Land-locked and utterly alluring, Laos has a laid-back pace and some of the friendliest faces in Asia. In Luang Prabang, ribbons of orange-robed monks receive alms at dawn whilst the far south centers around the mighty Mekong Delta with its remote fishing communities and dense jungle, only disturbed by crashing elephants and trilling birds.
Only open to foreigners since 1990, the small nation of Laos is one of the most charming countries in South East Asia. Much of the country is made up of rugged highland areas with most of the population living in river valleys. The Mekong river is the country's life line and is a popular way of entering Laos from Thailand as well as exploring the Four Thousand Islands (Si Phan Don) area of islets, rocks and sandbars to the far south of the country. The most evocative Khmer ruin outside Cambodia, Wat Pho, is also along the southern banks of the Mekong. Vientiane is possibly the most modest and laid back of the South East Asian capitals and has a number of impressive Wats and a large market. The enchanting former royal capital of Luang Prabang is full of gilded temples, elegant monasteries, French colonial houses and saffron robed monks collecting alms. Tucked into a loop of the Mekong, surrounded by hills, Luang Prabang is the perfect place from which to explore off the beaten track ethnic villages, to haggle in local markets, take a boat trip on the Mekong or just sit in a cafe enjoying Laos coffee and watching the world stroll by.