Luang Prabang – Bed Bugs and the Kuang Si Waterfall

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.

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Sunset over the Mekong River

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.

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Luang Prabang Night Market

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.

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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.

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Bear playing at the Rescue Center

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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!

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Jojo in front of Kuang Si Waterfall pools
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Walking through more pools
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And across…

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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.

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The bottom of the Kuang Si waterfall
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The view of the waterfall from the bridge
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Climbing up the mountain

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.

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Looking down from the top of the Kuang Si waterfall
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The view from the top of the waterfall

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.

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Luang Prabang Night Market

2/1

Water: 5,000kip

Lunch on the Mekong: 113,000kip

Sticky Rice/Mojito at Sunset: 47,000kip

Night Market Clothes: 265,000kip

Donut: 10,000kip

Curry Dinner: 67,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 592,000kip ($72.31 USD)

2/2

Street Food Breakfast: 45,000kip

Tuk Tuk: 80,000kip

Kuang Si Entrance Fee: 40,000kip

Beer: 12,000kip

Dinner: 125,000kip

Khao Nom Kok: 5,000kip

Water: 5,000kip

Accommodation: 80,000kip

Total Spent: 387,000kip ($47.27 USD)

Falling in Love with Dalat – Our New Favorite City

We got up at the crack of dawn in Mui Ne in order to catch the 7:30 bus to Dalat.  Originally, we figured we would just catch a taxi back to the bus stop (Sinh Tourist) , only to find that there were no taxis in sight as we walked down the road.  As we walked in the general direction of the bus stop in hopes that one would show, a random local bus pulled up, asked where we were going, and told us to jump in.  It cost us 9,000vnd ($0.42 USD) each to get to the bus stop, and we were very grateful for it, considering we didn’t see any taxis on our way there.

Once there, we had a couple banh mi for breakfast and waited for the bus.  The bus that came was mid-sized; smaller than the large sleeper buses, but bigger (and less hellish) than the janky one we were on from Can Tho.  The drive was 5.5 hours of bumps and hairpin turns as we ascended into the gorgeous Central Highlands region of Vietnam.

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We stopped to enjoy the scenery about halfway between Mui Ne and Dalat

We were dropped off in the middle of town, at the doorstep of the Dalat Central Hostel.  We still do not know if this is just where the bus stops in Dalat or if the hostel has some kind of arrangement with the bus company, but we were offered a private room for $10 as soon as we set foot off the bus.  The room was nicer and cheaper than any other room we had stayed in thus far in the trip, and it couldn’t have been more convenient, so we decided to go for it.  Note: We had an excellent time staying here and highly recommend it.  The staff is great, speak very good English, and are extremely helpful!

The receptionist recommended a bakery down the street, so we decided to try it out for lunch.  The bakery is on the ground floor, and there is a restaurant attached on the second floor.  The food at the restaurant was nothing special, but the bakery is huge, cheap, and offers a plethora of unusual baked goods.  We picked out several that looked interesting and took them with us to enjoy next to the large and beautiful Xuan Huong Lake in the center of town.

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After going for a long walk around the lake and stopping back in the room for a little relaxation time, we headed back out into the city to visit the Dalat Night Market.  Here, you can find all sorts of street food, clothing, and crafts and on Saturdays and Sundays, they block off the street to turn it into a Walking Town.

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After we had gotten some street food and sat down on the steps to eat, we heard a commotion down in the market.  We looked down and saw people running and frantically stacking up the chairs and tables they had set out for patrons, as if to hide the fact that they were selling food there.  Presumably this was because of the police car driving by, but we were unable to figure out what exactly the issue was.  Once the police car drove off, everything returned to normal, though we were admittedly a little bit rattled by the event!

Dalat had already become our favorite city in Vietnam, that we had visited thus far in our journey.  The mountain air, friendly atmosphere and promise of adventure had us reeling to spend several days here, not to mention our lovely hostel staff and all the delicious, cheap food.  The city of Dalat had officially put itself on our list of potential future homes.

Minibus to Can Tho bus station: 18,000vnd ($0.84 USD)

Breakfast: 60,000vnd ($2.80 USD)

Bus to Dalat: 238,000vnd ($11.10 USD)

Lunch: 108,000vnd ($5.04 USD)

Pastries: 75,000vnd ($3.50 USD)

Dinner: 40,000vnd ($1.87 USD)

Beer: 14,000vnd ($0.65 USD)

Water: 10,000vnd ($0.47 USD)

Accommodation: 214,362vnd ($10.00 USD)

Total Spent: 777,362vnd ($36.26 USD)