Beautiful nature, rich and easy going culture
Charming Laos – is one of Southeast Asia's most attractive destinations. It is located in the inlands, so often travelers neglect it in favor of more popular neighboring countries like Thailand. The country has been in the middle of Indochina wars and was closed to the world for a long period of time, but until today it carries on its easy going and old-fashioned lifestyle and the people of Laos are one of the frendliest even inside the friendly Southeast Asia.
The Mekong river, which is just about as long as Laos itself, serves many purposes in the country: dividing some parts of it in two, being a border with Thailand and so on, while the rough Annamite Mountains are historically known for their function of protecting the country from the neighboring in the east Vietnam.
It isn't rare that Laos is visited as a part of a region trip and the visitors enter from Thailand and go down south along the course of the Mekong. Laos, however, can be quite interesting as a standalone trip: it gives an impression of a land rarely explored by Westerners and it is a rewarding journey should you try and explore deeper. You might find it hard to fit your trip into just a couple weeks if you really want to see it all: from the green mountains in the north to the islands in the south, Laos can keep you busy exploring for very long.
Laos is very rich and diverse when it comes to people. You will meet the ethnic Lao in the valleys, in the Buddhist temples underneath the coconut palms, and if you climb up to the higher grounds you will find the hill tribes with their colorful culture. There are also some notes left from the days when the place was a French colony: the smell of bread and coffee in the morning, blending with local exotic aromas from the markets, and in bigger towns time and again you will encounter French restaurants in the local shophouses.
There still remain to be visible the aftermath of the wars and the communist regime: no wandering off into the coutryside without following designated paths for the fear of UXO (unexploded ordnance), and most of the products are still being imported from the neighboring countries like China and Vietnam. It is very heartwarming however when you find yourself celebrating something over beers with someone who you just met, or sailing down the Mekong taking in all the beauty and serenity, or even riding through the coutryside in a dilapidated old bus crammed with sacks and passengers and uttering a Lao pop through the old radio – the country and the people are wonderful and fascinating.