I still remember waking up on the second day of my trip to Laos, with an unapologetic smile on my face, and dreams from the previous night, about the Wonderland that I was going to visit that day. Laos had already secured a soft spot in my heart on the first day itself, and there was nothing but sweet love in there, ready to expand its reach to every nook and corner of my heart. “Travel is timeless”, I thought to myself, “And eternal, ethereal and empowering at the same time”, I smiled.
I woke up to the warm, tropical sunshine at around 9:00 AM, ate a hearty vegan breakfast and got ready to be picked up from my hostel. I wore a black floral gown that I had gotten stitched from my mom’s old saree, and waited outside eagerly, ready to embark on this unforgettable journey. It is funny how we build little clouds of fantasies in our head about a place or a person and then do whatever it takes to play a perfect role in our very own movie. It was no different for me this time. After seeing beautiful pictures of this enchanting Wonderland in Laos, I knew right away that I wanted to be Alice but feel like Cinderella. Hence, the gown. And so all ready to commence this adventure, I eagerly waited for the minibus outside. There wasn’t any rabbit hole leading to this Wonderland. Believe me, I searched.
So what is this Wonderland in Laos? What is this magical, mystical, enchanting and enthralling treasure in the world, that many people don’t know of? What is this heaven-like place that has spellbound those who have seen it, beyond words? It was time to find out.
We reached the Wonderland in our minibus, bought tickets and walked straight to the gates. Before we reached this celebrated paradise, we came across a Bear Sanctuary, built by Free the Bears, a non-profit, international charity founded in 1995 by Mary Hutton from Australia (Read how bears are captivated for their bile in Asia and the organization’s ongoing efforts to prevent this, here). As much as I was happy to see the organization’s efforts to protect these kind animals, I simply could not get over the irony – capture free bears and put them in cages for their bile, then rescue them and put them in a bigger cage to “save” their lives, when all they wanted was, to be free in the first place. Sorry precious and innocent animals, we humans are slightly screwed up!
We started our mini ascent towards the Wonderland, and with every step that we took forward, the sound of the roaring water grew upon us, boisterously. Not too ahead and we finally found ourselves in what I have been referring to as “The Wonderland” all this while now – the phantasmagorical “Kuang Si Falls”. A hidden paradise in Laos.
My jaw dropped instantaneously at the sight of the celeste waters of the Kuang Si Falls. I had never seen anything like that in my life. “Is this real?”, I thought to myself. “Am I actually experiencing this?”, I contemplated. And as I stood beside a tree lost in the captivating charms of Mother Nature, I had my Alice moment.
The giant waterfall of Kuang Si flows through a limestone-rich jungle before culminating in a series of three cascading pools. These pools add to the splendor of the waterfalls with their celeste waters sparkling in the sun. Many took a dip in these pools while few others just sat on the beds, bewitched by the mystical beauty in front of them. I had a swimsuit beneath my gown and it was time to break free and swim in the glittering waters of the falls.
As soon as I set my foot inside the water, a chill current ran through my spine. The water, was ice-cold! So I took baby steps, went further and further down until I was half soaked, and took a deep breath before submerging myself completely within a fraction of a second. Ah! My body had now accustomed to the temperature of the water. It was time to move around.
As I swam my way inside the pool, occasionally looking up at the clear sky while being smitten by the roaring waterfall, I found a charming young lady in a bright yellow bikini smiling endlessly and enjoying the experience as much as I was. Soon, we connected through our smiles, chatted up a bit and decided to venture closer towards the falls, together. Yes. I had not just found myself an Israeli friend, but also a solo traveler, a daring woman and a swimming partner.
The bed of the pool was extremely rocky and we had to be extra careful as we moved closer to the falls. We sat on rocks. We entered a cave-like structure. We laughed. We talked. And the best part was, we got a free massage by the thumping waters of the Kuang Si Falls relieving us of every ache and negativity in our body. Wow! I still remember the experience so vividly.
I had a moment here, as I stood on the rock allowing the ferocious yet gentle waters drub my back. I remembered my previous job, a job that I had quit to pursue my passion for traveling irrespective of facing heat from my loved ones. It was here, beneath this waterfall, on the land of Southern Laos, where I felt that I had actually done the right thing. All I did was close my eyes and ask myself just one question – “Would I rather be swimming in the celeste, ice-cold waters of Kuang Si Falls, somewhere in Laos or sitting at my desk, waiting to fix bugs for a product that I never really cared about?”. And I had found my answers. I felt free. Free to enjoy the present moment. Free to not worry about going back to something I didn’t truly enjoy. Free to share my thoughts and feelings in my own blog, my way. Free to live; live and explore every second of this generous gift from God many people call as “life”. Free to be myself. Free to love. And this is very much evident in the video below which was shot during this moment!
Shir and I met another woman called Adriana from San Diego who was generous enough to take a couple of shots for us from her GoPro. The above video credits goes to Adriana. Soon, the three of us sat there on the rocks, chilled in the ice-cold pool, let all our worries dissipate into the air and had a wonderful time as we laughed and talked about our travels.
I spent three hours in the pool, swimming, floating, and meditating on the roots of a tree slightly away from the falls. I still remember the sound of the gushing waters, the laughs of the people around and the warm rays of the sun gently kissing my wet face, as I reveled in deep consciousness breaking the barrier between nature and my soul. It was here, at this falls that I had had my Alice moment. It was here, at this falls that I had been reassured about my decision to pursue travel blogging. It was here, at this falls that I had come to believe that the world is one big treasure of entrancing miracles waiting to be explored, experienced and engraved onto our souls, if only we gave it a chance.