The mention of this country might not conjure up tourism campaign-worthy mental images, but that's part of Laos' under-the-radar appeal. Charming locals, a genteel way of life, a storied past, and theatrical natural landscapes give the destination an "authentic Asia" vibe, which combined with a quaint UNESCO World Heritage town, means Laos can be considered an underrated winner in the regional tourism lottery.
For the majority of travelers, Laos is synonymous with Luang Prabang, the sleepy former capital that still bears undeniable traces of the region's French colonial history. Small enough to explore by bicycle, the city is a rare Asian destination that offers travelers a scenic look back in time.
Not far beyond the town boundary, the country fades back into a bucolic bliss of rural villages and tranquil country landscape and you really have to dial down the pace a notch or two. Whether trekking through the jungle or drifting down the Mekong River, there's no smoke and mirrors about Laos -- what you see is what you get: beautifully simple and simply beautiful.
Mystical ruins of a once-powerful kingdom punctuate the landscape, refusing to be reclaimed by mother nature. A densely forested land, blessed with teak trees, precious stones, and teeming wildlife in its rivers and oceans. Myanmar is an impossibly exotic country that would be an ideal setting for a fantasy period tale.
Until very recently, Burma, as Myanmar was formerly known, was a destination which the outside world was not privy to. Now that her borders have opened, a steady stream of travelers have been making their way to Asia's final frontier, helping spread the intrigue and inspire fascination towards the Southeast Asian nation. Yangon, Rangoon to some, may no longer be the capital of the country, but it remains the commercial heart of Myanmar and an exciting base camp with unique luxury hotels from which to explore the unexplored. British colonial buildings and gilded pagodas adorn the rapidly-changing skyline and the streets bustle with prospects.
Not many places in the world remain that can still strike a tingle into a traveler's heart with the allure of an exciting unknown — Myanmar is one that begs to be discovered sooner rather than later.