Today, Laos is a peaceful place, but between 1964 and 1973, nearly 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on the country, making it the most heavily bombed nation in history relative to the size of its population. Laos is still a one-party socialist republic, espousing Marxism-Leninism, and governed by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. Nonetheless, its economy is growing, and Laos now has the fourth-highest GDP per capita in Southeast Asia. For travelers, this landlocked, chiefly rural country retains a relaxed pace of life in spite of the increased popularity of places such as Luang Prabang. Southern Laos, specifically the lush and beautiful country along the banks of the Mekong River, is emerging as this nation’s newest destination. Attractions include the charming town of Champasak and the Vat Phou ruins, which are as old as those of Angkor Wat.

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