Landlocked and to some extent ‘culture-locked’, Laos possesses both Southeast Asia’s most pristine environment and possibly its most culturally intact heritage. More than any other destination a visit to Laos provides the visitor with a sense of going back to a more relaxed time where the urgency of modern life is wonderfully absent. Even in the capital Vientiane, life ambles along only a little faster than the languid Mekong river flows by the city’s charming riverfront. In the historic royal city of Luang Prabang – a Unesco World Heritage site – hundreds of monks in saffron robes glide between centuries old temples unperturbed by the growing number of visitors gazing on in silence at a scene they thought only existed in films. Luxurious boutique hotels in Luang Prabang serve exquisite food in historically preserved settings, drawing on French and local culinary traditions. Beyond the cities visitors can discover the haunting Plain of Jars and the majestic Four Thousand Islands (Si Phan Don) where the Mekong river expands and its waters gather pace.