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Welcome To Laos

Laos People's Democratic Republic, the mighty Mekong in the west and the Annamite Mountains in the east offer natural borders to Thailand and Vietnam respectively, while Laos also shares borders with China in the north, Myanmar in the northwest and Cambodia in the south. With over half of this landlocked country's 236,800sq. km densely forested, and 70% of it mountainous, it is hardly surprising that a profusion of rare flora and over 1,200 species of wildlife finds a home beneath its tropical canopy.

Though archaeologists have discovered stone tools and other artifacts at many sites around Laos that indicate that human settlement in the region dates back as far as 10,000 years, the history of country as it is today truly begins with the first unified kingdom to be established there. Lane Xang - established by the returning prince, Fa Ngoum, in 1349 - brought together the disparate townships that had grown up across the land. Fa Ngoum also installed Theravada Buddhism as the principle religion of the country. From his capital at Luang Prabang.Under threat from both Siamese, Burmese and Chinese invaders in the sixteenth century, the capital of the faltering Lane Xang was moved to Vieng Chan ( Vientiane ) by King Setthathirat in 1560. One of the lowest population densities in Asia, at 19 persons per square km, and an estimated population of only 5.4 million people, belies the fact that Laos is home to 68 different ethnic groups.These fall into three groupings, based upon language, culture and traditions. The fertile Mekong River valley and lowland plains are where 68% of the total population live and this group is classified as the Lao Loam. The mountainous slopes of Laos are inhabited by the Lao Thing, who make up 22% of the country's population. The Lao Soung (Mountain Lao), including Hmong (or Meo) and Yao (or Mien) tribes peoples make up a further 9% of the Laos population, while the remaining 1% are ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese.

A member of the Tai Kadai (or just Kadai) language group, Lao is tonal, very similar to its Thai cousin. In fact there are more Lao speakers in Thailand 's northeastern border lands of Isaan than there are in Laos . The two languages are so similar that Thai television and radio have become very popular among the Lao people.

First introduced by Mon Buddhist monks, Buddhism became widely popular in the fourteenth century when the Theravada form was promoted by Fa Ngoum with the arrival of the country's palladium - the golden Pra Bang Buddha image.

Today, Buddhism is the religion of 90% of the country's 5.4 million people, and its overall influence upon the daily lives of the Lao people has been little altered by the strictures of the Communist government.

The highest position in the Lao government is the President, who is elected every five years by the National Assembly. This head of state also acts as the Commander in Chief of the country's armed forces.




Laos Tour Program
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