As one of countries starting with L, Laos is a popular holiday destination for backpackers traveling around Southeast Asia. Most tourists come here for the beautiful nature and culture of the country. The vast majority of the inhabitants of Laos are Buddhist. There are also many Buddhist temple complexes here.
The first inhabitants of the region where Laos is located were the Hmong people who settled here 10,000 years BC on the banks of the Mekong River. Little is known about the history of Laos from the centuries that followed. In the eighth century AD, Laos was part of the divided kingdom of Chenla. The prince of Chenla Jayavarman II comes to power here and founds the city of Wat Phou. The northern part of Laos is then ruled by Thai kings.
In the fourteenth century Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang here, which will turn out to be the predecessor of present-day Laos. This kingdom lasted for several centuries until it split into three parts in the early eighteenth century. After this comes the Kingdom of Luang Prabang, the Kingdom of Vientiane and the Kingdom of Champassak.
At the end of the nineteenth century the French conquered the area after which it was added to the then Union of Indochina. Before the addition of Laos, Indochina consisted of parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the country. After the war, the French took over power here again.
In 1954 the First Indochina War took place here, after which the French were expelled and Laos became an independent Kingdom. After a military coup, the army comes to power here, which together with the United States try to expel the communist guerrilla tropics from the country. This war will later go down in the books as the Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War. Countless bombs were dropped in the border region between Vietnam and Laos during the war. This still makes this region unsafe.
After the Vietnam War, Laos became a communist country with political ties to the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country became more open and more accessible to tourists.
Loas is nowadays a fairly safe country to visit as a tourist, although you do have to keep a close eye on the current political situation here. The inhabitants are friendly and hospitable, but in most cases they are very poor.
Laos is known for its many beautiful caves such as Konglor Cave, Pak Ou Caves and the Caves at Vang Vieng with the famous Tham Jang and Tham Phou Kham caves. In the vicinity of Vieng Xai there are a total of more than 500 caves, some of which can be visited.
The city of Vang Vieng is known as the backpacker paradise of Laos. The city attracts many tourists who come here mainly for the water sports activities on the Mekong River. The so-called Tuben is the most popular here. However, this is not without danger and there are regular fatalities. This is often due to the combination of alcohol, drugs and the current in the Mekong River.
Laos is also known for its many beautiful temple complexes. These can be viewed throughout the country. Some fine examples of temples include Wat Si Saket in the capital Vientiane and Wat Phou in Champassak Province.
There are about twenty protected nature areas in Laos. The most famous of these are Xe Pian, Nam Ha, Phou Khao Khouay and Phoun Hin Boun. Elephants, tigers and various species of gibbons live in these parks.
Laos has two inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1995, the entire city of Luang Prabang was added to the list. The city is located on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang Province. Luang Prabang has been the capital of Laos several times and is still considered the most important city in the country.
In 2001 the Angkorian ruin Wat Phou and the surrounding cultural landscape of Champassak were added to the Unesco World Heritage List. This temple complex was founded in the ninth century AD by Jayavarman II as the capital of the Khmer Empire. The Hindu character of this complex makes it unique in its kind.
Most of Laos has a tropical climate. The largest part of this is the tropical savanna climate in the east of Laos has the tropical monsoon climate, in the north of Laos the china climate occurs. This part of Laos is a lot drier than the more southern parts of the country. The average temperature here is slightly lower.
In parts of Laos where the tropical climate occurs, the average daytime temperature is just above thirty degrees Celsius and rarely falls below that. The rainy season here lasts from May to November. On average, a little over 1,600 millimeters of precipitation falls here on an annual basis.
The higher parts of the country are on average a lot colder. The windward side of the mountains are a lot wetter than the leeward side of the mountains.
Tropical storms and hurricanes can occur in the second part of the year. The chance that they really reach the interior of Laos is small due to the inland location of the country. If a hurricane is strong enough to reach the interior of Laos, it immediately wreaks havoc on it.
Laos is located in southeastern Asia and has land borders with Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, China and Myanmar. The Mekong River runs through the country as a lifeline. This river is also the main artery of the country. The roads here are so bad that most freight and passenger transport goes over the river. Usually this happens in small wooden boats.
Most of Laos consists of mountains. Only the areas around the Mekong River are relatively flat. Most towns and villages are located in this area. Mount Phou Bia is the highest point in the country at 2,819 meters. This mountain is part of the Annamite mountain range.
The capital Vientiane is the largest city in the country. Other important cities in Laos are Champassak, Kaysone Phomvihane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Paksong, Phonsavan, Sam Neua and Xhieng Khusang.
There are no trains in Laos except for a connection with Thailand. There are only a few highways in the whole country. The government is working to improve the condition of the roads, but this will take decades.
The travel advice for Laos has been vigilant for some years now. This is mainly due to the limited medical facilities available in the country. If you have a serious accident or a medical condition here, it is best to travel to a hospital in the neighboring country of Thailand.
Traffic in Laos is known to be very dangerous. The road surface here is in very bad condition. Tourists are advised not to go on the road after sunset. The tourist town of Vang Vieng is known for its water sports. Think of tubing, rafting, kayaking or racing with a speedboat on the Mekong River. A relatively large number of accidents sometimes result in fatalities.
In the Xien Khouang province and in the border area with Vietnam, there are land mines and unexploded explosives. It is wise not to go off the main roads in this area.
For a visit to Laos you must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months after departure. Upon arrival at the airport or at another border crossing, you will need to purchase and complete a tourist visa. The price is approximately USD 35, which must be paid in cash. For this tourist visa one must bring one passport photo in color.
However, if you want to stay in Laos for more than thirty days, you must apply for a visa at the embassy of Laos.
|Phone (country code)||856|
|Language(s) (official)||Laotiaans of Lao|
|Language(s) (colloquial)||Lao and sometimes flawed English|
|Time difference summer||In Laos it is 5 hours later than in the Netherlands|
|Time difference winter||In Laos it is 6 hours earlier than in the Netherlands|
|Daylight Saving Time Control||nee|