Laos quick facts

16 03 2010

Laos (with a silent s at the end), the land of million elephants, is the home of 6.5 million people, 70% of which are ethnic Lao and 67% exercise Theravada Buddhism.  Laos is more than twice the size of Iceland or six times the size of Switzerland.  The official language in Laos is Lao accompanied by Lao script.

Laos is a land-locked country between Burma, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.  With building of new roads though, you can say that Laos is slowly becoming a land-linked country – a major transport hub between the ever growing economies of China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Laos is, like Vietnam, a communist country but the communist party has since the eighties been relaxing its grip on the whole society.  We weren’t aware of the communist regime at all apart from a few revolutionary flags around governmental buildings.  Laos now welcomes foreign investment and the citizens enjoy more freedom than ever before.  The lack of proper infrastructure is though still hindering progress in Laos even though the country has moved leaps and bounds in recent years.  The country is very mountainous and land travel takes a lot of time – as we have experienced.  Unfortunately water levels are getting lower and lower in the Mekong, after the building of several dams in China, making travel by boat difficult as well.

Rice production still makes up the biggest portion of Laos’ economy but they also grow coffee, tee and opium.  The country is rich in minerals like gold and copper and more areas are being mined every year.  The country is still pretty poor with about 30% of the population under the poverty line.

Laos has the honor of being the most bombed country on this earth.  I read somewhere that during the Vietnam war, the Americans hit Laos by an average of one B-52 bomb load every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973.  That is more explosive power than was used in the whole of WWII.

The last fact is that apparently it is not allowed to play cards in Vientiane!  At least we were eating at this restaurant tonight and were playing “Kleppari” while waiting for our dinner when the manager came and told us that playing cards was not allowed in Vientiane?!?!?

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