At the entrance to the Kuang Si Falls park area, there is a small wildlife preserve run by an organization called Save the Bears. The refuge is for Asian Black Bears. Poachers hunt these animals for their bile, which is an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine recipes. The bears are also threatened by deforestation, one of those environmentally unfriendly, unsustainable by-products of economic development.
The bears are playing. As best as I could tell, the bear on the left was laughing in the face of the one on the right. I was standing in a building somewhat above my subjects; the fence separating me from the bears is not visible in the picture.
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.
Bamboo plants, seen on the right of this photo, are a variety of grass. The plants are gorgeous, the stalks are resilient and useful for making all sorts of things, and the new shoots (bamboo culms) of many types of bamboo are edible and feature in a number of Asian cuisines.