WHY LAOS #1: Off the beaten track
Luang Prabang, a former French colony is a UNESCO protected heritage town that’s at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers and is just being discovered by tourists. You’ll find quaint, colonial houses neatly lined up next to Buddhist temples. Walk or cycle through this lazy town.

Fun loving Laotians: Laotians are some of the nicest people you’ll come across in the world. One Sunday afternoon, we came across a bunch of locals who had blocked off a narrow street and thrown a party. Beer Lao, the local favourite, was flowing and the local band was swinging. What fun!

WHY LAOS #2: Great Cuisine
Lao food is delicious, ranging from lao spring rolls wrapped in rice paper to lao laap (similar to khowsuey) to barbecued meat. I could go on. And being a former French colony, French cuisine is widely available too. Think we had the world’s best croissants at the French Cafe here. Try out Coconut Lagoon and JoMa Bakery.

WHY LAOS #3: Cafes/Bars
The city is full of cafes and bars that have so much of character and colour that you spend more time looking in then out. When you’ve had your fill, look out into the streets where life moves on, unhurried. Watch the full moon from Bar Utopia.

WHY LAOS #4: Delightful places to stay
Quaint restored hotels abound along with loads of B&B (bed and breakfast) options. We stayed at this riverfront property called Mekong Estate. Great view, great host.

Elephant Village: We spent a day riding with the elephants (I almost fell of mine) and then proceeded to give them a bath in the river.Man, they’re awesome. By the by watch out for the young ones, they like to take quick plunges underwater along with the hapless and clueless rider.

WHY LAOS #5: Tubing in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is a backpacker’s party town closer to Vientienne (Lao’s capital city). The most popular activity here is ‘tubing’, where you float down the river in a inflatable rubber whilst guzzling a beer. Watch out for the “happy” shakes or pizzas.

WHY LAOS #6: Street market
The street market in Luang Prabang comes alive from about 6pm every day where the entire length of a street is blocked off for traffic. You can buy anything from cheap Beer Lao t-shirts, faux Lao antiques to embalmed scorpions.

WHY LAOS #7: Hmong artifact
Hmong is one of the local tribes and their fantastic handicrafts are products of their folklore and imagination. Check out a shop called Naga Creations that stocks delightful Hmong handicrafts sold by an even more delightfully eccentric owner.

WHY LAOS #8: Coffee, coffee, coffee and the sunset
I had to squeeze in two of these. Lao coffee is one of the best in the world. And you can get it here, lots of it. Try the French press in any of the cafes. And hmmm, the sunset from the boats on the Mekong is very nice. If your lady friend does not like it, I’ll pay you back!

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