Travel, Teach, Live in Asia

A Travelogue - Backpacking in Laos, Southeast Asia
By:Karen Capino

Singapore and Hong Kong may be first world destinations but these places are the equivalent of a summer spent with a cross-stitching-fanatic grandmother. A trip to Laos, on the other hand, is like a sizzling summer fling - new, exotic and ultimately unforgettable. Crowned by globetrotters as the new queen of Asia, it is a hip destination on the verge of discovery. You might want to get there fast before everyone finds out about it.

Laos, known as the Land of a Million Elephants, is a country seemingly untouched by time and globalization. Yes, there is no smoggy metropolis, aggressive entrepreneurialism and Starbucks - yet. The main attraction of this former French colony is natural and cultural. There is an abundance of picturesque rice fields, jagged limestone mountains, that hide sprawling caves.

Strolling monks with bright orange robes who serenely walk barefoot on the pavement is mesmerizing to watch. You can even stop by a temple and hear them chant. The hilltribe people who still wear their ancient costumes and about five pounds worth of metal jewelery will give you a visual feast. French influences communed with 3rd world charms results in a progeny of quaint architecture and amazing food. The typical Lao street food is a French baguette with tandori barbequed chicken, fresh tomato and cucumber topped with cream cheese. Drink a cup of that strong Lao coffee to wash the meal down.

Many say that Lao is "one of the last quiet countries on earth". But just like lovers, on a summer rendezvous, you know that romance won't last forever. So hurry and fall-in love with this beautiful country before it loses its blush.

CITIES TO VISIT

1. Luang Prabang
A UNESCO World Heritage site and every photographer's dream location. This city, where time stands still, is framed by lush mountains and amazing waterfalls. Navigate the serene Mekong river with a kayak tour.

2. Vang Vieng
The party city with loads of backpackers from all corners of the world. Relax with a beer Lao while floating in a rubber tire through the Nam Song River.

3. Vientiane
The capital of Laos and the center of arts and traditional herbal massages.

GASTROME'S DELIGHT
Sticky rice, fish sauce and a ginger-like ingredient called galangal are Laos' staple food. Try them with:

Tam Mak Houng - spicy papaya salad
Foe - noodle soup
Som moo - ubiquitous pork sausage sold everywhere

GETTING THERE
There are no direct flights from Manila to Laos. Fly to Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh then grab a plane to Luang Prabang or Vientiane via Lao Airline.

Karen
http://www.camera.co.uk
BEST ACCESSORY TO BRING:
Don't forget you're camera because Laos, like most of Southeast Asia is one of the most photogenic cities in the world.
For digital camera reviews check http://www.camera.co.uk






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