This is what we thought the Pongour Falls would look like

How Photoshop Ruined the Pongour Waterfall

Have you seen this gorgeous photo of monks at Pongour Waterfall? The answer is probably yes, since it’s one of the top results on Google.

Spoiler alert! It’s a “fake.”

In all fairness, ‘work of art’ is more accurate, but we still feel the sting of disappointment whenever we see the photo. It ruined our first impression of Pongour Waterfall by setting ridiculous expectations, expectations that could only lead to disappointment. We felt deceived by the photo, but it’s really not the photo’s fault. Many tour companies and travel agencies use this image to represent the real thing. Don’t be fooled. Avoid the disappointment we felt and have realistic expectations for Pongour Waterfall.

Pongour Falls is not an Ethereal Shangri-La

We all dream of finding an ethereal Shangri-La. Our story is not unique. This photo shapes the imagination of most Pongour Falls visitors. When researching the waterfall, you see the photo everywhere. The image gets burned in your brain and you get emotionally invested in the fantasy. After all, it’s really not that far-fetched. There are many powerful waterfalls in Asia and millions of monks. We thought, “even if we don’t see the monks. The real waterfall has to bear some resemblance.”

The sad fact is that the photo bears no resemblance to the real Pongour Waterfall.

Don’t be fooled. Avoid the disappointment we felt and have realistic expectations for Pongour Waterfall.Click To Tweet

THE REAL PONGOUR WATERFALL

This is what the real Pongour Waterfall looks like

We wish we never saw the photo. When we looked at Pongour Waterfall for the fist time, we were confused. We thought it must be some minor waterfall leading to the magical place we were dreaming about. Then the reality set in, and we were so disappointed.

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Steve is sad to have been fooled.

It was challenging to shake that sense of disappointment and appreciate the beauty of the real Pongour Waterfall. It was a shame because it’s a beautiful place and totally worth a visit. If you want to visit Pongour Falls, make sure you have realistic expectations and you’ll have a great time.

How We Enjoyed the Real Pongour Waterfall

The Travel Ninjas enjoying a wide view of the Pongour Falls.

Your first expectation should be that the site is less about the waterfall and more about the rock formations. When we changed our mindset, we really started to enjoy ourselves. We began to appreciate the waterfall as a bonus feature that added value and beauty to the site. The unlikely stars of the show are the rocks. The formations are dramatic and interesting and pleasing to the eye.

The Travel Ninjas enjoying the rocks at the Pongour Falls in Dalat, Vietnam

The size of falls, especially when viewed from a distance, makes the water flow seem even more humble than it is. Pongour Waterfall is over 40m tall and spans more than 100m. But the whole site is one deep basin that is surrounded by towering and sheer cliffs. Mammoth boulders are strewn about. There’s a huge collecting pool and a gentle stream flows out of the basin. We don’t know all science, but we know that it takes millions of years to make a place like this. The basin itself covers several acres, and there’s lots of natural nooks and crannies to explore.

The Travel Ninjas enjoying the natural setting of the Pongour Falls

You Can Climb Pongour Falls

Your next expectation should be to have some fun getting wet. The gentle water flow has one big advantage – you can climb the Falls! This was the most fun we had there. It was so slippery, but we actually got on the first several levels and splashed around.

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The Travel Ninjas enjoying the beautiful Pongour Falls.

Despite having our first impression of Pongour ruined by that photoshopped image, we ended up thoroughly enjoying our time there. We even plan on visiting again in the future. Our first visit was in January, which is the dry season. Next time we’ll visit in the rainy season, June – August. The water flow is supposed to pick up dramatically. Of course, we’ll have more realistic expectations this time.

Do you have any travel stories about flawed expectations? We’d love to hear about them.

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26 Comments
  • Galia.Vu0107
    Posted at 03:31h, 31 October

    WOW! It’s really impressive, Pongour Waterfall is it in Vietnam, right? It’s such a amazing waterfall . Noted ! Thanks

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 03:45h, 31 October

    Galia, Yes, Pongour Waterfall is in Vietnam. It is near the city of Dalat in central Vietnam. There are about 12 waterfalls near Dalat, Vietnam. Pongour waterfall is the tallest and widest.

  • Punita
    Posted at 04:39h, 31 October

    It is unbelievable how people distort images like this to create unrealistic hype. Through this post, you have sensitised me to cross-check across multiple sources before building expectations about a place. Thanks!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 04:45h, 31 October

    Punita, Yes, managing expectations is so important when traveling in a foreign country where you don’t know the language. In this case, some travel companies were intentionally deceptive, but we also had some misunderstandings about places that were just honest miscommunications.

  • neha
    Posted at 11:47h, 31 October

    Exactly the same thing happened to us when we recently visited one of the famous waterfalls near our place. It was so much magnified in pictures that we couldn’t help feeling disappointed once we visited here. Wish people don’t alter the photos so much that it completely changes reality

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 12:00h, 31 October

    Neha, Sorry that happened to you too. At least they should make it clear that the photo is an artistic creation and not the real thing.

  • Gokul Raj
    Posted at 05:35h, 01 November

    Yes it is true. They photoshop these images for promotion. It is always through blog posts like this we come to know the truth about a place. Thanks for sharing.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 06:49h, 01 November

    Gokul, Yes, and the truth is that Pongour is a beautiful place.

  • Susan
    Posted at 15:00h, 02 November

    I can really appreciate your honesty in this post! So often I’ll see perfect photos (obviously photoshopped) on the Internet and think that’s what a place really looks like. When in reality it’s still a beautiful place, but not quite as awe-inspiring. It’s good that you could salvage the day; whenever something doesn’t quite live up to my expectations my husband and I play a game where we start listing all of the things that we do love about the place. It makes it much easier to appreciate where we are!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 15:40h, 02 November

    Thanks, Susan. Your game is a great idea and a real key to travel happiness. We feel so lucky to travel. We help each other appreciate things by asking each other repetitive questions about the things we do and places we visit. We ask things like “When you were a kid in small-town USA, did you ever think you’d be parasailing in Bali, Indonesia?” We do this kinda thing all the time. We know it may sound a bit corny, but it really helps us keep things in perspective and appreciate our experiences.

  • Sheena
    Posted at 20:18h, 03 November

    I’ve had this kind of disappointment in my travels many times so now if I know it’s a place I definitely want to visit, I try not to look up any images on Google beforehand & keep it a surprise. That fake photo of Pongour Waterfall is incredible, but yeah, it looks nothing like the real deal. It still looks lovely in your photos though! And glad to hear that you enjoyed yourself after all too 🙂

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 20:39h, 03 November

    Sheena, Preserving as much surprise as possible is a great strategy. We try to as well, but it’s tough. Usually, we get so excited about a place we just can’t help looking up everything about it, including pics. You’re very disciplined. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Sara - I do what I want to
    Posted at 08:42h, 04 November

    This is so true how photoshop and filters can ruin your expectations. We had the same situation in Thassos (all in the blog) a small beautiful Greek island with a small secluded natural pool called Giola. Don’t look it up on the internet specially not on Instagram!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 09:12h, 04 November

    Sara, thanks for the heads up. We will definitely not look it up so that our expectations aren’t ruined when we see the real thing. 🙂

  • danik the explorer
    Posted at 09:31h, 04 November

    So much rather see true life photos from bloggers than photoshop. I was wonder why – ‘what is the point of photoshopping’ some times. Great post

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 10:03h, 04 November

    Danik, I guess the point of photoshop is to show off artistic creations. I don’t mind beautiful art but I wish, when that was done, it was written somewhere in the photo caption “modified for artistic flair” or something to let me know not to expect the real thing to look like that magical, out of this world photo that they are posting.

  • Christina
    Posted at 10:21h, 04 November

    Finally someone being perfectly honest and not work the pictures to an extent they almost don’t have anything to do with their real equivalent anymore! Thanks for the insight – and I still think this place looks really worth a visit. I mean a span of more than 100 meters? That’s not like you’ll find that around the corner when on a random grocery run…

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 10:33h, 04 November

    Christina, Yes, it is still definitely worth a visit! It is a beautiful waterfall. We just wanted to inform others so that they don’t feel confused and disappointed just because they were expecting to see something that doesn’t really exist due to extensively modified photos.

  • Lewi
    Posted at 13:45h, 04 November

    Im a little bit disappointed that it isn’t like it is in the photo. I’ve definitely loved that photo with the monks for a while now! Glad you still had a good time.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 14:34h, 04 November

    Lewi, We wanted to cry because that was exactly what we were expecting – (maybe not the monks) but at least all of that water! Yes, after the shock we came to appreciate its true beauty. 🙂

  • Victoria
    Posted at 16:05h, 04 November

    I never knew about this place but I would certainly make sure to do additional research in the future in order to avoid disappointment! The waterfall is lovely in itself though.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 16:37h, 04 November

    Victoria, We wish we hadn’t seen any “fake” pictures of it beforehand that way we would have avoided disappointment. The waterfall is lovely in its true state.

  • Nikki The Traveling Ginger
    Posted at 13:38h, 05 November

    Oh my word. I haven’t heard of this place before, but I would have been SO disappointed as well. Wow. I usually make sure to thoroughly research everything including other’s pictures of the place (I use tripadvisor and instagram places) ahead of time to make sure it is worth my while. I can’t believe how different they look!

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 13:39h, 05 November

    Nikki, Yup, we couldn’t believe it either. It definitely did not look like the pictures that we had seen online! 🙁 It is still beautiful, though.

  • Jimmy and Tina
    Posted at 13:45h, 05 November

    I think your photos are lovely, but I can see why you would be so disappointed and I would be too If I was expecting to see the majestic views portrayed of this waterfall. I do however wonder if the photo was not Photoshop but just use of F stops on a fancy DSL camera and taken in time of high waters. You see in a lot of places waterfalls are most gushing after a rainy season which would make them more full. Water can be stopped in photos without Photoshop by adjusting settings on a camera, which I have done in the past in other places so I wonder if it’s the use of photography techniques after a rainy season that makes this waterfall so beautiful. But you are right, it’s to me like false advertising and shluld be told about when photo was taken because if tourist are coming to see as you have it would be a huge disappointment.

  • The Travel Ninjas
    Posted at 12:13h, 06 November

    Jimmy and Tina, You are absolutely correct. There is a possibility that it wasn’t photoshopped. If that’s the case and that is what it really looks like after a rainy season we most definitely need to go back!

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