Laos is Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country, yet, paradoxically, life revolves around water. Running the length of the mainly mountainous country is the mighty Mekong River, which floods rice fields, creates vital fish habitat, and serves as the main highway and water source. Villages clustered along the river regularly host backpackers drawn to the country’s exquisite French colonial architecture and stunning palaces and temples, but, the rugged terrain keeps Laos blissfully off the typical tourist trail.