Laos Facts


  • Full name:Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR)
  • Common name: Laos
  • Name in Lao language: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ (Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao)

National Facts

  • National flag: A horizontal triband, white circle centered on a blue band with narrower red bands top and bottom
  • National emblem: The national shrine Pha That Luang with an asphalt street and a dam pictured in the center, surrounded by a stylized watered field. The lower part shows a section of a gear wheel with the inscriptions “Peace, Independence, Democracy” and “Unity and Prosperity”.
  • National anthem: Pheng Xat Lao (Hymn of the Lao people)
  • Currency: Kip

History

  • Early history: Early civilization first appears in the Mekong River valley region around Luang Prabang in northern Laos. The Plain of Jars, the most remarkable of megalithic sites, dates from that time. The early development of Laos was characterized by contact with Chinese and Indian civilizations, before being influenced by southwestward migration of Tai-speaking tribes.
  • 1354 – 1707: Lan Xang, founded by Fa Ngum and also known as the ‘Land of a million elephants and the white parasol’, was one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia for over 350 years.
  • 1707 – 1779: A succession dispute erupted and Lan Xang was partitioned into regional kingdoms based in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Champasak.
  • 1779 – 1893: Laos suffered a long period of invasion and plunder, and became a vassal state of Siam. During this time the Emerald Buddha was seized and taken from Vientiane to Chiang Rai.
  • 1893 – 1953: French colonial period, before the First Indochina War in French Indochina led to the independence of Laos in 1953, as a constitutional monarchy.
  • 1953 – 1975: Involved in the Second Indochina War. Warfare between the Pathet Lao with support of the North Vietnamese and the Lao government backed by the USA, ended with the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on December 2, 1975.
  • 1975 – Present: After a series of reforms, the country moved into the 21st century in relatively positive circumstances.

Geography

  • Time zone: GMT + 7 hours
  • Area: 236,800 square kilometers
  • International borders: Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, People’s Republic of China
  • Capital: Vientiane
  • Regional divisions: 17 provinces and one prefecture
  • Main rivers: Mekong River, Nam Ou River, Nam Suang River, Nam Khane River, Nam Ngum River
  • Climate: A tropical monsoon climate with three seasons: the dry season from November to February, the hot season from March to April and the wet season from May to October.

Politics

  • Government: a Marxist–Leninist one–party state
  • Political culture: a socialist state with only one legal political party — the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP)

Economy

  • 2014 GDP (nominal): US$11.676 billion total and US$1,692 per capita; Laos remains one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, according to the International Monetary Fund
  • Main economic sectors: agriculture – mostly subsistence rice farming – contributes most to employment and GDP; tourism is the fastest-growing industry

Tourism

  • Main attractions: Almsgiving Ceremony, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Long Khoun, Royal Palace Museum, Mount Phousi, Kuang Si Waterfall, Pak Ou Caves, Tad Sae Waterfall, Elephant Village Sanctuary, The Upper Mekong, That Luang, Wat Sisaket, Wat Si Muang, Wat Mixai, Wat Ho Phra Keo, The Presidential Palace, Patuxai Victory Monument, Buddha Park, Vang Vieng, 4000 Islands, Bolaven Plateau and Tad Fane Waterfall, Wat Phu, The Plain of Jars.
  • Most popular souvenirs:articles woven from silk and sophisticated handicrafts are the main forms of artistic cultural expression in Laos. A variety of silk-woven products, sculptures and wood carvings can be found in gift shops and markets.
  • Most popular food: mok pa (fresh fish steamed with herbs in banana leaves), larb (raw meat piled with fresh herbs and spices), tam mak hung (a fiery and sour green papaya salad), and tropical fruits. Can be found at both night markets and restaurants.

Society

  • Population: estimated 6.8 million (2014)
  • Ethnic groups: ethnic Lao 60%, Lao Theung 24%, Lao Sung 10%, others 6%
  • Official Language: Lao
  • Religion: Theravada Buddhism, animist

Culture

  • Art: weaving, the dominant form of artistic cultural expression across all ethnicities; Buddhist-motif sculpture, the most prominent form of traditional Lao art; wood carving, sophisticated craftsmanship in wood; handicrafts — including metal work with gold and silver, and articles created from bamboo and saa paper (made of mulberry)
  • Architecture: the most culturally significant buildings are stupas and temples, with many French colonial-era buildings
  • National music: Mor lam, a traditional Lao form of song
  • Performance arts: the Lam Vong folk dance, court music, and performances known as Khon and Iakhon
  • Traditional clothing: for men, traditional dress is Khmer-style billowed trousers and a Mandarin-collar jacket; for women, it’s a long skirt with an embroidered hem called a sinh, and a matching shawl
  • Cuisine: a typical Lao meal consists of rice (the staple), larb (the meat salad), tam mak hung (the green papaya salad), bamboo soup, a paste made of chili peppers for dipping, tropical fruit as dessert and local beer or rice liquor as drink
  • Traditional Lao Festivals: Lao New Year — the most widely-celebrated festival officially lasts three days, from April 14th to 16th ; Boun Ok Phansa — the last day of the Buddhist lent, to pay respects to the Buddha and express gratitude to the river spirit; Boat Racing Festival — celebrated at the end of the rainy season to honor the Naga King; Boun That Luang — during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, the most important Theravada Buddhist festival, convened in Pha That Luang

Visit Laos with Asia Highlights

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Take a look at our tours below, during which we show you as many hidden-gems as we can, while giving you a personalized travel experience.

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