A landlocked country, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is located in south-east Asia. It is surrounded by Myanmar (Burma) and the People’s Republic of China on the north-west, Vietnam on the east, Cambodia on the south and Thailand on the west.
Considering that the population of Laos is fairly small, it is made up of 49 ethnic groups. The Lao, Hmong and Khmou make up roughly ¾ of the population. A large number of the ethnic groups in Laos are petite, many having only a few hundred affiliates.
The official religion practiced in Laos is Buddhism. While the stupa of Pha That Luang is the official symbol on the state seal, there is yet a lot of animism mixed in the celebrated ceremonies. Like the Baci ceremony practiced to celebrate significant events like marriages, births, beginning a new year, recovery from a serious illness or entrance into monkhood etc.
Even though most people use western style of dressing now, according to Lao customs women should sport phaa sin, a long sarong designed in patterns distinctive to different regions, while men’s dress is composed of the phaa biang sash. Buddhism is seen in every aspect of life in the country starting with language to art, literature and performing arts. Many elements of Lao culture date prior to Buddhism. The national musical instrument, the khaen (similar to a bamboo pipe), has origins in prehistory.
Staple food of Laos consists of sticky rice. The production of this variety of rice is thought to have originated in Laos and it holds significance in religion and culture of the country. The Khammu farmers in Luang Praband cultivate Khao Kam near their huts in limited quantities in memory of deceased parents. When planted at the edge of a rice field, it indicates that the parents are still alive. Rice is the dominant agriculture crop with about 80% of the arable land used towards its cultivation.
Tourism in Laos is growing in leaps and bounds with one out of approximately eleven jobs associated with the tourism sector. Tourism goods purchased by international visitors are earning the country nearly fifteen percent of its total exports.
Government: Communist state, Socialist state
Language: Lao (official), French, English
Currency: Kip (KN)
Total Area: 91,428 sq mi (236,800 sq km
Religion: Buddhist, animist and spirit cults
Dialling Code: +856