One of my goals on my recent trip to the United States was to see parts of the country I had never seen before. To that end, a drive along State Highway 149 brought me through a part of Colorado I was visiting for the first time. I began the 117 mile trip where SH 149 turns north off of US 160 at South Fork in south central Colorado. The first part of the journey took me through the Rio Grande National Forest alongside the upper reaches of the Rio Grande River, which has its headwaters in Colorao’s San Juan Mountains. With a length of 1760 miles, the Rio Grande is the fourth longest river in the United States, following the Missouri, the Mississippi and the Yukon (which flows through both Canada and Alaska in the US).
This image of the Rio Grande was taken some 30 to 40 miles from where the river originates in the San Juans. I arrived at this spot on a crystal clear, late summer day at around 3:30 in the afternoon. With the sun moving towards the horizon, the light was just beginning to get soft. There really is nothing quite like Colorado’s high country on a day like this.
The water that cascades over the Kuang Si Falls is a startling shade of turquoise blue. An informational sign explains that the water picks up limestone particles with high levels of calcium carbonate as it falls over the rocks and this is what gives it the unique color. This was not an easy photo to work with. It took quite a bit of work in Photoshop to come up with a color that is a reasonable match to what I saw in nature.
The Kuang Si Waterfall area is about a one hour drive south of Luang Prabang. Over a road with numerous axle-breaker potholes. I rode in the back of what is called a tuk tuk in Laos, a pickup truck with a cover over the back and wooden benches along both sides of the bed. It was a bumpy ride.
The falls themselves are beautiful, and I visited at the tail end of the dry season in this part of the world. Significantly more water comes pouring over the falls after the summer rainy season begins in June. The good news is that the hot, dry month of May is the low season for tourism in and around Luang Prabang. There were plenty of other people visiting the falls, but finally it was not that crowded.
Hoi An, about 20 km south of Danang, has become a major tourist attraction for its UNESCO World Heritage site Ancient City and its beautiful beaches. Curious, I took a public bus from Danang to take a look. I had intended to make it a day trip, though I actually stayed for no more than a couple of hours. The part of Hoi An I found myself in was mobbed with tourists and everything I saw there, from the shops selling tee shirts, (allegedly) local handicrafts, and artwork to the cafes and restaurants, to the ubiquitous men with motorbikes pitching rides, was designed to part tourists from their money. Yes, the architecture was interesting and the old town was certainly quaint, maybe authentically so, but the atmosphere proclaimed very loudly, “Tourist trap.” If I had given myself a couple of days to explore, I suspect I could have found parts of Hoi An that were worth visiting. But that is not how I had organized my trip and, as it was, I quickly became fed up with the crowds and the feeling that the whole place was about money. I took a couple of dozen photos, one of which is posted here, walked back to the bus station, and two hours after arriving took another public bus back to Danang. At least I can say I have been to Hoi An.