Travel

Springtime, just before the new century began. As Laos is now the new Cambodia, Vietnam was then the new Thailand, and my girlfriend and I had arrived – with our backpacks – to see what all the fuss was about. The capital Hanoi had dazzled, and we were due to take the train 420 miles down the coast to Hué. We were late, though. We were always late.

Mekong ecology in the balance as Laos quietly begins work on dam

Environmentalists opposed to a controversial dam that could have a devastating impact on one of Asia's most important rivers have accused the authorities in Laos of starting work on the project without formal approval.

On The Road: Deep underground in the footsteps of revolutionaries

Tae bumped down on the bed frame and it cracked. Startled, he leapt up and uttered a deferential apology to the room. This was no ordinary bed but one belonging to a senior cadre of the Pathet Lao, the Laos communist leadership that had operated from a series of 480 caves deep in the north-east of the country to escape US bombardment between 1964 and 1973.

Family's anger as war ally snubbed

The family of Vang Pao, a former Laotian general and leader of the Hmong ethnic group, said it was "disgraceful" that the US Army did not allow the key American ally in the Vietnam War to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

Vang Pao Soldier whose leadership of Hmong fighters led to his description as ‘the biggest hero of the Vietnam War’

Vang Pao was a fabled Hmong war veteran who led by example and exuded bravery, fighting a covert CIA-sponsored war against Laos Communist insurgents and Viet Minh in Laos during the Vietnam War. The General, once described as the "biggest hero of the Vietnam War" by the former CIA Director William Colby, went on to become the revered leader of the Hmong exiles in the United States.

People power: BBC's 'Human Planet' provides a dramatic insight into humanity and the natural world

This week sees the start of 'Human Planet', a new BBC series focusing on our place in the natural world. As these extracts from the book by Dale Templar and Brian Leith that accompanies the programmes reveal, it's a dramatic – and colourful – story

Cluster bombs kill another child as nations reach accord

International delegates meeting in Laos – the most heavily bombed nation on earth as a result of a huge US bombing campaign during the Vietnam war, and where 80 million landmines still cause death and tragedy on a near-daily basis – have agreed on a new plan to help rid the world of cluster munitions. The agreement came as a 10-year-old Laotian girl was killed by a cluster bomb.

Album: Stephan Micus, Bold as Light (ECM)

This indefatigable Bavarian multi-instrumentalist is currently on a roll, bringing a virtuoso display of himself singing and playing some exotic, rare instruments: notably a bamboo pipe played by the Hmong people in Laos, and the Japanese nohkan, whose presence in Noh theatre creates a unique sense of danger.

Next boss warns of sharp rises in clothes prices

Simon Wolfson, Next's chief executive, has warned that a "speculative bubble" in the cotton market will lead to near-double-digit price rises on clothing next year, as the fashion retailer's underlying sales slipped behind City expectations in its third quarter. Next has previously warned that a surge in cotton prices would cause a 5 to 8 per cent rise in clothing prices in the first quarter, but Lord Wolfson said yesterday that the uplift would be at the top end of the range.

Trail of the unexpected: Coffee on the banks of the Mekong, in Vientiane

Laos's capital is steeped in a coffee culture introduced by the French

The Big Six: Mekong river retreats

Rare saola dies in captivity

The first confirmed sighting in more than a decade of one of the rarest animals in the world, described as the "Asian unicorn", was revealed today.

Ballack backed by Löw to bounce back from injury and earn Germany recall

Germany coach Joachim Löw has said midfielder Michael Ballack can still return to the national team despite his latest injury setback. Ballack turns 34 later this month. He missed the World Cup with an ankle injury and now faces a six-week lay-off with a new leg injury.

The Man Who Ate Everything, BBC4<br/>Fat Man in a White Hat, BBC4

The small screen is a veritable smorgasbord of cookery-themed programmes, but some are more satisfying than others

Last Night's Television: The Business Inspector, Five<br />The Man Who Ate Everything, BBC4

I'm not sure I'd want to launch my career as a media business troubleshooter in the teeth of one of the worst recessions for years, but I suspect Hilary Devey is made of stronger stuff than I am. Some time back she sold her house and car and moved in above a chip shop to fund her entry into the world of haulage – not notorious for its welcoming attitude to female novices – and she made that mark so effectively that her company is now worth some £100 million. Having graduated with honours from The Secret Millionaire's audition camp for telegenic plutocrats, she's now got a show of her own – The Business Inspector – in which, much in the manner of John Harvey-Jones and Gerry Robinson before her, she descends on the little fish of the business world, to mentor them in the art of being the eater and not the eaten.

The secret army still fighting Vietnam war

Hired and armed by the CIA in the 1960s, the Hmong remain trapped in enemy jungle, forgotten by America and the world
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests