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About Laos

Lao at a Glance

 

Country name:

Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR)

Area:

2368,800 km2

Capital:

Vientiane

Official language:

Lao

Spoken language:

Lao - Hmong - Khmu

Population:

6,803,699  (July 2014)

Currency:

Kip (KAK)

Religion

Buddhism

Ethnic groups

Lao, Khmu, Hmong, others

Time zone

ICT

Drives on the

right

Calling code

+856

Internet TLD

.la

Map & Flag of Laos

Laos Map & Flag

 

1. Geography:

Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, divided between the relatively densely populated lowlands on the banks of the Mekong River, where the Laos Loum live, and the more sparsely populated mountainous uplands. In the north, the country’s mountains are higher and are populated by the various Lao Soung ethnic groups. The somewhat lower ranges in the south are populated by groups known for convenience as Lao Theung. The Annamite Chain (Phou Luang in Laos), the watershed which divides Laos and Vietnam, also includes three large high plateaux situated at 1000 m above sea level: The Plain of Jars in Xiang Khoang Province in the north; the poorly-inhabited Nakai Plateau in the central Kammouan Province; and the coffe-growing Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos.

Laos has borders with Vietnam (2130 km), Thailand (1754km), Cambodia (541 km), China (423km) and Myanmar (235km). The entire border with Myanmar is formed by the Mekong River. The border with Thailand is also marked by the Mekong, except in Sanyabouli Province in the west and in Champassak in the south, both of which share land borders with Thailand. The country is one of four in the opium poppy growing region known as the "Golden Triangle". The border with Chinese province of Yunna is mountainous, as is much of the border with Vietnam (the Annamite Chain). The land border with Cambodia (Champassak and Attapu on the Lao side, Stung Trang and Ratanakiri in Cambodia) is sparsely populated.

Mekong River valley elevations very between 300 and 70m. The terrain rises in the southern highlands to a height of about 1000m and peaks reach over 2000m in the north. Laos’ highest mountain is Phu Bia (2817m), in Xiang Khoang Province.

2. Rivers:

Laos has not any coastline. The Mekong is around 4000 km long, beginning in Tibet with some half of its length within China’s borders. 1865 km flow through Laos (of which 1500 km forms the border with Thailand) and is the main line of communication through Laos.

The Mekong within Laos is served by 13 important tributaries. Chief among these is the Nam Ou, 488 km in length, traditionally the primary line of communication between Luang Prabang and Phong Saly in the north, continuing on to the Chinese border.

3. Climate:

Laos  has  a  tropical monsoon  climate with  two  distinct  seasons May  to October  is  the  rainy  season and November  to April  is  the dry  season.  It gets hottest in March and April when temperatures can reach as high as 38C/100F.  The lowest  temperatures,  usually  in  December  are around 15C/59F. The average temperature is between 25C/77F and 30C/84F.

4. Language:

The official and dominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. The Lao Loum speak Lao-Thai dialects, the Lao Theung have Mon-Khmer languages or other upland dialects (Khmu is one of the most widespread), and the Lao Soung speak mainly Hmong, Yao, Akha or other Sino-Tibetan or Tibeto-Burman’ languages. Lowland Lao is also spoken is Thailand’s north-eastern provinces, where ethnic Lao are in fact much more numerous than in Laos itself.

French is still commonly used in government and commerce and over a third of Laos' students are educated through the medium of French with French being compulsory for all other students. Throughout the country signage is bilingual in Laotian and French, with French being predominant. English, the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has become increasingly studied in recent years

5. Religion:

67% of Laotians are Theravada Buddhist, 1.5% are Christian, and 31.5% are other or unspecified (mostly practitioners of Satsana Phi) according to the 2005 census. Buddhism has long been one of the most important social forces in Laos. Theravada Buddhism has coexisted peacefully since its introduction to the country with the local polytheism.