I am an ardent traveler and immensely enjoyed your piece on Laos (Carol Pucci, Dec. 12). I was in Southeast Asia for a month a couple of months back, and found Laos to be my favorite...

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I am an ardent traveler and immensely enjoyed your piece on Laos (Carol Pucci, Dec. 12). I was in Southeast Asia for a month a couple of months back, and found Laos to be my favorite country because of the unique, relaxed way of life, the friendliness, and Beer Lao, the best in Asia in my opinion.

I wanted to comment on the room prices you mentioned. For almost anywhere in Asia, even $50 a night is ridiculously expensive. Most true travelers/trekkers like myself (not rich armchair travelers) stay in the guesthouses at $5-$8 a night or less, not in expensive hotels. I know that you mentioned that you stayed in a guesthouse yourself, but even $25 a night is pricey there. It was great to see an informed piece on a less-trodden place like Laos. It’s interesting that most Americans I talk to, in our collective ignorance, have never heard of Laos or have no clue where it is.

Eric Roth, Seattle

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Thanks for inspiration

On behalf of our store staff and volunteer family, we would like to express our thanks for your mention of our organization (Ten Thousand Villages) and store location (Carol Pucci’s Travel Wise column, Nov. 28). I am doing a year of Mennonite Voluntary Service here in the store, and it inspires me daily to better my world. Thank you for inspiring others to do so, as well.

Becca Rossiter,

Community outreach director

Ten Thousand Villages, Seattle

Troubling comments

on Mexico City

I read the recent article about Mexico City (Lynda Mapes, Dec. 5) with mixed feelings.

Though I appreciated your critique of the American notion of Mexico as mainly a nation of cerveza and good times, I found your comments about the taxi drivers troubling.

Those comments serve to reinforce another misconception about Mexico: the bandito. If, as you declare, all those nonofficial drivers are criminals, wouldn’t there be much more reporting of those crimes? And wouldn’t a government whose economy depends so heavily on tourism have done more to suppress the trade?

I do not deny that some drivers engage in criminal activity that includes robbing tourists, but blanket indictments such as yours neither dignify you nor help other travelers who read and believe your words.

I have traveled to Mexico City on several occasions, but I still remember the trepidation I felt prior to my first visit. I, too, had heard the horror stories. In fact, I can give personal testimony to the presence of property crime that targets tourists, for on one trip my wife and I got robbed while riding the Metro.

However, my overwhelming first impression of the city was how substantial and culturally rich it was. Subsequently, I have enjoyed confirming and reconfirming that initial impression.

The richness I’ve experienced goes well beyond the impressive architecture, the cuisine and, yes, even the Rivera murals.

One can only gain access to that richness through openness to the unexpected adventures that travel can provide if we venture outside our zones of comfort and familiarity.

Of course, there are risks. I do not encourage foolhardiness. I advise cautious bravery that tries to understand the reality of foreign situations and develops empathy for those who must daily confront those situations.

I suggest that you consider the circumstances of those free-lance drivers at the airport while believing that the majority of them act more or less honestly with those who enter their cabs.

Would I take one of them up on their offer? Probably not, because I wouldn’t save any money over the official taxi, so why take the risk? But I wouldn’t lay harsh charges against them without hard evidence, either.

Yen Chin, Seattle

The Seattle Times Travel section welcomes short letters from readers. Include your name, address and phone number (for verification). Letters may be edited. Email to travel@seattletimes.com or mail to Travel Editor, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.