Laos, the «land of a million elephants», is still very isolated and difficult to access. The approx. 4 million inhabitants are very strongly connected to their Buddhist religion.
Vientiane is the starting point for trips to Luang Prabang or to the high plateaus in the north (with the strategically important “plain of the jars”) as well as to Pakse in the south of the country.
According to topmbadirectory, the state of Laos borders on China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar and has around 7 million inhabitants in an area of 236,800 km².
The narrow southern part of Laos lies on the Indochinese Peninsula between Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. The northern part of the country lies on the actual Southeast Asian mainland, where Laos also shares borders with Myanmar and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
Laos has a tropical climate with high temperatures, although the large differences in altitude can lead to strong regional temperature fluctuations. The climate is strongly influenced by the monsoons. The summer or southwest monsoon, which is associated with heavy rainfall and high humidity, prevails from May to October. Rainfall averages 1778 millimeters during this period, while a dry and cooler climate is encountered between November and February due to the north-east monsoon. In the months of March and April, the climate is hot and humid.
Large-scale deforestation in recent decades has lowered the groundwater level in some areas, leading to a precarious drinking water situation in Laos. In addition, a large number of animal and plant species are threatened with extinction due to the destruction of the habitat of flora and fauna. In 1996, 68 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish were listed as endangered. However, about 14 percent of the territory is now protected. Forests are primarily threatened by logging, clearing for arable land, and fuel extraction, with wood providing about 8 percent of the country’s energy needs. Annual forest loss is estimated at around 3000 square kilometers.
Flora and Fauna
The country is about 50% forested. There are both rainforests with tropical plants and monsoon forests. Around 8% of the forests are classified as virgin forest. Laos is home to predatory species such as leopards and tigers. As in other Southeast Asian countries, working elephants are used as pack animals.
The population of about 7 million is very unevenly distributed across the territory. The plains on the Mekong have the highest population density, especially the region around the capital. The mountainous areas in the east and north are very sparsely populated. In 2015, 38.6% of the population lived in cities. With the economic boom, urbanization is progressing rapidly and the urban population is growing by about 5% annually. The largest urban center, Vientiane has a population of approximately 600,000.
Language and writing
From a linguistic perspective, there are four major language families in Laos, namely the Tai-Kadai, Mon-Khmer, Tibeto-Burmese and Hmong-Yao families. This subdivision is subject to discussion and changes – in the 1985 census there were still six language families. Laos is a country with an extraordinary linguistic diversity, especially considering the small number of inhabitants, but due to its remoteness it is still very little explored. The exact number of distinguishable languages is unknown and is given as between 70 and 120.
Urbanization and Cities
The largest cities in Laos are (as of March 1, 2015) Vientiane (population 620,157), Savannakhet (population 91,684), Pakse (Pakxé) (population 68,093), Luang Prabang (population 66,781) and Phonsavan (population 48,643).
Laotian cultural practices are often influenced by religion. In earlier times, the Buddhist temples formed the spiritual center of every village. The life of the Laotian population was determined by religion and most everyday actions took place according to the Buddhist calendar. Known as the cities of a thousand temples, Vientiane and Luang Prabang boast a large number of examples of traditional art and architecture. The Royal Palace in Luang Prabang and That Luang Stupa in Vientiane are the most famous national shrines in Laos.