Southeast Asia: where you sometimes begin a journey, and other times, end one; a place which is at one turn cluttered, and another, jaw-droppingly expansive. Expect to see, taste, and hear more than you could ever imagine in this raucous part of the world, but remember to look for clues that reveal there's much more beneath the surface.
The persistence of timelessness
The French summarized the temperaments of their three Indochinese states with the pronouncement that "the Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch it grow, and the Laotians listen to it grow." If this doesn't already make you want to visit Laos (properly Lao), then you should choose somewhere else. Lao is a land of Buddhist traditions, where saffron-robed teens peek curiously out from wats (temples) and no one is in a hurry. And while being the world's most heavily bombed country hardly seems a ringing endorsement, Luang Prabang's UNESCO-protected temples and mixed heritage soothe the soul, and Vientianne – the world's smallest capital – moves at the same serene pace as the Mekong River meandering by its shores.