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Forget what the authorities tell you, goes the joke. Laos PDR doesn't stand for the People's Democratic Republic. Instead, so laid-back is this lush landlocked nation, PDR actually means Please Don't Rush.
Laos will undoubtedly give you one the more relaxed and tranquil holidays of your life. But that doesn't mean the hard-working A&K staff take it easy. Far from it. As part of a long-established, highly experienced and brilliantly connected regional team, they're on call 24 hours a day, pulling out the stops to perfect your journey.
Just ask Richard and Sally. When their Mekong cruise was abandoned due to engine failure, preventing them reaching Kamu Lodge for a long-anticipated stay in Luang Prabang, A&K came to the rescue. Defying the tricky logistics of a remote region, we instantly chartered a private replacement boat.
Such service wouldn't surprise Alex and her party. After their guide promised an impromptu Baci ceremony - the celebratory ritual of tying strings around someone's wrist - they found themselves watching a lovingly rehearsed performance involving over half a village.
But this isn't just a welcoming country. As an Abercrombie & Kent luxury Laos holiday reveals, it's also beautiful. Startlingly beautiful. From the south's Bolaven Plateau with its elaborate thread of rivers, and the thundering Phapheng Falls, to the centre's haunting limestone karsts, to the north's mysterious Plain of Jars, fecund mountains, hill tribes and floating hotels, it's a photographer's dream.
We'll take you to the capital Vientiane, where the temples are good but the coffee and patisserie - a tasty legacy of French rule - and sunset Beerlao, are even better. And, perhaps most memorable of all, we'll show you Luang Prabang. The delicate morsel of a city, pinched between the chopsticks of the Mekong and Khan Rivers, has temples, night markets and the dawn ritual of saffron-robed monks shuffling through tranquil streets to collect alms.
Laos PDR. Please don't rush, but please do come.
Best time to be there
The cooler part of the dry season, November to February is when Laos is at its best, avoiding the torrential rains of the summer months, and the sweltering heat of April and May.
Luang Prabang or Vientiane via Bangkok
13 hours via Bangkok
GMT + 7 hours
Issued on arrival
Yellow Fever certificate if arriving from an endemic area
In Laos, the guide added trips to the morning market and an opportunity to attend a shaman ceremony she heard about when we were in the village. I've seen some events, but I'll never forget that. I gather it's pretty rare to see it - the guide had only seen it once before.
- AF, London