Ban Gioc Waterfall – actually several falls – is a popular tourist attraction on the Quay Son River in the far north of Vietnam, along the country’s border with China. The falls are nestled in the rugged, lush mountain terrain of northern Vietnam. In fact, the border between Vietnam and China runs down the middle of Quay Son River. There are tourist centers on both sides of the river. Apparently, Vietnam and China had to negotiate a deal that allowed sightseeing boats to traverse the river border while they brought groups of Chinese and Vietnamese tourists to see the falls up close. Unfortunately, trails on the Vietnamese side that led to overviews of the falls were closed off and guarded by a couple of surly guys who snarled if anyone came to near.
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.