For US travel-focused media National Geographic, a new element has been added to its listings dedicated to identifying interesting trips and top destinations to plan in 2023. While the “adventure” and “nature” categories will rightly be of interest to backpackers, a new genre, under the heading “community,” now offers suggestions for where to go when looking for a sustainable getaway that embraces the principles of slow travel and inclusiveness.
Take Laos, featured in National Geographic’s top five. While the country’s borders reopened last May, the country didn’t wait for foreign travellers to return to boost its tourism, instead focusing on fostering domestic travel. In December 2021, a train named after an ancient kingdom in the area, Lane Xang, was inaugurated, taking travellers some 400 kilometres from the city of Boten to the capital Vientiane. To visit the ancient capital Luang Prabang, it took at least five hours by road, whereas with the train, Laotians now need only two hours.
Subtitled, Board a new train that makes the country’s wonders more accessible, an article highlights how the many wonders of the country are much more accessible now thanks to the high-speed electric trains of the Laos–China Railway.
It says, “The Southeast Asian country known for its emerald-green vistas of the Upper Mekong River got a boost in domestic travel with the December 2021 inauguration of a Chinese-financed and -constructed bullet train christened the Lane Xang, an ancient Laotian name meaning Kingdom of a Million Elephants. The train’s route features a 260-mile segment within Laos, starting at the border town of Boten and running through 75 tunnels and across 167 bridges, before terminating in the capital, Vientiane.
“The train’s promise? To expand tourism among the Lao themselves, who can now more easily explore their country’s multifaceted heritage, including the old imperial capital, Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.”
Slow travel is a more mindful way of traveling that enables one to immerse themselves in the culture of a place, its food, its music, and its people and make memories instead of just ticking off items from one’s bucket list. Laos is the first destination that is highlighted for its “community-led conservation efforts; groundbreaking work in ecotourism, sustainability, and inclusive travel; and meaningful ways for travellers to give back”.
Like last time, Laos is the only Asian country to feature in this esteemed list that encourages people to travel in a way that is kinder to the environment while also seeking out moments of escape, self-reflection and relaxation.