This enigmatic country, relatively unknown to Western tourists, is dominated by the wide waters of the Mekong. Isolated for decades, the people of Laos have maintained their traditional way of life in the midst of an unspoiled environment. Visit the ancient royal capital, Luang Prabang, where French colonial houses mingle with traditional architecture, then take a ride down the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves, holy grottos accessible only to boat and containing thousands of statues of Buddha. The capital, Vientiane, boasts the intricate temples of Wat Si Muang and Wat Si Saket, and a populace whose friendly, relaxed attitude makes modern stress and worries seem out of place. Explore the lush green mountains in the north, cruise along the Mekong, or stroll through one of the lively, popular local markets to discover the peace and charm of a land out of time.