lao cooking class!