Laos sucked me in immediately. On the rare occasion I wasn't surrounded by temples, I found myself in one leafy paradise after another; a mix of mountains, palm trees and the Mekong Delta.
While the capital of Vientiane is a good place to start a trip, it's not as lively as the northern cities of Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. There are plenty of places to sit, drink coffee and absorb the laid-back city vibes, so get a Lao massage, sample local cuisine and soak it all up. Wat Phat Luang, Laos' most important national monument, is a little out of town but well worth the journey.
Next up was Luang Prabang, an 11-hour bus ride north of Vientiane. A mesmerising place with sleepy streets and riverside temples - 33 of them, to be exact. The Kuang Su waterfall was particularly memorable, with cold turquoise water that you can swim in after a steep climb to the top of the waterfall.
While there are many foreigners in Laos, I got the sense that I was surrounded by long-term travellers rather than tourists. Many people from Europe and America had been living there for several years but no matter how long they'd been there, everyone seemed to be taking the time to fully immerse themselves in the country.