Luang Prabang, the largest city in northern Laos, is situated on the banks of Mekong River and the Nam Kanh (smaller, equally brown river). It is home to hundreds of monks and many quaint riverside eateries. I had some incredible Laab Pork (spicy Lao/Thai salad and meat) - I put in one red chili pepper and was crying. My upper lip burned from where I breathed out the spice from my nose. I kid you not - my cheekbones even hurt. IT WAS AMAZING! Obviously I went back again for the Laab Beef as well. I can't help it - I love the spice :)
Every morning, the monks walk around the town collecting alms from the locals. We didn't see the monk procession because apparently it's become quite touristy and somewhat cheapens the experience for locals, but I'm sure it would have been very impressive. I feel a bit strange about that type of tourism, where you take photos of people and they live in a fishbowl. I didn't enjoy getting photos taken of me in India and I can't imagine the locals love it here, so I've been shying away from some the village tours that allow you to "interact with a local village" and get lots of photos. I don't mind when I'm actually buying a service, like getting my tires repaired, but I wasn't comfortable intruding on the monk procession.
We did go to the Kuangxi Waterfall, which is stunning! I've never seen anything like it - there are layers upon layers of limestone pools all cascading into each other, and the water temperature is perfect for swimming. The water was so clear and blue, and there were even some rope swings and jumping points for the more adventurous (I jumped directly from the rocks but didn't trust the ropes).
As part of the entrance fee for the waterfall ($3/person), there was a bear rescue facility and lots of bears and conservation information. They are so cute! They seemed pretty happy and had very large enclosures. The Asian Black Bear (I think that's what this is?) is threatened by habitat loss, so it's great to see them living in such a beautiful area and supported by tourism.
The waterfall almost looked like it was designed by Disney or some fantastic jungle waterpark expert. The water was so gorgeous! The big falls in the last photo are about 200 feet tall, while the other smaller falls are 3-5 feet. There were some 12-15 feet falls as well for jumping. There were many tourists and locals, and lots of people brought in food and beers from the restaurant outside the entrance and set up picnics. Delightful!