Laos is the country in Southeast Asia where traditional lifestyles remain most to the fore. Isolated for decades by war, its people clung stoically to the old ways of the past – subsistence farming, religion and family – which makes a journey here very special.

This is the place to come to see monks in vivid saffron robes filing past stone-carved Buddhas and resplendently gilded temples; or to take a ride on an old bicycle through rice fields ploughed and planted by hand, by villagers dressed in old-style sarongs.

Experience the heady atmosphere of the ancient riverside capital, Luang Prabang, whose exquisitely painted monasteries and temples are home to a thriving community of monks; the tree-lined boulevards of the Indochina’s most relaxed capital, Vientiane; bucolic Si Phan Don (‘Four-Thousand Island’) region, where the Mekong River flows through a tangle of tributaries; or the extraordinary Plain of Jars in Xien Khuang province, whose grassy expanses are dotted with enigmatic ancient pots.

Wherever you travel in this enchanting country, however, one thing’s guaranteed: a smiling welcome from the Laotians themselves. Laos redefines the term ‘laid-back’. The pace of life here is noticeably slower than any other country in Indochina. People rarely seem in any kind of hurry, especially when it comes to the important business of eating and meeting.

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