Losing it in Laos: An adventure in Vang Vieng that almost went down the tubes

It's tough to recall after almost 10 years what posed the greatest risk in the flooded cave in which I'd become hopelessly lost: the darkness or the snake that patrolled black pools of frigid water. I was in Laos and a place I would later regret visiting. Vang Vieng used to be a sleepy river village in country known for its calm and natural beauty. Then came tubing. Every day, scores of feckless backpackers in bikinis and boardshorts float down the Nam Song on tractor inner tubes, turning pink as they guzzle cheap beer and leap off rocks. As the activity boomed, so did the number of 'happy' pizzas and vomiting teenagers, helping to turn the town into an ugly scar on the southeast Asia traveller trail.

A bold family trip to Thailand: Culture shock, death rafts, plague… is this really good for kids?

My mother was sneaky. It was 1994, and for a whole year she had been saving money, squirrelling it away, in order to pay for flights to Thailand. It was a surprise for me (aged eight), my brother Lyall (10), and my dad (unobservant, apparently).

Pondicherry

Pondicherry: A corner of India that is forever France

Will the glimpse of this gracious town revealed in 'Life of Pi' survive the subcontinent's booming economy? Mark Jones finds out

Ripple effect: tranquillity on Burma’s Inle lake

Traveller's Guide: Burma

Back on the tourist map after long years when visitors were urged to stay away, this  South-east Asian country is now a byword for exotic glamour, says Harriet O’Brien

‘We worship big things – most importantly, the mountain’

Back to the source: Bali’s design for life

Its architecture has been copied all over the world, but there’s a vital element in this Indonesian island that’s missing from its imitators, says Sophie Lam

Travel Challenge: A Brazilian break during Rio Carnival

Each week we invite three companies to offer us their best deal for a specific break. Today: Brazil for Rio Carnival. Prices are per person, based on two sharing, and include 10 nights' B&B, flights from Heathrow to Rio in February 2013, transfers and a one-day Sambadrome ticket.

Traveller's guide: Indian wildlife holidays

With the return of tiger tourism and the release of the film adaptation of 'Life of Pi', now is the time to explore the subcontinent's national parks, says Harriet O'Brien

Tiger tourism in India has become popular again

Tiger tourism is back and burning bright in Rajasthan

After they were closed by the government this summer, India's nature reserves are starting to reopen to tourists, but with greater safeguards for wildlife, as Harriet O'Brien discovers

Travel Challenge: Madrid

Each week, we invite three companies to offer us their best deal for a specific break. Today: a city break in the Spanish capital before Christmas. Prices are per person, based on two travelling together. Each includes three nights' accommodation and flights to Madrid on Saturday 15 December.

Get to the heart of Seoul

South Korea is booming, and there’s no better way to see its progress than on a night out in the capital

Rose City, Petra

Jordan: A land that has fascinated visitors for thousands of years

For Jonathan Lorie, a visit to the 'lost' city of Petra in the bicentenary year of its rediscovery reveals mystery and history in abundance

The flavour of the streets: fruit vendors in Hanoi

Morning, noon and night in Vietnam

From Hanoi and Halong Bay to Ho Chi Minh City and the mighty Mekong, this south-east Asian destination packs plenty into its slender shape

The Big Six: Modern Viennese hotels

Hotel Lamée, Innere Stadt

Travel Challenge: Tanzania

Each week we invite three companies to offer us their best deal or a specific break. Today: a twin-centre trip to Tanzania, combining a safari with time on the beach in Zanzibar. Prices are per person, based on two sharing. Each includes 10 nights’ accommodation and flights from Heathrow in January, 2013.

Travel Challenge: A ‘twixmas’ break in Britain

Each week we ask three companies to offer us their best deal for specific break. Today: a post-Christmas break in the UK. Prices are per person, based on two sharing, for three nights' accommodation from 27 December.

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