Full country name: Lao PDR (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)
Capital city: Vientiane (population: 500,000 people)
Population: 5.5 million
Area: 236,000 square km (92,040 square meters)
1. Laos Location And Geography
Laos is a landlocked nation in the center of Indochina sharing its borders with Vietnam to the east, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south, and Myanmar (Burma) and China in the north and north-west respectively.
70% of its entire land area(236,800 square kilometers) comprises plateau area and mountains.The Anna mite chain of mountainous areas stretches along part of its border with Vietnam and averages 1,200 meters high. The mighty Mekong River – the one among the longest rivers all over the world, flows along the border with Thailand. Mekong River flows through about,900 kilometers of Laos’s territory and has always been a lifeline for the nation in terms of agriculture,transportation routes,and fish supplies.Many hydro-electric facilities, located on the tributaries of the Mekong, generate electricity for exporting to Thailand.
2. Laos Climate
Laos has a tropical, warm climate with 2 main seasons -the dry season from October to April and the rainy season from early May to the end of September.Rainfall and temperature vary considerably around the year and also according to altitude and latitude. From November to February, the temperature is lower and the cool breeze brings a refreshing and pleasant change from the rainy season’s humidity. The temperatures can drop to as low as 15 C (or well below that in the mountainous area) in January and December. The rainfall in Laos is at its lowest during this cool season. From mid-February, the temperature may gradually increase to its highest levels, nearly 38 Celsius Degree, during the period of March to May. The rain starts towards the end of this hot time as well, bringing a great temperature relief to the land.
Maybe the best time for travelling in Laos is between November and February – when the rainfall and temperatures are lower.May to July is also a good time for those planning to travel in the mountainous provinces in the North of the country. Higher altitudes mean that the temperatures would be lower; and at this time, the rainfall is still low reasonably. Great time for tourists to travel to this nation is the period of December to February and August.
3. Laos Flora And Fauna
Laos has one of the most pristine ecologies in South East Asia with an estimated half of its woodlands being primary monsoon forest. The forest grows in 3 layers – a top canopy of majestic, tall trees, a middle layer of hardwood trees like teak and a lower growth of bushes, small trees, and sometimes bamboo as well. Laos also homes to a diverse habitat of rare and exotic animals. Asiatic black bears, rare gibbons, goat-antelopes, Javan mongoose, and Leopard cats are just some of the mammals which could be found all over this nation. The remote areas of Laos are almost certainly home to several unknown species. Laos is also very abundant in both 2 resident migratory birds.
4. Laos Government
Being a socialist, one-party government, Lao Democratic Republic has seen rapid development and growth in the last ten years. The Laos people’s Democratic Republic was established in 1975 and since the instigation of brand new forward-thinking economic policies and its imminent entry into ASEAN. New services and infrastructures have transformed the capital, Vientiane into a prosperous and thriving city with a great deal to provide visitors. The provincial (rural) areas of this nation are also seeing flourishing development and changes.
5. Laos Language
The official language of the Lao Democratic Republic is Lao. The local versions of Lao could be substantially different from south and north and a lot of the ethnic minority groups that do not speak Lao in general. French and English are also spoken in business or by some senior officials of government. In Vientiane, several shop owners speak little French or English. Both of these languages as well as limited Japanese and German are spoken in hotels and other services in some most famous tourist attractions.
6. Laos People
In 1994, the estimated population of Lao PDR is 4.6 million of which about 250,000 people live in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The rest of this nation is very sparsely populated, compared with many other Asian nations, with 85% of the population living in rural regions. New comprehensive study shows classification of forty seven ethnic groups. So far, no one gives a full list of sixty eight thnic groups in Laos. These are divided into 3 major ethnic categories -Lao Soung (highlanders), Lao Theung (lower mountain dwellers), and Lao Loum (Lao landers). The Lao Soung comprises hill tribes originally from Burma, Tibet and southern China who live high up in the mountains raising animals and producing opium crops. The Lao Theung live on the mountain slopes, bartering with the production of cotton, mountain rice, tobacco, and coffee while the Lao Loum, the largest group, have been traditionally subsistence rice growers along the Mekong River. Lao Soung and Lao Theungare animist (believing in spirits of Earth) but about 60% of the population is Theravada Buddhists.
7. Laos Religion
About 60% of the population are Hinayaan (or Theravada) Buddhists. Even though Hinayaan Buddhism was introduced into this nation in the fourteenth century, Mahayaan is supposed to be well-known by Laotians as the start of the Silk Roads, long before they came into the landand form the Lang Xang Kingdom. However, Buddhism was very slow to spread in Lao and there was quite reluctance by people who hold the animist beliefs for adopting its doctrines. Nonetheless, in nowadays, Buddhism costs a strong effect on Lao society and it is an inherent feature of Lao people’s daily life. Most Lao Buddhists try to gain ‘merit’ to create a better next life through regular worship and by giving donations to temples. The temples are crucial places of private worship and also offer a lot of chances for social gatherings. The Lao people believe that if they do good things, then they will receive good things and similarly, if they do evil then evil would come to them.
Almost all Lao Buddhists male becomes a monk for a short period of time, often before they marry and several young boys spend long periods as novices in a temple to earn their families ‘merit’. Buddhism has played an important role in the cultural growth of Lao Democratic Republic and has greatly affected behaviors and thoughts ofa large percentage of the entire population. Visitors in Laos would often see the splendid sight of monks in their special saffron robes when they walk into the towns under the shade of large black umbrellas or during the early morning alms rounds. The many temples throughout the nation would offers tourists moments of great beauty and tranquility.
8. Laos Culture
• Architecture – Lao boasts a lot of distinctive architectural styles and monuments. One of the most amazing sites is That Luang in Vientiane, the Great Sacred Stupa, which, similar to all other stupa around this nation, serves for commemorating the life of the Buddha. The architectural style ofvats,or Lao’s Buddhist temples, could be distinguished by their location. Temple in Vientiane is of ten large rectangular structure with high-peaked roofs. In the ancient capital, Luang Prabang temple roofs sweep very low. In Xieng Khouang, North of Vientiane, the temple roofs are not tiered.
• Art- Religious art and images are also very distinctive and set Laos apart from its neighborhood nations. The “Calling for Rain” posture of Buddha images in Laos, for instance, which depicts Buddha standing with his fingers pointing to the ground, hands held rigidly at his side, could not be found elsewhere in South East Asian nations.
• Literature – Several ancient Lao Buddhist manuscripts are currently being preserved and are still in evidence. Transcribe on to the palm leaf centuries ago, throughout the nation, these treasures still are stored in temples. Religious effects are also apparent in classical Lao literature. Sinxay, Thao Cheuang, and Thao Houng are 2 of the most amazing Lao literary works.
• Music And Dance – The abundance of Laos’s culture is never more evident than its delightful folk music which is very popular throughout the nation. The major instrument played is the distinctive Khaen, a long wind instrument that consists of 2 rows of reeds that is similar to bamboo fitted into a hardwood soundbox. The Khaen is often accompanied by a bowed string instrument called “saw”. These instruments, together with a wooden xylophone-like instrument, drums, and cymbals offer the delightful accompaniment to Lamwong, the Laos’s national folk dance, in which2 dancers together couple and slowly and gracefully describe circles or vong.
9. Laos History
Relics discovered in several provinces of Laos reaffirm that human beings inhabited the area as early as ten thousand years ago.Between the 4th and 8th century communities that come from China started to form along the Mekhong River (into townships).The growth culminated in the formation of the LanXang kingdom (kingdom of million elephants) by King FaNgum who had been raised in AngorWat, Cambodiaby the Khmer in 1353.He grouped these townships and made his capital Luang Phabangin the nowadays.
The kingdom was expanded by his successors and became most notable thanks to King Setthathirathruling from 1548 to 1571.He built That LuangStupa and moved his capital to Vientiane, and That LuangStupa is now a national symbol of this nation.The 17th century was the starting of the most illustrious era of the kingdom and saw early European contact with missionaries and traders.A struggle for the throne kingdom is divided into 3 separated kingdoms and it witnessed the end of a glorious stage of time during which Vientiane was considered the greatest city in South East Asia.The Thai Kingdom (the Siamese)invasion of Vientiane was unsuccessful but left the city totally collapsed in 1828.
Laos was colonized in about 1893 by the French and after a considerable battle for self-determination under the leadership of the Indochina’s Communist Party, its independence was recognized in 1954.A coalition government was formed between right and left-wing factions after the Pathet Lao claimed some provinces in the North.However,as the election in 1958 for the National Assembly produced a majority for the Pathet Lao in 2 provinces, an US-Fueled reaction led to the arrest of Pathet Laos’s Parliamentarians and ministers.Afterwards politics were characterized by a great series of rigged elections and coups.
The case became worsened during the Vietnam War even though the 1962 Geneva Accord had recognized the Laos neutrality and forbade the presence of every foreign military personnel.By bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail portion crossing Laos, the United State forces dropped more bombs on Laos than they did around the world during The Second World War.On a basis per capital, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the history.Especially in XiengKhoungand Huaphanprovinces, where international teams are still clearing the terrain of unexplored ordinance, people in Laos still suffer from the war legacy.
In 1975, finally, the Pathet Lao got power in a bloodless take-over, and on 2 December the Laos People’s Democratic Republic was established.It was a successful struggle’s culmination for national liberation, and reinstatement of the entire independence.
The people, government, and party are moving together to lead the whole nation to develop and prosperity.
10. Laos Currency
The Kip is the official currency of Lao Democratic Republic and the most used bank notes are currently in denominations of 100, 500, and 1,000 kip.US dollars and Thai baht could be readily exchanged at many different authorized private exchange bureaus and it has become possible to use MasterCard, American Express, and Visa recently at a lot of major restaurants and hotels.Most foreign and domestic banks in Vientiane allow cash withdrawals on Master Card or Visa credit card.Small stalls and shops usually an only accept cash.On journey to remote areas,there is an advice that you should bring a good supply of Kip with you when travelling to Laos.
11. Laos Time
Laos is 7 hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (Universal Time or GMT) and shares the same time with Thailand.
12. Laos Business Hours
Laos’s Government offices are open from Monday to Friday, 8 to 11 AM and 2 to 5 PM, but shops, stalls, and other private businesses and companies are often open at lunch and for a little longer in every afternoon.Government offices and banks are closed on the weekends.Sunday is a holiday for several shops and some other private businesses.
13. Laos Communications
IDD (International Direct Dialing) is available and the effective telephone system is undergoing stable improvements.The International Telephone Office, the Vientiane Post Office, hotels and other locations offer telegraph, facsimile, telephone,and telex services.Many different email services are offered by a number of businesses in Vientiane.The area code for Vientiane is 21 and the international dialing code for Lao Democratic Department is +856.
14. Laos Electricity
Lao Democratic Department uses 220-volt (50 HZ) power outlets for use with either flat or 2-pronged round plugs.
15. Laos Shopping
The fascinating and unique handicrafts available in Lao Democratic Department allow tourists to take some specific reminders of their travels in this wonderful land.A rich and plentiful choice of cotton and silk textiles, gold jewelry and exquisite silver, intricate carvings, handmade baskets, and traditional utensils and musical instruments are just some of the great things that are awaiting tourists to Laos on all markets of this country.
The fabrics and textiles produced in Laos are all hand woven on small looms in some villages that have long traditions in handicraft making.Styles, patterns, and designs may vary depending on the region in which they were made.Textile craftspeople and hill tribe weavers produce beautiful and distinctive cloth and fabric products.
Carvers can work in stone, bone, and wood, and produce work depicting scenes from both everyday life and religious stories of people here.The craftsmen make a great deal and plentiful types of goods and are very pleased and happy to manufacture special order items as well.
Bargaining-although most shops have their own fixed prices for products, the price of carvings, fabrics, and some jewelry might be negotiable with good-humored, careful bargaining.
Tipping is not usual but might be expected at some of the more luxurious restaurants and hotels in this great country.
16. Laos VISAS
Visitors who travel to Laos as tourists required valid passport and a visa.Visas could be obtained in various ways.A simple way is to book one tour to Laos with an authorized travel agency abroad.That agency would offer travelers with the essential form and help players to apply for their visa at the nearest embassy of Laos (a lot of these are offered in this brochure). Travelers could also directly contact the local tour operators.If travelers book a tour to Laos and they are a resident of a nation that does not have a Laos’s embassy or in case of urgency, they could obtain the visa upon arrival at the international border checkpoint that uses a service offered by a local travel agency.Certainly, travelers would need to carry documentary evidence that their visa has been
approved already. Travelers could also obtain a transit visa that allows a maximum stay of 5
days.This type of visa would be efficient if tourists are travelling to any other Asian destination, for instance, from Hanoi to Bangkok.
17. Travel To And From Laos
• Arrival by air
The single port of arrival by air is the Vientiane’s Vattay Airport.Regular flights arrive from Kuala Lumbur, Yangon, Kunming, Singapore,Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh City,Phnom Penh, and Bangkok.
• Arrival by Road
Rod access might be possible from neighboring nations.It is possible that from Thailand, people can enter at Houexay in Bokeo Province, Pakse throughChommeck (UbonRachathani) and by the friendship bridgeMittaphab near Vientiane.China could be reached by road in LuaghNamtha province (at Boten).Border crossings for Vietman are at DandSavanh in Savannakhet province and at Laksao in Borikhamsay province.Currently, there is no road entry that is available from Cambodia or Burma (Myanmar).
• Arrival by Train
Although in current, there is exactly no rail connection to Laos, an extension of the railway from Bangkok to Nongkhai is scheduled to start running in the near future.
• Travel by air
Travelling by air is so far the most effective and simplest way that tourists all over the world should try once to get around to see this beautiful and friendly country.Loa Aviation had flights from Vientiane to XiengKhouang, Pakse, LuangPrabang, Savannakhet, Uodomsay and Houexay every day.There are also regular flights to Attapeu, Muangkhong, Laksao, Sravane,Thakkek, Sammneua, Sayabouri, andLuangNamtha.
To always get the latest information about flight routesand schedules, tourists should directly contact Lao Aviat 9 on Head Office at 2 Pangkham Road, V or visit a good travel agent abroad.
• Travel by road
Laos contains 18,863 km of roads, about 2,500 km of which are asphalted.The most crucial road in Laos is Route No 13 which runs from China to Cambodia, from the north to the south.It links Khong in the south with the Pak Mongthe north.The stretch between Khongand LuangPrabangis serviced by regular buses and could be suggested for adventurous tourists.Bus travel is very reasonable in cost.Buses leave Vientiane from the bus stations that are opposite the That Luang Market and opposite the Morning Market.
• Travel by boat
Not all of the 1,900 km of rivers in Laos which flow through the country are navigable but long stretches of the Mekong River would offer visitors with a lot of chances to take a great and exciting boat trip.