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Laos

For many, Laos is hard to locate on a map. But, if you find the mighty Mekong River you will unearth Laos. And what a discovery. Its charm lies in the laidback and gentle lifestyle and the unique fusion of the best of French Colonialism with local culture.

For a trip of contrasts explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang and visit the mysterious Plain of Jars. A highlight of any Laoatian trip has to be the food; fabulous baguettes and snails, or local cuisine infused with fresh, wild forest herbs and spices. Little did you know that Laos, perhaps surprisingly, is a gastronomic delight.

To many the country’s undisputed gem is Luang Prabang. You will be enchanted as you stroll through what was the former Royal Capital and is still home to 50 wats (temples). Climb Mount Phousi to Wat Chan Si for a wonderful aerial view of the town. Sunrise or sunset the setting is stunning.

Make the effort to see the daily alms procession in the chill of the early dawn. As the sun rises, the monks create a saffron coloured snake that meanders through the streets. Despite being this one of the poorest nations on the planet, the residents of Luang Prabang still take part in this daily ritual of giving – and not just for the tourists. This tells you a lot about a nation of gentle and giving souls.

The mountainous countryside around Luang Prabang offers some great day trips. The Kwang Si Falls are beautiful, magical and mystical. Refresh yourself with a swim in one of the bathing pools. Or Alternatively, take a river trip to the Pak Ou Caves, 28 kilometres up-stream from Luang Prabang and view thousands upon thousands of wood and gold Buddha statues. The journey itself offers a close-up of river life.

A highlight of any Laoatian trip has to be the food; fabulous baguettes and snails, or local cuisine infused with fresh, wild forest herbs and spices. Little did you know that Laos is a gastronomic delight.

In total contrast to the quiet sophistication and subtle charms of the town, head to the Plain of Jars. Who, what, how and why the Plain of Jars came to be confuses all. There is a theory that the thousands of jars, discs and stones are in fact funeral urns. The landscape is so bizarre that it is worth the effort. Solve the mystery yourself by going on a lateral diversion.

Consider adding Laos onto a trip to Vietnam or Thailand. Such is the might of the Mekong you can voyage from Vientiane all the way to Saigon or northwards from Luang Prabang to the Thai Border. Luxurious cruises are the perfect way to travel one of the greatest rivers of the world.

Sights and sounds abound, but Laos is so much more. This saying perhaps best captures the essence of the enchanting land of Laos; “The Vietnamese grow the rice, the Thais sell the rice and the people of Laos listen to it grow.”.