Ah, the French

it took little more than a cup of coffee and a fabulous pan chocolat (chockie croissant) and we were miraculously transported from shocker overnight sleeper bus-lag into the heavily French influenced Laos capital of Vientiane.

Besides the many French cafes (with pastries to die for), a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, a 'riverside' boulevarde for strolling along and great night markets, it was exactly like Canberra! Nice for a day or two but that's enough.

Laos has had a lot of foreign inestment and has markedly better infrastructure than Cambodia. Vientiane is a burgeoning modern capital, in the throes of even more building and investment, including shopping centres with waterslides (of course).

It has been a huge surprise to see just how many foreign visitors there are in both countries - a trend which looks set to continue as tourism is heavily promoted. Laos has a much stronger focus on eco-tourism, something which is very pleasing to see and that I will be taking advantage of over the next few weeks.

A short 30 minute flight from Vientiane and we are in lovely Luang Prabang in north-west Laos. The next two weeks will be all about exploring the surrounding natural beauty, remote villages, elephants and gibbons. But more about that later.