One of the smaller nations in Southeast Asia is also one of the most fascinating, a country that combines ancient sites and traditions, spectacular outdoor scenery, and tasty relics of French colonial days.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang on the Mekong River offers an amazingly well-preserved cityscape that blends traditional Buddhist temples and royal palaces with French colonial villas converted into cafes, bars and boutique hotels. Hundreds of saffron-clad monks and nuns trek the streets before dawn each morning, collecting alms from the local populous.
Cruises on the Mekong ply between Luang Prabang and river ports in northern Thailand, a two-day journey along one of the world’s most fabled water courses that includes a stop at the Pak Ou Caves — filled with more than 4,000 Buddha statues.
Farther into the jungle are elephant sanctuaries, limestone sinkholes where you swim in the cool blue water, and the mysterious Plain of Jars, a megalithic archeological site that harbors thousands of stone jars that were probably used for ancient burial rites.