We woke up around 9am, realizing in horror that we had been afflicted by one of a traveler’s (or anyone’s) worst fears: bed bugs.
While I had accidentally (and thankfully) fallen asleep before washing the Deet I had applied the night before off of my skin, Jojo had not been so lucky. We quickly packed up our things and got the hell out of there, desperately clinging to the hope that the bugs had not taken our bags for a new home, or a nursery to lay their eggs.
Visions of toting around these disgusting creatures, for weeks or months to come, plagued our minds as we searched for a new place to stay. We found a place closer to the city center called Chitlatda Guesthouse for only 80,000kip a night, and quickly took it. It was easily the cheapest place we had found in town and the quality wasn’t bad, either.
To take our minds off of the miserable morning, we walked to the Mekong River for lunch. We stopped at the first place we came across, a French-styled open air cafe, where we got some of the most delicious barbecued chicken ever!
After walking back to the guesthouse and spending way too much time researching how to get rid of bed bugs while traveling, we decided we would catch the sunset over the river at another one of the cafes while enjoying a dessert of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk with mango, and a mojito.
Once the sun had gone down, we took a walk along the night market where we treated ourselves to a fresh donut and a couple of clothing items we had been longing for.
For dinner we ate at a small cafe near our guesthouse in the center of town, where we were served what seemed to be instant curry loaded up with MSG. Not the greatest meal ever, but everything else we had eaten that day had been excellent so it was okay. After some more bed bug research, we finally resigned ourselves to sleep, hopelessly attempting to avoid thinking about being dined on by insects.
We awoke the next day with no new bug bites, to our immense relief! Although it was still possible we were carrying them in our packs, it seemed promising that we had not been bitten again.
We got up and went out for breakfast at a street food stand selling sandwiches, crepes, and fruit shakes. While we were eating, a tuk tuk driver approached us offering a ride to the Kuang Si Waterfall which was where we had planned to go on this day.
After negotiating down to 40,000kip each roundtrip, and waiting around for the driver to find enough passengers to fill his tuk tuk, we started on the one hour journey to the falls. We chatted with the other passengers along the way, including an elderly Japanese man that invited us to come stay with him if we planned to visit Japan. He even insisted that we trade information so we could contact him. (Perhaps a visit to Japan is now in our future?)
Upon arrival, the tuk tuk dropped us in the shopping area just before the entrance to the falls. He told us to meet back in the same place two hours from then so that we could ride back to the city. We paid the entrance fee to the Kuang Si waterfalls (20,000kip each) and started our ascent!
Before getting to the water, the small trail lead us to the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center which is a Free the Bears facility dedicated to the rescue and conservation of Asiatic Black Bears. The center houses a moon bear by the name of ChamPa who underwent the first ever neurosurgery procedure on a bear in 2013, to treat a case of hydrocephalus. The story was featured in National Geographic, which you can read about here. The bears have large structures that they can climb and play on, as well as hammocks, ponds, and toys. We walked around the facility, watching them lounging and playing together. The Bear Rescue Center receives no funding from the Kuang Si Waterfall entrance fee (even though you have to pay it to get to the bear center) so we left a small donation as well.
After the bears, we followed the rest of the trail to the base of the Kuang Si Waterfalls. We ascended the mountain through an endless series of pools of beautiful turquoise water. There were lots of people swimming in the pools, but the water was very cold!
When we made it to the top of the pools, we crossed the bridge to begin our ascent to the top of the waterfall. The whole way was very steep, and we were breathless by the time we reached the top.
It was all worth it when we got to look down over the waterfall to the pools below, and the lush mountains in the distance.
We met up with the tuk tuk driver and took us back to city center where we got dinner at another cafe by the river. Jojo decided to try something called “luang prabang sausage” which was a mysterious ground substance that tasted kind of like meatloaf.
After that, we meandered the night market once more and treated ourselves to khao nom kok, little cakes made with rice flour and coconut cream, before heading back to the guesthouse.
Lunch on the Mekong: 113,000kip
Sticky Rice/Mojito at Sunset: 47,000kip
Night Market Clothes: 265,000kip
Curry Dinner: 67,000kip
Total Spent: 592,000kip ($72.31 USD)
Street Food Breakfast: 45,000kip
Tuk Tuk: 80,000kip
Kuang Si Entrance Fee: 40,000kip
Khao Nom Kok: 5,000kip
Total Spent: 387,000kip ($47.27 USD)