Posts Tagged ‘waterfalls’

10 Things To Do In Luang Prabang

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Work Your Heart For Buddha

Mount Phousi is almost the geographical centre of Luang Prabang, a small mountain that rises to just over 150 metres above the surrounding landscape. It is perfect place from which to view the city or to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River and nearby mountains.

You can climb up to the top of the small mountain via two different routes and both are a great workout!  Both routes lead to Wat Chom Si (the temple located at the top of the mountain).

If you start the climb from the Kingkitsarath Road steps (south eastern side) you ascend past some beautiful statues and vantage points.

A small fee is charged for the climb to the very top – a small price to pay for the experience.

Swim in Kuang Si Falls

The Kuang Si falls are located in a beautiful rural area about 28 kilometres (a 45 minute drive) south west of Luang Prabang.  Transport options to and from the falls are dependent on one’s budget and desired travel experience.  You can ride, catch a Tuk Tuk or hire a private car.  None are expensive.

The falls themselves are a must see and a cooling off dip in the pools which the falls run into is definitely recommended.

Kuang Si (also called Tat Kuang Xi) falls is a three-tier waterfall around 200 feet high.  The water falls over ancient limestone and down into beautiful turquoise coloured pools below.

Visitors can climb to the top of the falls although, in the wet, the track is very slippery and the views from the top are not necessarily worth the effort or risk.

Time might be better spent with your feet in the pools and having your “tootises” cleaned by the local fish that inhabit them.

Café Lebelair, located near the main falls, offers some tasty treats and local coffee and tea – a nice stop off after walking alongside the pools and viewing the main falls.

Delight In A Fresh Feast

Laos was a French protectorate from 1893 through until 1946 and, in addition to some stunning French style colonial buildings, the French influence is still evident in the food on offer at many of the excellent restaurants located throughout the city.

For the “foodies” amongst you, Luang Prabang will be a delightful experience.  From the street side outlets to the more up market restaurants the food on offer is delicious.

For the not so budget conscious try L’Elephant on Vat Nong.  The food is authentic French and the décor inside is eye catching.  The Apsara on Kingkitsarath Road is another favourite amongst the expat community in LP.

For those wanting an awesome feed at a great price try L’etranger Books and Tea on Kingkitsarath Road – the soup is to die for and they have a great little gallery upstairs.

Sisavangvong Road is one of the main streets in the small city (it’s the one transformed into the wonderful night market) and your hunger can be resolved at any of the great eateries located at the north eastern end.

Get On Yer Bike

One of the refreshing things about Luang Prabang is the number of bicycles on the road.  This cheap and healthy transport option is still a big favourite amongst the locals and many visitors.

Most of the hotels, villas and hostels offer free (or very cheap) bike hire so there are no excuses for not “getting on your bike” for the day.

For those readers that are not at the peak of their fitness don’t despair – Luang Prabang’s topography, for the most part, is rather flat.

The roads are very safe to ride because the local traffic moves slowly and it is very respectful of bike riders.  You might have to negotiate the occasional slow moving chicken or a mangy dog that has taken up residence in the middle of the road but neither of these will cause a panic.

If you want to extend your workout and get really active you can join one of the adventure company rides.  These rides can be part or full day or you can even do two plus day adventures.  The rides take in some of the spectacular rural country in northern Laos – a perfect way to get a feel for this beautiful place.

Stroll The Markets

Asian marketplaces are always fun to visit.  The bargains on offer are hard to resist and the energy of the marketplaces attract locals and visitors alike.

While it can be said that some markets around Asia are “same, same” Luang Prabang’s nightly market is not in this category.  You will find beautiful (certified) local products on offer – silks and cloth covering every spectrum of the colour band, delightful (read “not pushy”) stall owners and polite fellow tourists.

Before “entering” the market proper you can grab a fresh juice (or beverage of choice) and sip on it as you meander through the neatly presented ground level stalls.

The night markets take up half of Sisavangvong Road and start just before sunset.   Allow yourself an hour or so to take in the vast array of goods on offer – it’s worth it.

Find Some Modern Masters

Art, in its many forms, plays a big part in Laotian culture and many current artists call Luang Prabang home.

Carvers, painters, potters, sculptors, weavers and writers – you will find them all in Luang Prabang.  Some have studied overseas and many are gaining the attention of galleries, fashion houses and publishers on the international stage.

Visitors can visit the tiny factories where traditional weavers and potters work their magic or search out the small shops and galleries that display the fine art and carvings of local artisans.

Hmong (local tribes people) crafts can be purchased from a craft market located on the corner of Sisavangvong and Kitsalt Roads.

A visit to the small village of Ban Tchan on the opposite side of the Mekong River to Luang Prabang is a must for fans of pottery.  The village is around 15 minutes by boat from one of the wharves located on the LP side of the river.

Get Up Close And Personal With Nature

High summer rainfalls and a temperate climate mean that the northern part of Laos is lush and alive.

Nature lovers will enjoy the abundance of birds and insects that call Laos home.  They will also enjoy the stunning native trees and high canopies.

For those that enjoy the sound and feel of water Luang Prabang’s rivers (large and small) and waterfalls will keep you happy.  In addition to the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, water lovers can immerse themselves, literally, in beautiful rural streams and waterfalls that flow from the surrounding mountains.

Figure Out Wat

One of Asia’s attractions is its love for Buddha and all things Buddhism.  Laos is not exception.

Wats (temples) big and small can be found scattered throughout Luang Prabang and each of them is beautiful.

Whilst Mt Phousi’s Wat Chom Si’s mountain location is unique, those that can’t make the long climb to the top can take in the stunning Wat Mai – located right in the heart of the city.

Several other large temples are located at various points in and around the city.  If you are not too “watted out” you would do well to enjoy the sights on offer at Wat Phol Phao on Highway 13, Wat Xieng Dong at the north eastern end of Khem Kong and Wat Wisunalat near Kingkitsarath Road.

Work Out The Breeds

You may have seen some scruffy dogs on your travels but probably never as many as you are likely to see in Luang Prabang.  These “bitzer” (bits of this and bits of that) breeds come in all shapes, colours and sizes and most of them are adorable.

The bitches amongst the breeds don’t seem to spend too much time between litters with many of them having teats that are so long that they almost drag on the ground.

With low basic wages that barely allow a family to just survive, one can’t imagine that much money gets spent on animals in Laos.  This doesn’t mean that the locals don’t love their pets but it is survival of the fittest in these parts.

The dogs are friendly and happy and they make for great pictures.

Bear It For All To See

Free The Bears is a not for profit organisation started by Australian woman Mary Hutton in 1995.  Mary and her team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to “protect and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world.”

Visitors to Luang Prabang can get up close and personal with some of the bears that “Free The Bears” (FTB) have saved from a life of misery.

FTB’s bear rescue centre is located at the Tat Kuang Si falls and the entrance fee for the falls allows visitors to see the bears and to donate to the cause.

The FTB workers have been building elevated walkways and enclosures and this gives visitors great exposure to the 30 plus bears.  The bears are quite active (particularly during feeding time) and it is evident that the home they have now is a wonderful existence compared to the caged life that many of them experienced in the past.

Don’t forget to donate some monies (or purchase some of the gifts for sale) to this worthy cause before you head off to the nearby waterfalls.

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Sailing On Turquoise, Falls At Giessbach and Chasing Cows

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sailing On Turquoise, Falls At Giessbach and Chasing Cows

Schmocken, Interlaken, Interlaken, Brienz, Giessbach, Lauterbrunnen

Monday, 13 June 2011

The long alpine walk yesterday and 3 days of mountain air resulted in two tired bodies this morning! The alarm was set for 7.30am and our minds responded but our muscles gave us that: “you can wait” sort of feedback.

However, the mind is all powerful and it convinced the less than enthusiastic bodies to roll out of bed and into the shower – things to do and new places to see!

First stop after a shower? The dining room. Breakfast has become a rather important meal for us because it seems that we are either not eating lunch or rolling a late lunch/early dinner together. So today, like the preceding two mornings, we enjoyed a delightful breaking of our fasts while we appreciated the sheer beauty of the alps in the distance and Lake Thun several thousand feet below us.

We wanted to be “on the road” by 10.00am so after a short breakfast we returned to the room, readied our gear and headed for the car.

A light rain was falling in Schmocken when we left the hotel and continued as we descended the road down to Interlaken. Fortunately the visibility was still good so the trip down the narrow mountain road was made without the need to drive too slowly.

Our aim for today was to take a ride on the historic paddle steamer that plies the waterways of Lake Brienz. The steamer is called the Lotschberg and it is one of the nicest steamers in the region. It leaves from the wharf that is located next to Interlaken’s main railway station and it only runs a couple of times each day. Our plan was to be on Lotschberg for its first departure at 11.10am.

Departing On Blue

Our consistently accurate GPS “dude” guided us to a parking area next to the station and, after asking directions from the local constabulary, we found our way to the wharf and the ticket box. A one day pass for all boat trips on both lakes was f 29.00 – a Monday special. We didn’t plan to spend the day on boats but the normal fare for a one way trip was f 28.00 so for an extra franc it was worth it.

Our uninhibited trip down the mountain meant that we arrived early in Interlaken so we had some time to spare before the old steamer made its way to the departure wharf. Fortunately, the rain was light and so we didn’t have to seek shelter before the departure time.

We boarded Lotschberg around 11.00am and took up an undercover seat on the foc’sle (arrrr, the terms roll of the tongue for this old sea dog!) however, it wasn’t long before we started making our way around the vessel and taking shots of this historic old “queen of the lake”.

The shrill of the paddle steamer’s whistle signaled the 11.10am departure and with the hawsers released from the dockside bollards the beautiful old steam engines turned the two midships paddle wheels and the wooden hull slipped quietly and smoothly away from the wharf.

As the skipper expertly guided the Lotschberg down the narrow turquoise coloured inlet we took our time to take in the surrounding beauty of some of Interlaken’s prime real estate and the distant cloud covered mountains.

The hull of the boat cut through the smooth Brienzersee’s (Lake Brienz) waters as she made her way eastward down the lake. We pulled into a few different village wharves and watched as the experienced deckhands lash the vessel to the wharf with expert seamanship skills (or is that lakemanship skills?). The crew were about as well oiled as the huge connecting rods that drove the paddle shafts on this beautiful old boat.

Falling From High

Bernhard (co-owner of Hotel Gloria) suggested that we disembark the Lotschberg at the historic Giessbach Hotel and take a walk around the waterfalls and the grounds of the hotel. We are thankful for his advice because what lay ahead of us was spectacular.

The Giessbach Hotel is the most beautiful structure and it is located high on top of a cliff overlooking the blue lake. There is a funicular railway running from the wharf up to the hotel however we opted to hike up the steep trails in order to view the beautiful waterfalls that drop from the towering mountains above.

The trail that leads up to the hotel passes under old growth forest trees and it is like being in a child’s fairy tale. Beautiful lichen and moss cover the trunks of the deciduous trees and undergrowth of saplings struggle to gain a foothold in the dimly lit and moist forest floor. The roar of the spectacular waterfalls remind you of mother natures’ power and the whole scene is one of natural beauty.

We wound our way up to the hotel’s grounds and, just when we thought we had experienced all the beauty we could process for one day our eyes were met with man made beauty on a different scale.

At this time of year the hotel’s gardens are filled with an array of colours and smells. The gardens surround the most stunning building and the outlook from the many vantage points is superb.

Towering cliffs rise above the relatively flat land that surrounds the hotel and the staggering waterfalls that start high up in the mountain fall down hundreds of meters to the wharf area below.

You can continue on a short hike up the trails that are located near the hotel and walk behind one of the large waterfalls that flows over a huge cliff. Bernhard had told us about this walk and we were keen to experience it.

Despite our muscles telling us that they had had enough mountain walking for one holiday we ignored their pleas and set off for another steep but short hike up to the “behind the falls” experience – it was worth the hike!

Being behind tonnes of fast flowing water is a real treat. The noise, the feeling of energy and the spray all add up to a wonderful experience and we would absolutely recommend any visitor making a trip to Giessbach if they are coming to Interlaken.

On returning to the hotel we took a look inside the recently (relatively speaking) restored hotel before paying our one way fare for the funicular railway trip down the mountain.

Like all departure times here in Switzerland, the funicular railway’s is fixed and, to the second, the driver released the brake and we started the slow descent down the mountain. The trip didn’t take very long however it saved our legs and gave us a different view of the forest and the waterfalls -well worth the fare!

The next boat to depart the Giessbach wharf (enroute to Brienz) was Brienz itself. She was due to depart at 14.16 and, she was just arriving as the funicular pulled into the lower (wharf) station – like clockwork!

The Brienz is a more modern boat however, she is beautifully kept and efficiently run.

After departing Giessbach the Brienz made its way across the lake to the town Brienz. The short trip took less than 10 minutes so it wasn’t long before we were disembarking.

We planned to take in a light lunch in the town of Brienz so after a short stroll around the wharf area we found a restaurant that was not too full and set ourselves up on the undercover balcony. Whilst the service was not particularly good, the small pizza we shared and the view of the lake made up for it.

We had two options for our passage back to Interlaken – a return boat trip of around 1 hr 30 mins or a 25 minute train trip. We had not taken any train trips during our time in Europe so we opted for the train.

Fortunately, for us, the train for Interlaken departed at 4.00pm and we arrived at the platform around 3.50pm. We purchased our one way tickets from the very helpful and polite ticket staff and walked outside and boarded the train.

The interior of the intercity train was very comfortable and we enjoyed sitting down in the well appointed cabin and waiting for the train to depart.

The views from the train during the trip back to Interlaken were wonderful. The large windows afforded us views of the lake and alps and allowed us to capture some nice shots on our video and cameras.

We arrived back into Interlaken spot on 4.25pm and took a short walk around the very “tourist focused” town before heading back to the car. We both agreed that Interlaken was not a place we would spend a lot of time (the 15 minutes we had today was enough). While it has some lovely old buildings it reminded us too much of most world wide “tourist hotspots” – not the sort of place we like to spend much time in. However, if you are up for some Swiss army knives, cow bells or any other kitsch gifts then this might be the place for you. Don’t forget to eat kebab (didn’t know the Swiss ate these) or some Indian food too.

We departed Interlaken and headed back into the mountains in search of a village that friends of ours visit each winter. The village is called Murren.

We “plugged” Murren into our GPS and set off according to ‘surfer dudes’ instructions.

We headed deep into the Lauterbrunnen valley, past some spectacular waterfalls that flowed down bare cliff faces and in and through some lovely villages. However, the GPS became a little confused and we never really made it to the centre of Murren. The village of Murren is perched high on a mountain overlooking Lauterbrunnen and not in the valley we were in. However, we are glad we got “lost” because we saw some beautiful scenery.

On the way back down the valley we had to stop for some dairy cows that were being moved in for milking. It was a real treat to follow them slowly back down the road and watch their owner coerce them past the “oh so tasty grass” that grows alongside the roads. The “grass is always greener” and these cows knew it! As the cows passed by the driveways of neighboring farm houses the owner removed temporary fencing – the cows would have a feast on the lovely summer gardens.

The trip back to Schmocken and Hotel Gloria took us back through Interlaken West (definitely not on our agenda to spend any time in) and back up the steep and winding mountain road that makes its way to Beatenberg. We arrived back at the hotel around 6.30pm – tired but very thankful that we followed Bernhard’s suggestion and spent a large portion of the day on beautiful Lake Brienz and visiting the stunning Giessbach Hotel.

Bernhard welcomed us back when we walked through the lobby and we spent time talking to him about our experiences. What a wonderful host!

We booked a table for 8.00pm and headed up to the room to freshen up and unpack our gear.

Dinner this evening was another dining experience – the most delightful zucchini and pepper soup and a Swiss ham and cheese rosti. The restaurant was not too full tonight so we were able to spend time talking with the staff too.

Bernhard exited the kitchen when the last of the diners (seemed like us) were finished and we enjoyed spending time talking to him about the art of Swiss cheese making. There were a few local farmers in the bar area of the hotel and Bernhard was able to get answers to several questions we had. Like: “How many litres of milk does each cow produce in peak season and how many litres does it take to make a kilo of cheese?” If you are interested in knowing the answers or if you have some feedback then post it in the comments section below!

After a very informative post dinner discussion we retired to the room for our last night in Hotel Gloria.

Tomorrow we are off to Frankfurt for our last night in Europe for this trip. We fly back to Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon.

We will keep you blogged on tomorrow’s trip.

Gut Nacht!

The Queen Of The Lake
Princess Of Brienz
Departing The Wharf
Falling From On High
Red On Turquoise
Waiting Patiently
Fun On The Funicular

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Toronto – Niagara Falls

Friday, August 20th, 2010

We were not in a hurry to get going this morning – particularly after a late end to the time we spent with Barb, Victor and their two beautiful girls.

We left the hotel around 11.00 and  drove back through the city but only after picking up the compulsory Starbucks morning heart starter!

The traffic heading south was rather chaotic.  It was a Sunday and it is a big city however, we didn’t expect it to be as busy as it was.  The estimated drive time to Niagara falls was around one and a half hours however we soon came to the realisation that this was not going to be the case today.   It seemed that most of Toronto was heading for Niagara Falls.  This seemingly mass exodus and the large number of roadwork spots made for a slow trip.  Having said that, there were quite a few “boy racers” out in their low flying Japanese sports cars and they were in a hurry to get somewhere.  They ignored the very low speed limits and drove like they were filming a car chase in a Hollywood movie!  If the three to four lanes were not enough then the service lanes were negotiated at speeds that denied belief.

After about 3 hours we arrived in Niagara Falls, ON.  Barb and Victor had recommended that we stay on the Canadian side of the falls so we booked a room online at the Days Inn.  It was a good choice.  The room was well appointed and close to everything that we came to see and experience

After sorting ourselves out and changing into something more comfortable we, grabbed some camera gear and went in search of some the Falls.  Finding the access steps down to the falls was not as easy as one would expect given that this is a tourist haven.  However, we persisted, and arrived on the promenade as the light was starting to fade – not a bad thing for photography.

We took a lot of photo’s of the incredible falls and took in the wonderful atmosphere of this natural wonder.  The temperature was perfect for walking along the top of the cliffs that the Niagara River has made of the years.

We did not take the tripod on the first outing in Niagara so as the light faded we called it quits for the photography and started the walk back to the motel.

The walk back took us through the very “tourist centric” area of Niagara Falls – an area that is set up for all things “touristy” and not a place we had any desire to spend time in.  In short is was “cheap and cheesy” and it didn’t appeal to our senses.

However, we did find a wonderful Mexican “cantina” on the trip back to the hotel and we opted to dine in this wonderful little place before returning to the motel.  The food was excellent, the paintings on the walls were worth photographing and the hostess was a lovely elderly lady that made our evening dining experience a lot of fun.

Our late’ish supper was “walked off” during the stroll back to the motel and after unpacking our camera gear we dropped into the very comfortable bed around 11.00pm.  A very nice first day in Niagara Falls.

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Sleep in, blueberry waffles, mountain driving, hidden valley, breathtaking scenery – happy to be here!

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The alarm was set for 6.00am however, it was not turned on.  Obviously too tired last night. The body clocks were set for 7.00am so that is the time we rose.  Time enough.

We joined several other guests in the dining room and picked up lots of tips on the planned visit to Yosemite NP.  They were two couples from Ohio and New Hampshire – very friendly and helpful.  They gave us their unused 7 day pass for the park – a very nice offer.

After uploading yesterday’s blog we returned to our cabin and finalised the packing for the day’s activities.  The car was in gear by 9.30am and we headed off into the very warm day (around high 20’s – degrees C).

First stop?  You guessed it – Starbucks.  It was going to be a long drive into Yosemite so we made sure we ordered the Grande today.  No fat food to go with it – trying to wean ourselves off the sugar.

In distance terms Ahwahnee to Yosemite NP is not great. However, with winding roads, speed restrictions and traffic, the drive takes around 90 mins.

We listened to some of the new music we bought in SLO.  One of our favourite bands Mercy Me was perfect background music and complimented the incredible scenery that we experienced as we drove.

Entry to Yosemite Valley (From the direction that we approached) is via a long tunnel through the mountain.  Immediately on exiting the tunnel the view of the valley presents as a once in a lifetime experience.  It is a breathtaking sight and you can park the car and enjoy the vista laid out before you.  We took quite a few photo’s of the valley from
this wonderful vantage point.

The drive into the valley and down to the Yosemite Village area passes one photo opportunity after another so we stopped the car a couple of times and walked to find some different angles for our photo’s.  From a pure composition point of view you cannot really take a bad photo in Yosemite however, from a technical point of view (with my new camera) it is a big challenge.  It was fun to play around with exposures and I learnt a lot during the day.  The Princess took her usual great photo’s – they make mine look ordinary.

During the day we toured the valley floor on foot and we took in Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village, Curry Village, Happy Isles and a long hike alongside the Merced River.  It was such an incredible experience and we kept on reminding ourselves how blessed we are to be able to travel to different parts of the world and experience natural and man-made treasures.

We wanted to leave the park around 6.30pm because sunset is around 8.30pm and we wanted to be off the mountain roads by then.  Deers and bears are known to get “caught in headlights” and we didn’t need to get up too close to the Yosemite wildlife.  We made good on our planned departure time and returned to Oakhurst around 8.00pm.

We purchased some very tasty soup, salad and turkey at one of the major shopping chains Vons and brought that back to our cabin for supper.  We were able to heat the soup and enjoy a light supper “at home”.

The slight change in altitude, the warm weather and the hiking have resulted in the two of us being quite tired tonight so, after completing these last few lines I am going to join my Princess in getting ready for a deep sleep.

From the mountains of California we bid you and yours goodnight.

Roey and The Princess

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