After seeing the much anticipated Kuang Si Waterfall we decided to do another day trip a bit closer to see a more local waterfall. Tad Sae is not nearly as tall as Kuang Si but consists of many more smaller falls. From my research it sounds that it is only worth it to visit in rainy season- but it being November it was just the start of dry season and we still found it to be stunning.
-We hopped in a tuk-tuk this time getting the price down to 35,000 kip round trip per person. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the Nam Khan River. From the banks of the river you must take a small boat for 20,000 kip round trip to the other side.
Again we only had three hours for the trip including boat time. We found this to still not be quite enough time for all the exploring we wanted to do. Keep this in mind ahead of time and try to have the whole group on board to negotiate with the driver
Important to note:
Upon arrival we were really disappointed to see that there is elephant riding associated with the falls. The people you pay the entry fee seem to be the same as the elephant riding owners. This was a huge shame for us. It was heartbreaking to see people riding the elephants in the falls with a mahout standing on the elephants neck with a stick. We almost didn’t continue on but having already taken a tuk tuk and boat we decided to keep going. However because of this I can’t fully recommend this destination and don’t think I would go back knowing my money is going here. I hope in the future that this organization will follow suit and hand over these elephants to the type of life they deserve- if this was the case Tad Sae would be top on my list to see in Luang Prabang.
If you are curious as to why elephant riding is cruel here is some additional information below. There are ethical ways to enjoy seeing these amazing creatures. Such as the Save the Elephants organization with parks and sanctuaries in many Asian countries.
Tourism- the cruel truth of elephant riding
If you are still going to go ahead with this trip- once you enter the area you will see a large area where the falls cascade into multilayered pools. Though it’s quite nice it is usually overly crowded with tourists and locals- especially families. To make the most of scenery you should trek for a bit to the other falls.
We crossed the wooden bridge across the main pool towards the left into the trees. We followed a path to the left. On our way up we ran into a group with a guide- they were all worried about us finding our way on our own. They gave us advice that when we came to the large field (looked like a maze with high stocks) to bear to the right as they took a short cut through and said it would be very easy to get lost on our own. We took this advice and ended up at a glimmering green pool all to our selves.
After spending a bit of time floating around the serene pools we decided to see what laid ahead following the path ahead. To our surprise it was even more incredible that what we had just swam in before. With each twist and turn through the jungle there were more handmade bridges, falls, and pools. It felt like we had the whole jungle to ourselves.
We didn’t have enough time to do the full loop around. So we decided to follow a trail which soon became not so well marked trekking through the large fields and eventually back into the trees. When we were just about to give up and turn around we came to a wooden fence (with some barbed wire) but recognized the trail we had come in on and were able to scale the fence.
I definitely recommend remaining aware of your surroundings and taking pictures of the trail maps posted. Getting to the quieter falls involves a moderate trek- nothing too difficult though once further in the jungle there are many man made bridges and ladders which could be a barrier for some.