I really enjoyed what I saw of Laos, but since I didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked I don't have very much to say on the country. I'll keep this Thoughts On limited to the travel essentials.
Laos is still technically a Communist run country and a single party state. Since the end of the Cold War they have however followed closely in Vietnam's wake and opened up the economy. Luang Prabang, which was the only place I saw, is a lovely UNESCO protected spot and a gem of a town. I could not recommend it more. I will qualify that only by saying that if you want an off the track, unadulterated, and non-euro experience this is not the place for you. It feels a little bit like the St Tropez of Laos (without the ocean, but remember Laos is landlocked).
I stayed in the 3 Nagas Hotel after I saw a thing in an oldish travel magazine about it being one of the world's best small hotels. Right, well, take those things as you will, but it really was lovely. The room was gorgeous, the bed very comfortable, the shower worked perfectly, the service was friendly. The only bum note was they try and push some expensive outings on you and seem to daily encourage you to use their services. If you go through the hotel to see the must see Kuang Xi falls and the caves, it will cost you $100 per person. That price is absurd. Walk down the Main Street and either negotiate with a driver to take you to the falls for $15 or book a day with one of the many agents and it will cost you half or less than the hotel's prices.
We only had breakfast at the hotel, but it was the best breakfast food of the whole trip. Their Laotian dishes where phenomenal.
Food wise we ate a street food at the food market and it was good and safe. Our best meal though was at Lao Lao Garden where we had Laotian "BBQ". Fantastic and fun. We also enjoyed a nice colonial lunch at L'Elephant restaurant. We had drinks at Utopia, watched local kids breakdancing and cheered them on. We used Tiger Travel travel agency for a kayak trip to the caves.
Over all Luang Prabang and Laos felt safe. We really enjoyed our time but it is a very varied country, with a multitude of ethnic groups and landscapes. It was heavily bombed during the war and therefore some parts of the country are still off limits for safety reasons.