Laos marked my first trip to Asia as a middle-aged adult in 2000. Because of this, it has special significance to me. I had never been to a third world country before and was in culture shock when I stepped foot on Southeast Asian soil.

The first thing I was confronted with was the lack of infrastructure. There was no such thing as a developed highway system. We got on a ferry boat at Wat Phu and drifted down the Mekong River to Don Khong. I'll never forget passing a Shivalingum along the way (Shiva is one of 3 Hindu Deities. Lingum means penis).