Landlocked by five neighbours, Laos can be found in Asia, almost tucked away from view, holding its breath whilst waiting to be discovered by the modern day traveller, who would not be disappointed with its breathtaking ruins and graceful culture. It is a destination to put on your itinerary before it becomes spoilt by the tourist masses.
Its charm is in its quaintness, an echo of what the entire area was like before the modern world caught up with it. Vientiane is the capital of this laid-back country, with a mixture of traditional architecture and modern luxury hotels, open-air markets selling everything from poultry and fish to materials, gold and silver jewellery, and western-style shopping malls bulging with literally thousands of shops selling everything imaginable including local ethnic handicrafts. Bargaining is a must; and remember - always smile; it is part of the haggling process!
Away from the hustle and bustle of the towns, you can take a leisurely boat trip down the Mekong River. The Mekong is the lifeblood of Laos in that it serves everyone and everything, from food to personal hygiene. Some of the waterfalls are absolutely spectacular, especially after the rainy season which is from May to November. Kayaking on the river is a good way to be ‘up close and personal’ with the flora and fauna, and for those of you who are thrill-seekers, rock climbing is a must on the limestone karst formations of Vang Vieng (north of Vientiane). These strangely shaped crags are just being opened up to the outside world, so again, a visit is essential to see and experience a natural phenomena before they are spoilt by tourism.
Laos is a destination waiting to be ‘discovered’, and the discerning few who have already found this gem, will never forget their time there or the happy, generous people.