Dervla Murphy's "inner click" leads her to little-known Laos, the most heavily bombarded country in world history (during and after the Vietnam War), from which tourists were excluded until 1990. Her attempts to trek through the high mountains, far from the motor roads, are repeatedly thwarted for various reasons, both sinister and comic, and after injuring her foot she is forced to buy a Thai manufactured bicycle. But the bike proves less than reliable at more than one crucial moment.
Fortunately Dervla finds that the kindly, gentle and welcoming people of Laos more than make up for all her difficulties and she finds their laid-back nature marvellously infectious. However, Laos is no Shangri-La. The persisting problems bequeathed by its recent past still regularly have tragic results and its immediate future seems to have been hijacked by foreign interests. Dervla leaves Laos in a melancholy mood, but grateful to have glimpsed a unique culture on the verge of extinction.