Vientiane’s peaceful demeanour belies a turbulent history. Over the 1000 or so years of its history, it’s been variously abused by successive Vietnamese, Burmese, Siamese, Khmer and French conquerors. The French cemented Vientiane’s status as a capital city when they took over the protectorship of Laos in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it was further inhabited by CIA ‘spooks’ and the charismatic Ravens (the screw-loose CIA-funded pilots of Air America) in the 60s and early 70s. After their victory in 1973 the Pathet Lao briefly considered moving the capital to Vieng Xai but then relented and stuck with Vientiane, and the city began a rapid transformation from notorious den of vice to austere socialist outpost. Since opening up to international investment, Vientiane has slowly been shedding its parochial skin. In 2004, it enjoyed the honour of hosting the Asean Summit, placing it firmly on Southeast Asia’s diplomatic map. In 2009 Vientiane will host the Asean Games, litmus proof this once backward-looking country has its sights firmly set on the future.