My last stop in Luang Prabang is the Kouang Si waterfalls (20k LAK). Located 45 minutes from the town, it’s the largest waterfall system in Luang Prabang. The compound also houses the rescue center for bears, which can be seen actively playing in their enclosures. Simply put, this was the highlight of the Luang Prabang for me. I admire the dozens of intricately designed temples and the French inspired streets but man made structures can not compare to nature’s design. Absolutely breathtaking!
Upon arrival back at the town, I visited 2 more temples: Wat Visoun and Wat Aham. I had visited these before but during the trip to the waterfalls my CF card suddenly crashed – thus requiring a formatting and the loss of pictures of these temples.
In the evening I went to the northern bus station to catch by 7 PM trip to Houayxay, where you can cross the Mekong to teach Chiang Kong in Thailand. The trip lasted 13 hours, initially on very rough roads. The first few hours of this bus ride had more stops than the entire Hanoi – Luang Prabang trip! I’m guessing travel time will improve after the roads have been built properly.
Once in Houayxay, I got a tuk-tuk, which brought me to the branch of the travel agency in the province. They then arranged for the river crossing and transfer to the guesthouse where I would wait for the minivan to Chiang Mai at 1030 AM. The scenery from Chang Khong to Chiang Mai was not as grand as the previous bus ride. Mostly agricultural fields although every once in a while a nice karst formation would show itself. After 5.5 hours on the road, we arrived at Chiang Mai.
I was not expecting Chiang Mai to be as metropolitan as this! Granted, I did very little research on the place itself. I expected it to be similar to Siem Reap but it turns out it’s more similar to Bangkok (okay maybe that’s too extreme a comparison but it’s definitely not the provincial town I expected). I arrived around 5 PM already so I had limited daylight left to go around after checking in at A Little Bird 2 Guesthouse near the Chang Phuak Gate. However, I was still able to visit a few of the Wats, such as Wat Lokmolee, Wat Phan Tao and Wat Chedi Luang in addition to Wats that I could not read the names of. Truthfully, I am more impressed by the architecture of Thai Wats to those in Laos, but these still take a back seat to the awesome temples in Siem Reap.