The state of Laos borders China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
The most important river is the Mekong, which originates in Tibet and branches out into a river delta of over 39,000 km² near Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam). The Mekong Delta drains into the South China Sea.
The country is about 50 % wooded. There are both rainforests with tropical plants and monsoon forests. Around 8% of the forests are classified as primeval forests.
Laos is home to predators such as leopards and tigers. As in the other countries of Southeast Asia, work elephants are used as pack animals.
The Buddhist temples used to be the spiritual center of every village in earlier times. The life of the Laotian people was determined by religion and most of their activities were carried out according to the Buddhist calendar. Vientiane and Luang Prabang are known as cities of the thousand temples and have a large number of examples of traditional art and architecture. The Royal Palace in Luang Prabang and the That-Luang-Stupa in Vientiane are the most famous national sanctuaries in Laos.

Culture & Community

The plains of the Mekong are the most densely populated, especially the region around the capital city. The mountainous areas in the east and north are sparsely populated.

Less than one third of the population lives in cities. Vientiane, the largest urban agglomeration, has a population of about 600,000.

The main religion in Laos is Theravada Buddhism, which came to the area of present-day Laos around 800 AD. It is a common custom for boys or young men to spend a few days to weeks in a temple as monks. Many families also have a small altar in their house.

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The Lao population of 4.9 million is ethnically and linguistically diverse. The government has defined 49 ethnic groups, many of them have their own language. School attendance, literacy and other indicators of educational success vary widely between ethnic groups.


The official and dominant language is Lao, a sound language of the Tai Linguistic Group. However, only slightly more than half of the population can speak Lao. The rest, especially in rural areas, speak ethnic minority languages. The Lao alphabet, which developed between the 13th and 14th centuries, was derived from the old Khmer script and is very similar to Thai and is easily understood by the readers of the Thai script.

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Laos cuisine is different from other Southeast Asian cuisines. Lao’s staple food is steamed sticky rice eaten by hand. The Lao eat more steamed sticky rice than any other person in the world. It is considered the essence of what it means to be Lao.
Breakfast is often served with rice and sun-dried beef with salt and sugar. Popular side dishes are also jao mak len, a paste of chili and fish, or padek, pickled salted and fermented fish, which is a staple food, fresh mangoes, grated coconut, tamarind and fried eggs. Apart from rice, a main meal usually includes soup, vegetables and fish or meat as well as a hot seasoning sauce.