The Wat and The Waterfall

Asia, Laos

The Sim, Wat Xieng Thong

In a typical afternoon in Luang Prabang, we walked along a narrow street parallel to the embankment near the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. To our left, Wat Xieng Thong welcomed us with a serene and almost solitary atmosphere. Monks in bright orange robes were occasionally spotted doing some activities in one of the modest pavilions. While the entire compound is worth a visit, it is the ordination hall – the Sim, particularly the rear where the Tree of Life is mounted in mosaic – that is the true highlight. James, my travel companion, told the story of the Tree of Life and Wat Xieng Thong concisely in his blog.

The Tree of Life

Glistening Crown

The Carriage House

Intricate Carvings

Mosaics on The Red Chapel

Situated closer to the town center, Wat Sen easily draws the attention of passers-by due to its tall yellow pole and ornate carvings on the main buildings which are visible from the street. Built in the early 18th century, purportedly with 100,000 stones from the Mekong River, Wat Sen is also famous for its morning and afternoon services when tourists flock here to get a closer look at Buddhist rituals performed by the monks.

Wat Sen

Door Ornaments

Detailed Patterns

View from Outside the Wall

Having visited most of Luang Prabang’s main wats, we gladly said “yes” when the owner of our hotel – Mr.Vongsip – offered to take us to see the Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls, an easy 40-minute drive from the town center. Along the way my eyes were fixated on the flamboyant colors of flowers and leaves on both sides of the road.

Near the entrance to the falls, Mr.Vongsip parked his car at an ordinary spot. When I opened the door I was surprised to see some peculiar white things on the ground. When I edged in to take a closer look, I was stunned to see hundreds of butterflies gathered on the wet sand. It was the biggest rabble of butterflies I’ve ever seen at any one time. Thinking that it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, I took a lot of pictures of the butterflies until I started to feel raindrops on my skin. Then I rushed to the entrance.


Winged Frenzy

Although rather modest in size, the falls at Tat Kuang Si have been an escape for locals and tourists from Luang Prabang’s hot and humid climate. This is especially true in May, the hottest month of the year.

After taking pictures from the bridge just across the main waterfalls, we noticed a wooden sign pointing to a small trail into the forest which said “to the top”. At that time the sky had already turned grey with thick clouds hanging over and hinting at a coming rainstorm. When I saw the wet and muddy trail before us I began to doubt our decision to hike to the top. But I remained silent as I expected the view to be worth all the risks, should there be any. Halfway up the trail my doubt grew even stronger as I realized that the already physically exhausting path would be even more challenging on our way down.

Disappointment met us at the top as the view was nothing like what we imagined. While others made a line to slowly cross the murky waters, we decided to go back as the rain began to pour, making the already wet trails even more slippery. That was the precise moment we realized that we had just made the biggest mistake of our trip. Going up was a lot easier as we had trees, stones and everything else to hold on to and we also had more control of ourselves. But on the way down we had no choice but to succumb to gravity while trying to balance ourselves with whatever we could, including my decision to grab onto a tree trunk to stop me from falling. James himself had to use his hands and knees as brakes when he suddenly lost his foothold. However, despite all the troubles, we managed to safely return to the trailhead.

On our way back to the entrance, while still thinking of what we had just endured a few minutes earlier, we noticed another wooden sign. This time it led us to a sun bear sanctuary, a highlight of Tat Kuang Si that we almost missed. Here we spotted a big sun bear sleeping on a wooden platform with his head poised on a beam. It was so relaxing watching him asleep in spite of the rain that was still coming down hard. Suddenly he woke up only to wiggle his body and shake off some water before going back to his dreams. Like the signature yellow crescent on his chest, the sun bear brought a smile to my face.

Tat Kuang Si’s Main Waterfall

A Closer Look

Related Post: The Soothing Charm of Luang Prabang

Posted by

Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

24 thoughts on “The Wat and The Waterfall”

  1. Pingback: The Soothing Charm of Luang Prabang « What an Amazing World!

  2. Bama, I just love that photo you have of the Red Chapel’s mosaics – it’s worthy of a guidebook for sure! The vivid red paint and turquoise tiles frame it perfectly, and seeing the greenery through the window is a beautiful touch.


    • Oh wow, thanks James! But you know how photogenic Luang Prabang was, and it also helped that we went there in the afternoon.


  3. Bama, this is a nice reading and I can understand how beautiful the place must be. I’ve visited Bangkok and am thoroughly impressed with the Wats in the city. I can image how lovely and peaceful they must be here too. And the last two pics showing the waterfall are simply amazing. cheers, Bhaven


    • Hi Bhaven! Thanks!!! While the wats in Bangkok are more lavish and grandeur, but the ones in Luang Prabang are simply beautiful.


  4. Thank you for showing the details of the mosaics and the door ornaments! Beautiful shots of the butterflies and the waterfall


  5. Gorgeous images Bama, that mosaic shot is indeed brilliant. The butterflies too. Can’t wait to get there!


    • Thanks Madhu! Afternoon is the best time to visit Wat Xieng Thong. Can’t wait to read your stories on Laos later! 🙂


    • It’s just 40-minute away from Luang Prabang. We were offered to go to this waterfall and the cave with a lot of Buddha statues. But due to time constraint we chose the first.


      • It’s all coming back to me now … I went to the cave. This is a fun walk down memory lane for me, thanks!


  6. the photos are absolutely stunning! i cannot wait to be able to experience different cultures and see what the world has to offer (just a few more years till i can begin 😦 haha!) can’t wait to read more of your blogs! x


    • Thanks Holly! I wish you have some great times when it comes! Good luck with your travel plans!


  7. Hi Bama! this is a very nice website you’ve got 🙂
    I went to Luang Prabang a few months ago, oh man it’s lovely! Sadly I was there only for about 3 days.
    But as much as I love it, I do think the Kuang Si river is a bit overrated. But I didn’t go all the way to the top and saw a bear when I was there. Lucky you!


    • Hi Vira! Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a lovely comment!
      Well, actually you didn’t miss a lot by not going all the way up to the top. About the bears, we almost missed seeing them had we not noticed the signboard near the entrance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.