Laos is a tropical country in the heart of Indochina and was once known as 'The realm of a million elephants'. Set amid mountains and surrounded by China, Thailand, Cambodiaand Myanmar, Laos lay undiscovered for many years but today it is gradually opening its doors and its dreamlike royal cities, contemplative temple complexes, mysterious plainsand ethnic mountain villages are now accessible to all.The capital, Vientiane, originated at the point at which the first navigable section of the Mekong River joins with the Gulf Of Thailand, once an important trading route to South China.We travel north into the pure Asia of bygone times, a land full of adventure where there is little tourism, past many villages with small markets at the roadside and various temple complexes. Most of Laos consists of rugged mountain areas and only a small number of roads connect the country's few large towns. We repeatedly pass through large valleys flanked by densely wooded mountain slopes until karst covered mountains appear and reveal yet another captivating landscape.Amid this romantic area on the banks of the Mekong River is a town that is one of Laos' most impressive historic destinations, Luang Prabang, which became the official residence of the monarchy in 1453 and remained so for several centuries. Thirty five monasteries that accommodate around seven hundred monks as well as a thousand novices and also the city's many splendid temples highlight the deep religious faith that determines the everyday life of Luang Prabang.Laos is one of the most fascinating countries in South East Asia: a sleepy paradise that is slowly awakening. It is a land trapped somewhere between age-old traditions and a modern way of life.
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