The small country of Laos is an easy hour-and-a-half flight from Ho Chi Minh City. We visited the capital city of Vientiane for 3 days and then traveled via China-Laos Fast Train to Luang Prabang for 4 days.

Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule (1893) the city fell during WWII and was occupied by Japan in March of 1945 before being re-occupied by the French just about a month later. The country declared independence in 1953.

Vientiane has several gorgeous temples dating back to the 1800s. As well as the impressive Patuxai Arch, which resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Luang Prabang is a Unesco World Heritage Site, as all of the significant elements of architecture, and culture, have been preserved. It’s a pretty little town that sits in a lush, green valley, surrounded by mountains between the Me Kong and Nam Khan rivers.

During the day, the main street in town offers boutique shops, peaceful coffee shops and cafes, and intriguing alleyways that often lead to one of the rivers to walk and take in the gorgeous green mountains that ring the city. As sunset approaches, the road is blocked off for several blocks for a lively night market.

There are plenty of tours that include some of the Buddhist temples, the national museum, and an early morning walk with monks as they make their way down a street with small tote sacks, to obtain food and drink for the day from local people who set up stops along the path.

Mt. Phousi, a one-hundred-meter-high hill located in the heart of town. We climbed approximately 300 stone steps to get to the top which offered a 360* bird’s-eye view of the city.

A fantastic full-day tour into the mountains brought us to the Kuang Si Falls. Water cascades down three tiers of rocks and cliffs with the largest tier dropping 200 feet. Each tier flattens out in several places to form crystal clear, turquoise pools – great for a swim – before gaining momentum and tumbling down the next outcropping of rock.

While I always look forward to returning to Saigon, I couldn’t help thinking, as we boarded the plane… When can we get back to Laos?