Allworld country profile: Laos
Among the traveler and backpacker scene, there’s a common list of countries for them to bop between, including Thailand (of course), Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and now, the Philippines for some. But there’s another country right there, nestled in between Thailand, Vietnam, China and Myanmar (Burma) that’s utterly fascinating and beautiful, yet far less commonly visited.
This country is Laos (have you even heard of it?) and today, you’ll get an AllWorld.com rundown on the southeastern Asian nation you should definitely add to your list.
One reason why Laos is a less popular travel option is the fact that it’s landlocked – the only country in the region that doesn’t have any ocean coastline, but there is still plenty to do and see in nature.
Laos population: 6.7 million
Land mass: 91,400 sq miles (236,800 sq km) – about the same area as the UK or Romania.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
In Laos, the major languages are Lao and French as well. English is spoken in small part in tourist areas and among those who work in tourism.
Buddhism is the major religion with about 65% of the population practice it, but 31% still observe some form of Laotian folk religion.
Laos is still an extremely poor country, with a GDP of only $14.97 billion. About 80% of the population works in agriculture, with rice being their main staple crop.
Laos became a French protectorate in 1853, like a few other countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.) in the area. The Laotian people were granted independence from France in 1953.
Warfare and Communism:
After independence, Laos was torn between Royalists and the Communist ideology that perpetrated the region and led to the Vietnam War, which Laos was involved in. Communist forces took over Laos in 1975 and an era of isolationism ensued. It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Soviet Union fell that Laos opened up and started showing signs of accepting modern ways of life. But Laos is still has a Communist government.
Since the 2000s and especially in the last decade, Laos has started to open up to the world, making allies of many nations including the U.S. In 2011, Laos opened their own stock market, and in 2013, they became a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But it is still a very Communist country, as in 2014, the government took over strict control of that nation’s internet service through highly-censored state media.
There is actually legislation calling for Laos social media users to post their real names when they make accounts! What a great idea!
While this may not be a rosy profile of a modern, happy nation, you’ll find that Lao is an amazing place to visit. It’s safe, affordable, and the people are accommodating and extremely gracious to have you as their guests. A lot of people fly into Vientiane, the capital, and take long bus rides from there. The picturesque area around Vang Vieng is also backpacker central with it’s incredible (but dangerous) tubing expeditions on the river. But my favorite destination in Laos is the majestic Luang Prabang, which makes you feel like you’ve been transported 100 years back in time.
Enjoy Laos and don’t forget to bring your camera!