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This title includes: regional map of mighty Mekong river from source to sea; UNESCO World Heritage sites; French colonial Vientiane; exquisite Luang Prabang; Pak Ou Caves; Khone Pha Pheng Falls; and, coffee-growing regions. Laos has been discovered. Pristine and exotic in a changing world where other Asian cultures have been affected by rapid development, Laos is still green. The rivers mostly run free through sites well worth visiting, from the ancient Khmer temple of Vat Phou in the south to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang in the north. But if you want to see the old Laos you have to move fast. Luang Prabang, an exquisite little town on the banks of the life-giving Mekong, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the main Mecca for tourists. The town is home to some of the finest Buddhist temples anywhere. Charming old colonial mansions are now hotels, trendy restaurants, or upscale boutiques. Al fresco restaurants serving spicy Lao fare line the riverside. A night bazaar with dozens of stalls offers high-quality woven silk scarves, silver jewellery, and embroidered Hmong bedspreads, just a few of the popular wares available. Laos has a long, rich tradition of silk weaving, and textiles are not just a "best buy" for tourists. They represent the most important craftwork done in the country and in some ways define the Lao nation. Also on the Mekong, the capital Vientiane still has the look of a French provincial town complete with tree-lined streets, fading colonial buildings, and sidewalk cafes. Its trendy restaurants offer fusion cuisine as a counterpoint to traditional fiery Lao fare. The city's most prominent monument, Patuxai, closely resembles the pride of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe. Upstream from Luang Prabang, at the confluence of the Ou River, are the Pak Ou Caves, an easy day trip by long-tail boat through pastoral countryside and jungle-covered mountains. The two caves, etched over millennia out of limestone karst cliffs, contain hundreds of images of the Buddha donated by generations of believers. To get away from the heat along the river, travellers head to the Bolaven Plateau, a fertile upland area known for its cooler climate, dramatic waterfalls, and (thanks to the French) some of the best coffee in the world. This is the gateway to the higher mountains to the east and the hill tribes. A trip to southern Laos should include a visit to the spectacular the Khone Pha Pheng Falls, where the usually languid Mekong boils and tumbles through eight miles of wild cataracts that effectively close the river to navigation. One of the key attractions of Laos is the people. Sixty percent of the population is ethnic Lao, who migrated from China a millennium ago. The rest are largely upland people representing about fifty hill tribes. The Lao are mostly Theravada Buddhists who live in the valleys and are famed for being easy-going, party-loving and affable. A precious pearl of a country blessed with pristine natural beauty, exotic flora and rare fauna, Laos hosts the mighty Mekong for a significant distance during its almost 5,000 kilometre journey from the Tibetan Plateau to the sea. Whether you chose to travel by land or by water or both, Odyssey's "Illustrated "Map will enhance your journey both as a pre-trip planner and as a post-trip souvenir. Unfolded map size 991mm x 686mm.
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