Kayaking To Tad Sae Waterfall


Tad Sae, 15 km to the southeast of Luang Prabang, is a series of cascading step waterfalls in natural surroundings which is perfect for picnicking, swimming and relaxing. The falls can be reached by car, tuk-tuk, bicycle or boat.

-- Luang Prabang Tourism

Once we arrived to Luang Prabang, the group of Stray mates that was staying here for the last few days told us about a tour they purchased from Green Discovery that involved a visit to a local village, some trekking, and lots of kayaking with a lunch at Tad Sae cascading waterfall. They loved it so our group decided to do it as well.

Booking With Green Discovery

We walked over to the Green Discovery office the day before and flexed our group might(iness?) to negotiate a discount for the tour . We ended up paying $37 each after waiting around for a while as there was only one girl at the office working with two American tourists that kept coming up with more and more ridiculous questions about things to do around town  - most of which are answered by the Lonely Planet guide they already had in their hands.

Village Visit

Next morning, we were promptly picked up by Green Discovery van and taken to a local village. From there, we walked for a bit until we reached the Mae Kok river. There, we crossed a pretty long and sturdy bamboo bridge (that gets washed away and rebuilt after the rain season every year) into another village. The interesting tidbit about that village is that both Hmong and Loum people live together there, which is not common - usually the different groups do not mix together. Still, each group honors their own traditions of worship, speaks their own language (although, Hmongs also speak Lao), do not intermarry with each other and even have distinctively different buildings each lives in. There is also a common school building and when we got there, the kids were outside, playing soccer. Most were barefoot, one of the goals was up of a few tubes while the other one was just a vertical tube and and a bag on the other side. The pitch was just an uneven dirt patch… And they all were as happy as they could be. That brought back childhood memories of playing soccer pretty much every day during and after school. Come to think of it, they actually had better playing conditions than what we had back in Ukraine.


After walking through the village, we continued on through the forrest which soon cleared up and turned into papaya and banana tree plantations as well as some dried up corn patches. As Laos is well into the dry season, most of the crops have been picked up and many people have left the villages in search of work in the city until the wet season comes again. Next, we walked through the rows of rubber trees - another first for me. After about an hour, we headed downhill, back to the river where a couple very shaky and shady boats transported us to the other side, back to our kayaks.

Tad Sae Waterfall

We quickly geared up (life jackets as well as helmets were provided), paired up, took our kayaks down to the river, and got on our way after a very brief instruction/safety demo. The first leg was very brief - after about ten minutes we reached the bottom of the Tad Sae falls and made our way up the hill to the main portion of the waterfall. It really was something. While I have seen plenty of waterfall in the last couple of weeks (Pai, Mae Hong Son, and Luang Namtha come to mind right away), and the Mae Hong Son one was definitely a good one, Tad Sae is just in the league of its own. I will not even try to describe it, just look at the pictures for yourself.

Everyone went in for a quick swim, but the water was pretty cool so soon we all were up on the bridge, enjoying the sunshine. Soon, our guides called us up to the restaurant for our lunch - chicken fried rice, a small bowl of soup and a plate of cooked veggies. It was plenty of food and the view from the top was awesome as well. There is a zipline course built up along the portions of the waterfall that looked pretty cool, but at the same time, not cool enough to justify the $35 price tag.


After a quick post-lunch nap, we geared up once again for a couple hours of leisurely kayaking down the river. Along the way, there were a few very mild rapids, which could probably get exciting during the rain season, but otherwise did not present much of a challenge. The scenery along the river was the real prize here. The vegetable gardens, the corn fields, the jungle, and, of course, the hills and the mountains were replacing each behind each turn of the river. We saw many buffalos, elephants bathing themselves and fallings on top of them, posh-looking bungalow resorts, and villagers checking their fish traps or beating the handfuls of riverweed into submission.

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dimaHiking, Laos