Thanks for your help!
Not quite there yet (another month) so will PM you closer to with loads more questions if you don't mind!
I thought the food spiking sounded extreme, however it was on the Australian Smart Traveller website. Please see below a copy and paste from it and a link to the website.
Thanks Rufus.... have been reading your comments on this over the past couple of months and you have been very helpful.
We advise you to exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in Laos. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible safety or security risks.
An increase in violent crime such as robbery, rape and sexual assault, including in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and in the city of Luang Prabang, has been reported.
Violence, including bombings, has in the past been used in business and personal disputes. Local law enforcement agencies often lack the resources and capability to effectively deal with such threats. Although foreign travellers are not ordinarily targeted, there is the potential for bystanders to be caught up in such incidents.
Some restaurants in popular tourist locations offer drug-laced food and drink which may contain harmful and unknown substances. The unknown additives in these foods and drinks can be dangerous and may result in serious illness and death. Travellers have been assaulted after accepting 'spiked' food and drink. Never leave food and drink unattended.
Petty crime, including bag snatching by thieves on motorcycles and theft from guest houses, occurs frequently. In the lead up to local festivals, such as Lao New Year in April, there is a significant increase in theft and violent crime.