Today it's a different story however, with Laos holding a cult-like status amongst modern day explorers.
Flying in over this land-locked country, nestled between Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, with China and Myanmar to the north, I looked down upon a thickly forested landscape breached by rugged mountain peaks.
Travelling 'off season' is rife with positives and negative, and riding motorcycles through Asia in the wet season is full of ups and downs. Ups - it's quieter, usually cheaper in the cities, and cooler. Downs - it's wet. Really wet.
The devilish conditions we encountered for the first two days eventually opened as the sun began beaming down. We welcomed her graciously to warm our backs and dry us out. With the township behind us, we were now riding through dense forest with remote villages and idyllic waterfalls scattered upon the landscape and onto huge plateaus, contrasted by mountains jutting skyward.
The beauty of motorcycles is that they allow you to truly enjoy the best and the worst of these conditions in an intimate manner. It also allows total freedom (you're no longer a slave to the extremely relaxed Laos public bus system.) With our two wheeled hogs, we went where we wanted, when we wanted…
We'd been on the road all morning. It had been smooth sailing so far but wet roads, hunger and not being quite wary enough of local wildlife movements soon saw me using my skin cells to come to a halt. Cows grazing roadside were suddenly panicked onto the road. Slamming on the brakes to avoid running up the anus of one of the lumbering creatures, my back wheels slid out laying me sideways on the road.
Nothing broken, but I was missing a few chunks of skin. The claret was running freely and my left ankle resembled a mutilated puffer fish. A pretty good result, considering I almost wound up colliding with a 200kg walking steak.
Another 50km to the nearest hospital made for uncomfortable riding for the remainder of the day, but things could always be worse. Did I say hospital? I meant dingy, cat infested hut from which we could purchase the most basic medical supplies. Post cow intervention, the paranoia of local wildlife darting into our path resulted in a much more sluggish pace.
The past days had been filled with new landscapes at every turn….mist-shrouded mountain peaks flanked by jungle-clad valleys, endless fields of rice paddies, exploration of bottomless caves, sleeping in small jungle bungalows, calling local villages home, and occasionally dabbling in the native remedies with the locals.
Any element of tourism was still very primitive and raw, almost non-existent. On occasion - guided by half a dozen young Laotians no older than 10 - we trekked through rainforest until we were privy to front row seats of mother nature's brutal force, at the base of an epic 70m-plus waterfall.
One of the things that amazed me the most was the gentle nature of the local people. The outward sincerity and kindheartedness I experienced was astounding. This was their backyard and they were down for sharing it with some strangers of the land. It felt like we had stumbled across our own slice of nirvana (although this could have been due to the lasting effects of the 'happy shakes' the evening before.)
Written by, and photogrpahy by Timothy Evans.