This place always amazes me on so many levels. The friendliness of the people is surprising considering that it wasn't long ago at all that this country was absolutely devastated by American bombs. The people here seem to not remember that part of their history. The excellent quality of the food is also amazing, and the fact that the country remains so unchanged by globalization and other modernizing forces.
Laos is a fascinating place with a wide variety of curiosities. I personally enjoy little visits to state run stores such as The People's Model Pharmacy #10 and to the little French patisseries that can be found around the capital city of Vientianne. It really is an interesting place where the old Socialist word is mixing with low scale capitalism, large amounts of French and Japanese guilt money and foreign capital from the newly developing tourist industry.
Last time I checked, Vientianne had fewer than 600,000 people but it feels about the size of Saint John, New Brunswick (about 90,000). This is partly due to the fact that many of those living in the city are in scattered outskirts which are only technically in Vientianne. The downtown is much smaller.
Scattered French architecture mixes nicely with optimistic statues dedicated to the revolution. Billboards inform the people that "Good people don't ruin their country by littering", and the newspapers celebrate the economic progress that this little paradise is making.
For anyone who is interested in seeing Southeast Asian Socialism in a far more rural setting than that found in Vietnam would be interested in this place.