|STATE STRUCTURE||Republic with a one-party system|
|INTERNAL DIVISION||Laos is divided into 16 provinces (Khwang), a metropolitan prefecture and a metropolitan municipality. The provinces are divided into 140 districts, which consist of 11,000 communes.|
|OFFICIAL LANGUAGE||Lao (Lao), also in use Thai and French|
|NATIONAL COMPOSITION||Despite the small population, about 70 different tribes and nationalities live in Laos. The entire multinational population of Laos is usually divided into three groups: Lao-Lum, Lao-Teng and Lao-Sung. The largest foreign group is formed by the Vietnamese and the Chinese. Few Khmers, Indians, Burmese, Japanese.|
|TIMEZONE||UTC +7 / MSK +4|
The flag of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was adopted in 1975. It is a panel with three horizontally arranged stripes of different sizes. Above – a red stripe (1/4 of the flag’s height), below it – a blue stripe (1/2 of the flag’s height), below – a red one (1/4 of the flag’s height). On the blue stripe in the center is a white circle.
Red symbolizes the blood shed and the sacrifices made during the struggle for independence. The blue represents the country’s resources, while the white circle represents the moon rising over the Mekong River.
The emblem of Laos depicts the national shrine of the country – the Great Stupa Pha That Luang.
The dam of the Nam Ngun basin, as well as the paved road and the irrigated rice fields, are a symbol of a generation of new and strong power. In the lower part is the mechanism wheel section. The inscriptions from left to right are “Independence, Democracy”, and “Unity and Prosperity”. The inscription in the middle means: “People’s Democratic Republic of Laos”.
According to Franciscogardening.com, Laos is hazy mountain peaks, fast rivers, magical rainforests and valleys. The country’s neighbors are Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. The border with the latter two passes, among other things, along the legendary Mekong River – a common artery for China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Laos is a mountainous country without access to the sea. This fact may disappoint some tourists, but attract others seeking to conquer the peaks. The highest of them is Mount Bia or Fubia (2830 meters).
The subequatorial climate is replete with monsoons and divides the year into two seasons: from May to October – rainy summer, from November to April – dry winter. Temperatures can range from +15℃ in mountainous areas to almost +40℃ in the plains. On average, up to 3000 mm of precipitation falls here annually.
Such a climate for the flora and fauna of Laos is simply a paradise. The mountain slopes of the country are covered with tropical forests, which at an altitude of 1500 meters turn into mixed ones. Palm trees, beech, oak, pine, magnolias, sandalwood and rose – this is not a complete list of the country’s rich flora. Here you feel as if you are in the times of Kipling and his heroes.
Rare species of animals have survived in Laos: swamp lynx, marble panther, Tibetan bear, Indochinese tiger. Not all countries in the region can boast of such a list. In the jungles of Laos, you can easily meet flocks of macaques and singing gibbons, and on the banks of the river – banteng bulls or wild elephants. Flocks of noisy bright parrots fly everywhere, ducks swim and, having spread their tails, important peacocks walk around.
An interesting fact: in modern Laos there are 20 state natural parks. They have hiking trails and hunting is strictly prohibited.
Walking through the Lao jungle, it is important not to lose vigilance from delight – here you should remember about cobras and pythons, which are always plentiful in tropical rainforests.
The state was formed in the 14th century, but Europeans learned about Laos, or about Lan Sang Hom Khao – the Kingdom of millions of elephants and a white umbrella – only in the 19th century, when in 1893, under an agreement between France and Siam, the country became part of French Indochina.
Laos received the long-awaited independence only in 1949, becoming a kingdom headed by His Majesty Sisavang Wong. But the civil war, which began in the next decade, led to the fact that North Korea and the United States intervened in the internal conflict of Laos. In parallel, the Vietnam War began, during which about 260 million bombs were dropped on Laos. This was due to the fact that the main part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, along which the Vietnamese troops were transferred to the south of this country, passed through the territory of Northern Laos. During the bombing, local residents and the unique nature of the country suffered. And wild elephants, thanks to which the country got its ancient name, were on the verge of extinction.
In 1975, Savang Vathana – the second and last king of Laos – abdicated, all power passed into the hands of the revolutionaries. In 1986, Laos began privatization and restructuring of the public sector, began to attract foreign investment, switched to market relations, but under state control. All this led to some economic recovery, but further growth is constrained by the underdevelopment of infrastructure.
Today, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is an agricultural state, 80% of the population is employed in this area. The country’s population is very unevenly distributed. The main part lives on the border areas with Thailand and on the banks of the Mekong.
The culture of Laos is a mixture of Thai, Khmer and Vietnamese traditions, seasoned with the teachings of Theravada, which is one of the oldest schools of Buddhism. And it is Buddhism that is reflected in local creativity. National music is very specific, accompanied by singing or a small performance. The main Lao musical instrument, the khaen, is a hardwood body on which a double row of bamboo tubes is mounted.
Interesting fact: In Laos, two sites are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. These are the ruins of the Khmer temple complex Wat Phu and Luang Prabang – an ancient city, the former royal capital.
Education in Laos is available to everyone and until recently took place under the slogan “Population for the population” – that is, educated citizens of the country taught the illiterate to read and write. School education lasts 11 years. Higher education is represented by two institutions: medical and pedagogical.
Traditional sports are still very popular in the country – pirogue racing along the Mekong, muay lao – one of the areas of kickboxing, the game of kato – a ball woven from rattan, which is thrown over the net with legs and head. In recent years, football, volleyball and table tennis have been gaining popularity in Laos.
The tourist service of Laos is not yet very developed, so a trip to this country may not be interesting for lovers of comfortable passive recreation. But for those who want to escape from the luxury of popular world resorts, Laos is quite suitable. There is a place for lovers of trekking, speleology and mountaineering to roam.
However, in Laos, in addition to the jungle and mountains, there is still something worthy of the attention of a tourist. First of all, this is Vientiane with its noisy metropolitan life, colorful Vang Vieng offering active entertainment, and the former royal capital of Luang Prabang, where viewing magnificent Buddhist temple complexes and monasteries can be combined with exploring caves that look like fantastic underground cities.
Interesting fact: In Laos, every man during his life should become a monk at least for a while. As a rule, people go to the monastery during their studies or before the wedding.
For an unpretentious tourist, the country has everything: hotels and hostels, cafes and restaurants, shops and markets, where, in addition to natural fabrics woven by local weavers and vivid paintings of Buddhist gods, you can buy a souvenir from a real aviation bomb.
Cuisine of Laos is a spicy-spicy fragrant kaleidoscope of Thai, Vietnamese and French culinary traditions. Here, fried or boiled rice dishes coexist with Thai Tom Yum soup and French baguette.
Interesting fact: Be prepared for the fact that, in addition to fried grasshoppers and scorpions, street vendors actively offer a local delicacy – fried rats.
Festivals and holidays in Laos are held on a grand scale. All of them have a religious background. This is Tet (Chinese New Year), and the two-day Buddhist festival Bun Pha Vet (in January-February), and Bun Bang Fai – the rocket festival (in May), timed to coincide with the beginning of the rainy season and originating in the pagan cult of fertility.