Somewhere in Southeast Asia there’s an idyllic village full of smiling faces. It might be perched on precarious mountainside, nestled in a hidden valley or languidly swinging in a riverside hammock, but one thing is for sure—it’s in Laos. The years of war and instability are gone, and Laos has emerged as a friendly, pristine destination luring intrepid travelers off the beaten path. Their reward? Wild elephants, ancient temples, vibrant markets, cave-hidden Buddhist statues and some of the best ecotourism opportunities on the continent. You can kayak, rock climb, spelunk, and bike; most popular of all are the community-based treks through green wildernesses and lush landscapes, where village homestays get you up close and personal with true Laotian living. Even in cities like Vientiane and Luang Prabang, the simple joy of Laos’ laid-back lifestyle is never far from hand. Settle in and start to feel that blood pressure drop and those muscles loosen. That’s easy living, and that’s Laos.