29 destinations to visit in 2009
Image 6 of 30
Why it's a hot ticket for 2009: Considered by many to be the hidden jewel of Southeast Asia and long an underground favorite of adventurers and backpackers, Laos is one of the last places in the region where you can still feel the atmosphere of the old colonial Indochina. Its capital, Vientiane, is laid back and full of charm -- a marked difference from the busy mega-metropolises of its neighbors.
Laos has spent the last decade recovering and rebuilding from the ravages of war, but it's starting to feel the effects of globalization and development. Foreign investment is changing the landscape. This year, experience the unique Lao way of life before it's gone for good: trek through jungles; volunteer for a week or two; take a slow boat up the Mekong River; stop by a temple and chat with the young monks who are eager to practice their English.
Travel tip: If you plan on going to Laos in January or February, make sure to book your hotel several months in advance; it is high season for foreign and Lao travelers alike and accommodations in the bigger towns will be scarce.
-- Chi Vu
Pictured: A temple in Luang Prabang, Laos