Recently, the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) awarded Laos the “World’s Best Tourist Destination” for 2012. In part, the award presentation stated that:

I must say what a privilege is for our delegation to honor a country that is becoming a WORLD BEST TOURIST DESTINATION.

It is also a great pleasure to address our salute to the great people of Lao, a people that had build throughout centuries a perfect civilization, with hundreds of monuments of historical and civilization relevance ,a people that had offered to humanity countless riches: from religious temple and scriptures to literary texts and historical writings.

You can read more about the award at the ECCT website here and here. Coincidentally, I’ll be traveling to Laos (and Thailand) next month, and I’m really looking forward to getting back there. I guess the continuing popularity of Laos, and its people and culture, is a double-edged sword. Hopefully, the influx of tourists will help increase the standard of living of the population and raise cultural awareness, but, alas, more tourists and more money coming into the country means, many times, an increase of traffic, pollution and infrastructure problems, as well as a loss of the old values and charm that have made the country such an attractive area to visit.

As an example, my first visit to “The Land of a Million Elephants” was in 2005. I remember Vientiane as being a very laid-back city (it still is, in many ways) with bicycles and motorbikes outnumbering cars by a wide margin. Now, traffic jams are common in many places and life seems more frenetic. Still, it’s a great place to visit–succulent, spicy cuisine, stupendous scenery and friendly, welcoming Laotians. Give it a try if you’re ever in the area.

Congratulations to Lao PDR!