Thought of as the most enigmatic of the three French Indochina states, Laos is definitely the sleepiest. At least for the moment. After years of isolation, Laos is now slowly opening its doors to the world - mainly a result of the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River linking Vientiane with Thailand. These days you have to actually look both ways before crossing the road in Vientiane and the main road in Lung Prabang is lined with western restaurants. Having said that, tourism (and life!) is remarkably low key even on the tourist axis of Vientiane, Vang Vien and Luang Prabang. Off the axis life is much the same as it has been for years.
Vientiane, the capital, is emerging from hundreds of years of slumber and the centre now even baosts a number of restaurants and bars. The hotels aren't much with the exception of the Villa Manoli - a beautiful old villa in a sumptuous garden. It even has a small swimming pool - all for about $20 a night.
After a days wandering around the magnificant temples there is nothing better than strolling up the river bank to the stilted restaurants and enjoying a great Mekong sunset over a cold Bia Lao and a spicy pork Laap (minced meat salad) or sizzling Mekong catfish.