Tuesday 830AM we set off in a taxi – basically a cabover pickup outfitted with two benches and a tall tarped cover – to the must see Kuang Si waterfall. It’s a winding, bumpy 45 minute drive – we rig a rolling hammock to smooth the ride. Swinging past upscale schools & suburbs, then up through the jungle and past a military firing range, the increase in shops and signs signal our arrival. It costs 320,000 kip ($10 ea.) to get in, and soon past the gates we arrive at the Bear Rescue Center, which takes in very cute orphaned and injured Asian Moon Bears. Many have a missing paw – probably from a hunter’s snare. Bear bile is still used as a traditional Chinese medicine… some “battery bears” are farmed in small cages for their bile – it’s a horrible Matrix slave existence. We’re glad to know our entry fee supports bear rescue.
Ambling upstream, waterfalls cascade down the hill like travertine terraces of turquoise rice paddies. After a few pictures at the base of the tall fall, we clamber up the muddy trail to its crown, explore and make good use of a rope swing over the largest feeder pool. Still ahead of the day’s crowds, we slip back down through the broad-leaf Jurassic jungle and are among the first in the swimming pools below the falls, probing the uneven footing carefully and throwing our small orange football about. It’s good fun but cold, so after an hour we dry and descend to the main parking lot for lunch, which consists of crepes cooked by disaffected merchants with hyena hygiene. Pregnant dogs and puppies from their last lovers wander about the modest cafeteria. Sue breaks out the Purell – it’s Asia.
Bouncing back to town, we take two to relax at our Cold River guest house before hiking up the local hill to catch the sunset. It must have been a good idea, because about a thousand other tourists had it, and there’s quite a crowd up top. Obligatory orange orb shots in hand, we zip down the north slope to find the night market vendors setting up. This gives us time to run a few errands- we book tomorrow’s travels, find our restaurant, take in the color and purchase some of those lacquer coconut bowls. Then dinner, where we spend too much of the evening fretting about 2nd hand tobacco smoke. But our favorite dessert is across the street and we can rely on the Swashbuckler’s chocolate lava cake to distract us… we do and it does.