A quick trip you can make out of the capital is to Ban Pako www.banpako.com, 50km northeast of Vientiane, which has a rustic resort on a bend in the Nam Ngum River, reached by road and a short river journey. Once there you could easily spend a couple of days soaking up the laidback atmosphere at this woodsy getaway, affording ample opportunity for swimming, tubing, birdwatching and day hikes to nearby villages. You can also follow self-guided nature trails, along one of which is a herbal steam bath, modelled on the wood-fired saunas at Wat Sok Pa Luang, and near a refreshingly cool spring.

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