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Heading To Laos To Discover The Best Of Indochina

Even though the recession has hampered exotic travel, there are still those intrepid explorers going all out. All this week, our Cambodian embed Claire will share experiences from her trip to Laos.

Gentle, quiet Laos exceeds all expectations, from its limestone mountains to meandering rivers and ethnic minority villagers whose outfits are so intricate and lovely they could pass as a winter collection at Fashion Week in Bryant Park. And Laos’ appeal comes without the drawbacks of traveling through its neighbor countries—Vietnam has too many tourists, double goes for Thailand, and the charm of Cambodia’s underdevelopment and unpaved roads wears thin after a 12-hour minibus ride with 18 butts to 10 seats.

Recently I traveled the length of the country, flying to Luang Prabang, then lacing south by bus toward Cambodia, stopping in Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Champasak, and Si Phan Don. This week, I will share tips on how to best explore Indochina's least-visited and loveliest country.

Though Laos remains the region's poorest and least populous country, it manages its tourism industry rather flawlessly. Outside the main tourist track, which extends from Luang Prabang in the north to Si Phan Don in the south, infrastructure deteriorates, but we noticed that national roads are a dream. Long-distance bus rides travel over smooth, paved roads, cost little, and sometimes come with fully horizontal, sleeper beds.

A one-way flight to Luang Prabang from Siem Reap, home to Angkor Wat, costed $150. There are also reasonably priced direct flights to both Luang Prabang, Vientiante, and Sovannakhet in Southern Laos from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur’s AirAsia often has bargains to most Southeast Asia destinations, including $37 one-way flights to Vientiane, we discovered by searching for flights in September. We mean, how could we not?

Stay tuned tomorrow as Claire discovers the surprising Euro mood of Luang Prabang.


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