Friday, February 21, 2014

Cycle to Tad Thong Waterfall

Tad Thong Waterfall
It takes roughly an hour from Luang Prabang's Tourist Street to cycle to Tad Thong Waterfalls. We rented bikes for 15,000 kip each — you need to leave your passport as a deposit.

The admission to Tad Thong Waterfalls is 20,000 kip. Make sure you have some water, sunscreen, and insect repellent before you set out on this half-day trip!
The first 50 minutes we slowly cycled out of the beautiful Old City of Luang Prabang. Once we got out of the UNESCO World Heritage Town, it wasn't as pleasant anymore — dusty roads, local shops, and of course, ugly construction. The air wasn't even fresh because people were burning stuff. Well, if you want "real" or "authentic" Southeast Asia, there you have it. It's still fairly nice though. There wasn't much traffic so it wasn't stressful to ride. Quite an easy ride, actually.
We reached a sign on the right hand side of the road, 2.8 km to Tad Thong Waterfalls. This is the beginning of a dirt road with lots of little rocks that goes uphill gradually. I had to get off my rented city bike and walk pushing up my bike for a lot of it. Not very much fun.
After almost 20 minutes in the hot sun, we saw a hut. This is where you buy the 20,000 kip ticket. There's a restaurant hut to get iced water (Hallelujah! 5000 kip for a 600 mL bottle) & food.
Even though the map sign shows the trails, nothing was marked once you start the trail. The trail was paved with concrete steps the whole way, except when you have to cross some very dodgy makeshift wooden bridges. There were a lot of steps going up, but it was nice and shaded, with lots of big butterflies dancing around and birds chirping away. Be prepared that lots of little bugs might be circling your face and try to get into your eyes! The price of being in nature? When we were there, it was very quiet — we didn't see anyone else during the whole 1-hour walk.
After less than an hour walking through the trails, we were very confused.

"Where are the waterfalls?"
"Is that a waterfall?"
"Is this it??!!"

The "waterfalls" we saw looked nothing like the photos (ha!), to the point that we weren't really sure if the tiny bits of water trickling constituted a waterfall. I guess in the dry season (mid February), the waterfalls pretty much dried up. The only one that remotely resembled a waterfall was right by the entrance of the trail.
While the waterfall itself is quite disappointing, the adjacent swimming lake with 5 free private huts is a great place to have a quiet, relaxing afternoon — barely anyone around! Amazing scenery! Bring a cushion if you plan to have a nap.

You can get food and drinks from the nearby restaurant hut — the big bowl of Luang Prabang noodles I ordered for 20,000 kip was peppery but delicious!

The huts are even equipped with electrical outlets. Maybe they were trying to make up for the far-from-impressive waterfalls?
The way back was much faster! Almost downhill all the way, although very bumpy for the first little bit until you get back on the main road. Make sure you rent a bike with working brakes (mine weren't really working properly... good times!)

It only took less than 30 minutes to get back to Luang Prabang Town's city center.