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 17 April 2015
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...