One of the landlocked countries in Indochina, Laos is probably one of the more remote and therefore, culturally preserved and intact of the Southeast Asian countries. Here, you will truly see the unique Southeast Asian culture, and most especially the distinct identity of Laos. Its proximity to Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand is evident in the influences in their culture, but it is still a place uniquely its own. Whether it’s in the monasteries, village life, Luang Prabang or the Plain of Jars, you will truly get a glimpse of what culture and history in Laos is. It is also a spectacular place for adventure, because of the many trails, both discovered and undiscovered that can be explored.
LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC – IMPORTANT AND INTERESTING FACTS
- Laos’ biggest agricultural export is coffee.
- The terrain in Laos is mostly mountains and thick forests, with the Mekong River flowing through it. The Mekong is also known as Mae Nam Khong, translating to “the mother of all rivers”.
- The cuisine in Laos includes a large amount of fresh raw greens, vegetables, and herbs, such as mint, dill, garlic, galangal, and ginger. Sticky rice is a common dish, as well as Larb, a mixture of meat or fish, with herbs, greens, and spices.
- The first time Laos has ever hosted the Southeast Asian Games, or SEA Games, was not until 2009.
- The oldest modern human fossil was found in a cave in northern Laos and is believed to have been 46,000 years old.
- Laos has many different waterfalls to see, the largest is the Khone Papeng, also the largest in all of Southeast Asia.
- There are three main plateaus in Laos, namely, Xiangkhiang, Khammouan and Bolovens.
- Beverages include sugar cane juice, coconut juice, and coffee (Pakxong coffee). For alcoholic beverages, there is lao hai, which is jar alcohol for festivals and similar to sake, as well as lao lao, which is similar to whiskey. Both are made from rice. There is also beer, including the Lao state owned brewery called Beerlao.
- More than one hundred species of large mammal consider Laos home, including Asian elephants, tigers, wild cattle, gibbons and dolphins.
- Laos’ national sport is Kator, which is similar to volleyball except for the fact that players use their feet instead of their hands to get the ball over the net.
LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC – COOL, FUNNY AND FUN FACTS
- The Laotian New Year celebration is a 3-day-long festival held from April 13 to 15. The 13th is the last day of the old year, the 14th is the “day of no day”, and the 15th marks the start of the New Year. The custom of splashing water symbolizes cleansing.
- The Khone Papeng, which is found in Laos, is the largest waterfall in the whole of Southeast Asia.
- The jars in the Plain of Jars are each big enough to hold a person. The largest of these jars weighs more than six tons!
- The highest point in Laos, the Phou Bia, is unfortunately not open to tourists because it is filled with unexploded ammunition.
- When shopping in Laos, you can pay not only with the Laotian currency, the Lao kip, but also with Thai bahts and US dollars.
- A full 80% of all Laotian work is in agriculture.
- It is the only country in Southeast Asia which is landlocked.
- Laos is covered with mountains and thick forests, which makes communication a little difficult here.
- The Mekong River can be called the river which instils life in this country, as it not only forms a vital transportation route for people here, but also helps in generating electricity, irrigating crops and fishing.
- Trains are uncommon in Laos, so rivers act as a major source of transportation. Rail transport does not play a significant part in Laos’s transport sector, since the country largely lacks the required infrastructure.
- Sticky rice is a main staple in Laos and is thought to have originated in this country. It is known as khao niao: “khao” means rice, and “niao” means sticky. The rice is sticky but dry, rather than wet and gummy like non-glutinous varieties. The fingers of the right hand are used to eat it by wadding the rice.
- Laos is a part of the Golden Triangle- one of the largest opium producers in Asia.
LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC – HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL FACTS
- In 1979, The government allows some private enterprise within the agriculture industry: Food shortages and the flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Thailand leads the government to modify its approach.
- In 1991, Thailand and Laos sign a security and cooperation pact, and a new constitution is endorsed in the country. Kaysone Phomvihane becomes president, Khamtay Siphandon becomes prime minister.
- In 1994, The “Friendship Bridge” over the Mekong, connecting Laos with Thailand, is opened. The First Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge is a bridge over the Mekong, connecting Nong Khai province and the city of Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane Prefecture in Laos – the city of Vientiane is approximately 20 km from the bridge. With a length of 1,170m (0.73 mi), the bridge has two 3.5m (11 ft. 6 in) wide road lanes, two 1.5m (4 ft. 11 in) wide footpaths and a single 1,000 mm (3 ft. 3 3⁄8 in) gauge railway line in the middle, straddling the narrow central reservation.
- In 1997, The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) accepts Laos as a member. Laos also joined the ASEAN Free Trade Area and undertook to integrate intraregional and external trade tariffs by 2007. The Asian financial crisis decimates the value of the Lao currency, the kip.
- In 2008, Laos takes drastic steps to become a full member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s Working Party was established on 19 February 1998. The Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime was circulated in March 2001. Bilateral market access negotiations are underway on the basis of revised offers on goods and services. Multilateral work is proceeding on the basis of a Draft Working Party Report, circulated in February 2012. The Working Party held its seventh meeting in June 2011 to continue the examination of Lao PDR’s foreign trade regime. The General Council formally approved the Accession Package of Laos on 26 October 2012. Laos has been a member of WTO since 2 February 2013.
- In 2011, A new stock market opens in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, as part of a tentative experiment with capitalism. The country has become a rising regional player in its role as a hydroelectric power supplier to neighbors such as China, Vietnam and Thailand.
- Theravada Buddhism is a dominant influence in Lao culture. It is reflected throughout the country from language to the temple and in art, literature, performing arts, etc. Many elements of Lao culture predate Buddhism, however. For example, Laotian music is dominated by its national instrument, the khaen, a type of bamboo pipe that has prehistoric origins. The khaen traditionally accompanied the singer in lam, the dominant style of folk music. Among the lam styles, the lam saravane is probably the most popular.
- Sticky rice is a characteristic staple food and has cultural and religious significance to the Lao people. Sticky rice is generally preferred over jasmine rice, and sticky rice cultivation and production is thought to have originated in Laos. There are many traditions and rituals associated with rice production in different environments and among many ethnic groups. For example, Khammu farmers in Luang Prabang plant the rice variety Khao Kam in small quantities near the hut in memory of dead parents, or at the edge of the rice field to indicate that parents are still alive.
- Sinh is a traditional garment worn by Laotian women in daily life. It is a hand-woven silk skirt which can identify the woman who wears it in a variety of ways. In particular, it can indicate which region the wearer is from.
- Polygamy is officially a crime in Laos, though the penalty is minor. The constitution and Family Code bars the legal recognition of polygamous marriages, stipulating that monogamy is to be the principal way to contract a marriage in the country. Polygamy, however, is still customary among some Hmong people.
- Authority goes with age or seniority, position or status. As a result, the concept of the patriarch is very important. Juniors show deference to seniors and the dictates of the leaders are not questioned. Such behavior is considered upright, prudent and a benefit to society. Control is normally from the top down.
- As part of Lao culture, in greetings, a women’s status derives from that of her husband. For example, if a woman is younger than you but her husband is older or more senior in position then you would greet her in Lao by using the term “older sister.”