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About Laos

Laos People’s Democratic Republic (PDR)

One of the most beautiful countries that border with Viet Nam is Laos. To travel to Laos it is necessary to have a Visa tourism to Laos.

Population: 6.5 million; Capital City: Vientiane (Pop: 750,000); People: Over 48 ethnic groups; Language: Lao; Currency: Kip (KIP); International Dialing Code: +856

Laos officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in southeast Asia, bordered by Burma (Myanmar) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Laos traces its history to the Kingdom of Lan Xang or Land of a Million Elephants, which existed from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century.

After a period as a French protectorate, it gained independence in 1949. A long civil war ended officially when the communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975, but the protesting between factions continued for several years.

Currency

The official currency in Laos is the Lao Kip, which is non-convertible so you will need to bring US dollars to exchange. US dollars are also widely used in bigger cities, particularly in restaurants. Please note that torn and old bank notes are not generally accepted. In areas located near the Thai border, the Thai currency, Baht, is commonly used.  Visa and MasterCard are becoming more accepted in many of the bigger hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities. ATM’s are available in larger cities and tourist spots.

Transportation

Because of its mountainous topography and lack of development, Laos has few reliable transportation routes. This inaccessibility has historically limited the ability of any government to maintain a presence in areas distant from the national or provincial capitals and has limited interchange and communication among villages and ethnic groups. The Mekong and Nam Ou are the only natural channels suitable for large-draft boat transportation, and from December through May low water limits the size of the craft that may be used over many routes. Laotians in lowland villages located on the banks of smaller rivers have traditionally traveled in pirogues for fishing, trading, and visiting up and down the river for limited distances. Otherwise, travel is by ox-cart over level terrain or by foot. The steep mountains and lack of roads have caused upland ethnic groups to rely entirely on pack baskets and horse packing for transportation.

Culture & People:

Culture

Lao cuisine is the cuisine of the Lao ethnic group of Laos and Northeast Thailand (Isan). Lao food is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. The staple food of the Lao is sticky rice. Galangal and fish sauce are important ingredients. The Lao national dish is laap (sometimes also spelled larb), a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of greens, herbs, and spices. Another characteristic dish is tam mak houng (related to som tam in Thai and bok l'hong in Khmer), a spicy green papaya salad.

Lao cuisine has many regional variations, according in part to the fresh foods local to each region. A French influence is also apparent in the capital city, Vientiane, such that baguettes are sold on the street, and French restaurants (often with a naturally Lao, Asian-fusion touch) are common and popular. Vietnamese cuisine is also popular in Laos.

People

69% of the country's people are ethnic Lao, the principal lowland inhabitants and the politically and culturally dominant group. The Lao belong to the Tai linguistic group who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium AD. 8% belong to other "lowland" groups, which together with the Lao people make up the Lao Loum.

Hill people and minority cultures of Laos such as the Hmong (Miao), Yao (Mien), Dao, Shan, and several Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples have lived in isolated regions of Laos for many years. Mountain/hill tribes of mixed ethno/cultural-linguistic heritage are found in northern Laos which include the Lua (Lua) and Khmu people who are indigenous to Laos. Today, the Lua people are considered endangered. Collectively, they are known as Lao Soung or highland Laotians. In the central and southern mountains, Mon-Khmer tribes, known as Lao Theung or mid-slope Laotians, predominate. Some Vietnamese, Chinese and Thailand Thai minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left in two waves; after independence in the late 1940s and again after 1975.

The term "Laotian" does not necessarily refer to the ethnic Lao language, ethnic Lao people, language or customs, but is a political term that also includes the non-ethnic Lao groups within Laos and identifies them as "Laotian" because of their political citizenship.

Food and drink

Traditional Laotian cooking involves a lot of game, wild boar and river fish. The freshness of ingredients is very important to Lao people who like to prepare everything from scratch. Herbs such as galangal and lemongrass are favourites and padaek (Lao fish sauce) is found on every table.

A national dish is called Lap, which is a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes served raw. Like its neighbour countries, rice is a staple food in Laos. However, sticky rice is preferred, which is crushed into a ball with fingers and used to soak up sauces.

Public holidays

Laos New Year is the main public holiday, which is celebrated on the 14th, 15th and 16th April. Not unlike Songkran, the Laos Pee Mai celebration mixes religious tradition with water. Here, water is used more for bathing Buddha images in temples than for dousing foreign tourists. However, water fights are catching on, so be aware when travelling during this period.

 

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