There is a saying in Indochina: “The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians tend the rice and the Laotians listen to the rice grow”. To call Laos laid back would be a gross understatement.
One of Asia's most beautiful secrets, its sleepy, picturesque towns offer up an almost dreamlike quality to their visage, set as they are against a backdrop of mist-veiled mountains and untouched forests that are fed by the silent tributaries of the mighty Mekong River. Life here is calm and serene and Laos' isolation from foreign influences for so many years offers up a rare glimpse of traditional South East Asian life.
Less than a decade ago, Laos was largely unknown to Western travellers. Other than a brief period during the 1960s, when the former French colony became a reluctant player in the Vietnam War, it had been largely ignored by the West; a situation that only intensified following the 1975 revolution and the years of xenophobic communist rule that followed. However, since the Lao People's Democratic Republic reopened its doors in the 1990s, a steady flow of visitors have discovered the rare and untouched beauty of this captivating country, a land where the age-old customs of the hill tribes still determine the day to day lives of the villages, whilst saffron-robed monks wander quiet streets in search of their morning alms.