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Often overlooked in favour of its more popular neighbours, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, Laos embraces its legacy as Indochina’s hidden gem. Those who do make it here can experience beguiling cities, forgotten backwaters and immense scenery away from the masses and the spirituality of Buddhist Laos is palpable adding to its delightful charm.
Vientiane is the perfect place to start. Idyllically situated on the banks of the peaceful Mekong River, Laos’s compelling capital sets the languorous ambience felt throughout the country. You won’t be bombarded by hawkers here as you wander through its cobbled streets lined with colonial French villas and tamarind trees. Perched at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers, the UNESCO protected Luang Prabang offers a similar vibe, and it is hard to feel rushed in a place where genial saffron robed monks meander through the streets between the many ornate wats. Situated between the two is the delightfully tranquil Vang Vieng, set against the backdrop of dramatic mountains and paddy fields where caving, river cruises, temple visits and cycling opportunities are plentiful.
Head further north and you will find the mysterious Plain of Jars, an area dotted with 2,000-year-old stone ornaments whose original purpose still baffles archaeologists today. In the very south of the country, bordering both Cambodia and Vietnam, is the archipelago of Si Phan Don, which aptly translates to the 4,000 islands; a beautiful riverine region worth exploring.
For a largely underdeveloped country, Laos has a fantastic selection of comfortable accommodation options with an array of boutique hotels and luxurious countryside retreats. One of the recommended experiences is to stay in a community led homestay, bringing you closer to the friendly locals and to use as a convenient base to explore the endless pristine landscapes.
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