Pages Navigation Menu

Beauty and the beast – Lao waterfalls and bear sanctuary

Beauty and the beast – Lao waterfalls and bear sanctuary

In every country I am able to find beauty and enchantment, yet every once in a while I come across situations that make me witness a darker side of reality. No country is without flaws – and tragically, this burden is often carried by suffering animals.

The beauty of nature in Laos, reflected by the fantastic waterfalls of Kuang Si and contrasting sight of abused black bears, reflecting the beasty nature of humans is presented to tourists as a combined attraction. The path to get to Kuang Si waterfalls is leading through a bear sanctuary.

The sanctuary houses black bears, rescued from the horrors of circus shows and ruthless intentions of private owners. Once brutally chained and abused, the bears will spend the rest of their days at the sanctuary, in zoo-like activity areas behind high fences.

Although I am not a supporter of zoos and the idea that we have to cage animals to show them to people, the bears had been robbed of the chance to live in freedom, therefore the sanctuary seems to be a last resort where bear can be bear – as much as has been left of their true nature. Some bears looked disturbed, some made strange noises over and over again, most were just very calm, some were busy.

Going through the sanctuary, I learned about the dramatic practice of taking bear bile from the caged bear – alive! Other atrocities involves cutting off their paws to sell it as somekind of panacea – to moronic miracle bear cure believers. Mostly from China, a country famous for its animal abuse to create ‘Chinese traditional medicine’ but Korea and Vietnam are eager participants just the same. Many bear bile farmers are from Vietnam. When bear abuse had been banned, they came over the border to Laos to continue business.

I recommend anyone to read what is going on inside a bear bile farm in Luang Prabang.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

I would have never though that I will actually see bear parts in Laos for sale (we had left backward China weeks ago and with it the dreadful circus backyard with bears pulled by metal rings pierced through their nose). But at one Lao village jars of cut off bear paws in alcohol or bile were openly shown and sold to tourists!

We reported to the tourist office in Luang Prabang and I hope that if many people do the same, it will pressure authorities to end the suffering. Laos is incredibly dependent on tourism and bear farms right next to Lao villages selling bear souvenirs is counterproductive to the image of the country’s progress. Hunting and torturing bears for bile is prohibited by law in Laos, but not greatly reinforced.

A bear sitting on his lookout at the bear sanctuary in Luang Prabang. Located at the Kuang Si waterfalls 30 km southwest of the city.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Another bear had a pretty white fur mark on its chest.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

This poor thing was screaming oddly and repetitively swinging back and forth – signs of severe abuse in the past.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Here is more about the Bears Fund which you pass on the way to the waterfalls.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Kuang Si waterfalls run as tiny streams through parts of the bear sanctuary.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

But most of it is sadly off limits for the bears.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Humanity, the beast at the top of the food chain, has occupied most of the wild animals’ habitat.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Walking the beautiful paths to the falls made me think about how much space on this earth I have walked without coming across even the slightest ‘threats’ of meeting any wild animals, how much space our aggressively expanding species occupies on this planet.

To get to the waterfalls, we walked through comfortably adapted jungle. It felt unfair and strange, that sometimes in our world, the greatest good and horror come so close together. I was sad, yet couldn’t help but embrace the beauty of the waterfalls.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Kuang Si Waterfalls are indisputably the most beautiful I have seen so far in Asia.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Large and most impressive. The cascades are 50m high.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Watch it with fascinated me.

 

Kuang Si are actually a compilation of waterfalls cascading into naturally formed swimming pools.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

The turquoise colour is mesmerising.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

The sun was shining through the jungle shrubbery and it was oh so wonderful.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Trees and giant roots weave their way in and around the pools. There are places to swim and jump into the water. Take the stairs up the jumping platform if you are ready for a very refreshing dip!

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

The rocks were wet and it was easy to slip. ‘Watch out for the slippery’ (a phrase I learned in Thailand).

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

The water was plenty but not exactly warm during the rainy season. It looks like the jacuzzi from paradise…. but you could not see the rocks on the ground and the current was really strong, so it was difficult to stand. Still, pretty amazing!

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Spot the waterfall mermaid.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Someone did – intensely! Which was a bit odd. So occupied, the culprit didn’t even notice Tomek taking a picture of him taking the picture.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Maybe I need to rethink my blogging career.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Sir, if you are seriously interested, please subscribe to my blog!

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

There is more to explore – like walking that bridge behind me.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

This face reminds me totally of my mum – it is what she looked like my age. We still look very similar.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Kuang Si has more bridges and slippery rocks.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Half way covered by water – the sensation of sliding on ice – the bridge leads to the middle of the waterfall.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

 

Only the toughest dare to cross over those cascading rocks.

Laos - Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Okay, I admit, I did not cross it. But I swam in waterfall pools and made up in bravery while ziplining – over Luang Prabang’s waterfalls! See you there!

Related posts:

2 Comments

  1. Sadly, we witnessed the same problems regarding bears in China back in 2006. We weren’t at all aware of the situation before seeing captive bears and being given bear bile when we went to the pharmacy asking for something for an eye infection. Having worked in the animal protection and animal rights area in different countries, violence against animals is definitely not restricted to those in China. In a way, this is positive, as it means there’s best practices that can be taken from elsewhere, whether it’s managing populations of feral animals, protecting endagered species, or generally preventing cruelty towards animals. There is hope, but it needs to be seen over time, as habits are slow to change, particularly when money is involved.

  2. Sadly, not much seemed to have changed – we got the same impression when travelling around China just this year. I have seen many wild and exotic animals in so called ‘pharmacy’ display windows. Just recently read about the common practice of bear bile farms in China with thousands of bears suffering cruelty all their life until they die – to this day.
    Thank you for the comment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *