According to LonelyPlanet, Luang Prabang is arguably the most romantic city in southeast Asia, and I would also like to add, an outdoor lover's paradise. The sleepy little town is perfectly perched above the Mekong, sandwiched between another parallel-running tributary, boasting awe inspiring views on either side of town. And when the sun goes down the streets fill with locals selling handmade silk scarves, quilted pillows and silver goods galore at the night market. Outside of the locality are miles of windy jungle roads leading to countless waterfalls, hidden villages and caves.

The Kuang Si Falls are a favorite among tourists and locals alike and Rachel and I were determined to check them out. Most people hire a tuk-tuk, aka motorcycle converted three wheeler or sometimes truck with a large trailer that can hold anywhere from 3-12 people, to make the 40 mile round trip journey to the falls. We however, had settled on a much less conventional method of transportation; good old fashioned bicycles. When we inquired about the route to Kuang Si Falls, the bike rental man responded with a look somewhere between you've got to be joking and are you crazy?, but our minds were already made up and we were soon on our way.

At home, I ride my bike for strictly recreational purposes, like going to the grocery store or dropping a book off at the library, that is only when I'm feeling overly ambitious or don't want to pay for the gas to drive there. While I appreciate the sport, I am by no means a bicycle enthusiast, and the farthest I had ever ridden were 11 painless miles along the flat Ventura beach. I have a friend at home who is a professional bike racer and his daily schedule includes no less than a hundred mile ride up the California coast or through the Santa Monica Mountains. Forty miles didn't seem that far. It was somewhere between my proud piece of cake 11-miler and the pro's 100 square jaunt. A perfect starting point for an aspiring cyclist in the hills of Laos. Who knows, maybe this would be the day that I discover cycling as my true calling and dedicate my life to riding the jungles of southeast Asia Armstrong style. I'm always open to new possibilities.

The journey to the falls was no Ventura beach or walk in the park. In fact it was more of like a roller coaster track with boundless rolling hills and two massive thigh burning climbs at the very beginning and just before arriving at the waterfall. I am always amazed at my ability to tirelessly travel for miles with a bike on a flat plane, but throw a hill into the equation and the ride becomes exponentially more difficult than just ditching the bike and walking up the darn thing. Can anyone explain this phenomena? I was determined to summit the hills at any rate, and that's precisely what I did, even if it was at tortoise speed. Without a doubt, cycling was the best way to see all the villages along the way and appreciate the landscape. Locals would wave at us as we passed and scream, "sa-ba-deee" hello and a group of teenage boys even challenged us to a race zooming up a hill past us on their one speed beach cruisers. I won't go into how that ended, it was only my first race after all.

When we reached Kuang Si astounded at the height and sheer blueness of the falls, and riding the bike the there made it even more worthwhile (not to mention, our fellow slow boat travelers who we kept bumping into around town were very impressed at our endurance).

I returned to Luang Prabang with gelatinous legs, a remarkably sore bum and an immense appreciation for my cyclist friend. While I love the freedom of zipping around the countryside completly self-powered, I'm not sure I could ever surmount the eternal soreness and those killer hills. My career as a half-professional cyclist was short lived, but who knows, if I ever find myself in Laos again I'd be willing to take it for another spin.
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Me and Kuang Si Falls
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The Lao countryside
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Rachel sharing her photos with the locals