• 03 . 03 . 11
  • In which we head to a waterfall, hone our reflexes by tracking the world’s fastest mosquitoes, and climb to the top of a hill for a view that’s better from the bottom.

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Fall In Spring

The mosquitoes in Chiang Rai were so slow that you could squash them between thumb and forefinger. If we’d had chopsticks I bet I could have done it Bruce Lee style. By contrast, their cousins in Luang Prabang are clearly on amphetamines, requiring a keen eye and degree of prescience from the devoted hunter. Like AA guns that aim in front of their aerial targets, we found ourselves rotating left and right, hands at the ready, following the flightpaths of our attackers and swooping swiftly when an opportunity presented itself.

There were no mosquitoes at the Kouang Si Waterfalls though – perhaps they knew they would especially unwelcome at this slice of paradise. About an hour’s drive out of Luang Prabang, these ice blue falls form a number of natural pools with beautiful mineral deposits, in the midst of glorious tropical trees and plants.

The journey began, as always, at a petrol station. Jamie’s 4th law of travelling: For every vehicular journey that takes you outside of the city limits, a trip to fill up on gasoline is mandatory. This holds true even if the fuel tank is full.

We appeared to have a Good Samaritan for a driver today. Along the way, he stopped to pick up a local family whose motorbike had broken down, and having deposited them, stopped to help an English girl who had a flat tyre on her push bike. He took about 20 seconds, performing some voodoo with his hands and all was right again. I’m mystified actually as to how he did that. She actually overtook us on the next downslope.

He still tried to charge us quadruple of course, but I guess that’s the nature of the job. Even one of Jesus’ disciples was a thief. I suppose you could call him a shepherd, because I’m sure he’s fleeced some tourists.

We made the mistake of following new friend Stephanie, a perky Canadian, up to the very top of the falls. I can’t speak for the wet season, but in the dry the top isn’t particularly interesting. I tried to muster the tried and trusted we did it because it’s there, the natural fallback for an Englishman who’s attempting something intensive for no obvious gain, but even that felt a little hollow. It’s hardly Kilimanjaro and the sense of achievement wasn’t that good. You can skip it, I promise. As Emily Benjamin said: Waterfalls are better from below.

At ground level they were spectacular though, cascading down five or six small steps, separated by beautiful spearmint blue pools. The water was icy, so naturally I dived right in. Clearly I’ve become acclimatised to Australia because I think it’s brought on a bout of lumbago. Totally worth it.

We enjoyed the place so much that we asked our driver if we could stay an extra half an hour. Clearly he’d exhausted his good will for the day though and he wanted us to pay more. His exact words were Pay more. Pay more. Pay pay more. Pay more more. Pay more. Pay. I don’t speak Lao but we got the gist.

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