A free morning for the group meant optional activities or a sleep in and pool day choice, I decided to headed into town by myself and climb to the top of Mount Phousi and visit Wat Chomsi (top of mountain) and the Wat Tham Phousi shrine (about half way up). Mount Phousi gives you a great view of both rivers surrounding Luang Prabang, the Meokng River and the Nam Khan River.
There are apparently 355 steps to take to get to the top as you zig zag you way upwards but in the heat and humidity at times it felt like a lot more. Still the views were stunning at being around 9 am in the morning I basically had the place to myself as I could sit and reflect on life and the number of steps back down 🙂
The visit to Mount Phousi also gave me a chanc to explore the UNESCO heritage listed city and noticing the strong French colonial influence mixed with the more traditional Laos style. The Laos lifestyle tradition still heavily favours the males in the manual labour industries and with females mostly working in the markets or looking after the children and elderly. The education system is free in primary school after that contributions are needed from the families of the attendees. This leads the males to become Buddhist novices (trainee monk) so they can continue to study. A Buddhist novice and later monk is not required to be a lifelong calling. Around 50-60% of novices and monks leave the service and re-enter normal life.
In the afternoon the group came back together to visit the Kousang Si Watefall. This waterfall is about 45 minute bus ride out of town, on this occasion we used the G Adventures travel bus so we were all in the same vehicle which gave our local Laos guide a chance to discuss his home country and his personal experiences as a son of a poor farming family. Our guide was also a mon at one point which was mostly to further his education but also ensure a better chance in the next life.
Inside the Kouang Si Waterfall is the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre which was our first stop. The centre looks after the Moon Bear and they currently have 32 under their care. One of the Bears has lost and arm, most likely due to the many unexploded weapons dropped by the USA during the Vietnam War (finished 1975) that also had Laos in the conflict. The Bears are hunted by poachers for traditional Chinese medicine, fur and apparently to eat their feet.
A short hike later and we were are the Kouang Si Waterfall which has many different levels with three major ones. The most speculator was the top level.
The water was really flowing today (check out the video). And in one of the better moments in a hot and humid region of the world we jumped into the water for a swim at the middle level. Some adventurous people jump into the water from an over hanging tree. My I was happy enough to swim against the tide and have fish take tiny bits of dead skin on my feet (something people usually pay for).
For the evening our tour leader BenG took us to Utopia Resturant were we seat hippie style on the floor surrounded by old restored Soviet made motorcycles, tuk-tuks and more modern motorcycles.