(Lao People's Democratic Republic, ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao)
- Location: Southeast Asia
- Capital: Vientiane
- Language(s): Lao
- Population: 6,921,123
- Total Area: 236,800 sq km
- Currency: Kip
- Curious Alcohol Fact: There is a very common beer made locally and it has an interesting name: Bia Lao (meaning Lao beer).
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 6.72 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Bia Lao (local beer), fresh fruit juices
Landlocked in a corner of Southeast Asia, Laos is an interestingly diverse nation. The country is surrounded by other nations as Cambodia, Thailand, the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam and Burma (Myanmar). The country was once a kingdom but it later fell under the control of France and was a colony until the early 1950s when it gained its independence. One feature common throughout the country is its thick vegetation and from north to south, impenetrable forests cover the mountains and hills. There are various rivers in the country like Tha and Banghiang, which are both tributaries of the mighty Mekong River. There are two seasons in the country, there is the rainy season with monsoons and a dry season.
One distinguishing feature of the country is its low population density unlike some other nations in Southeast Asia. Although most of the people are classified as Laotians, there are differences. Laotians (ethnic Lao) make up almost 70% of the population. The Lao people are grouped into three based on the location of their settlement: lowland Lao, midland Lao and highland Lao. Although all these people are called Lao, there are some other different ethnic groups and tribes. These include the Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Dao, Shan and the Yao. One people that will leave you fascinated with their culture are the Hmong who are also called the Miao (or Mao). More than 65% of the people are Theravada Buddhists and some others are Christians and Muslims. However, I noticed that most of the Hmong are animists and spirit worshippers.
The most popular food in the country is made from rice, and is normally served hot and with spices. However, this particular type of dish is common to many of the countries in Southeast Asia, where there are many rice paddies. Rice prepared in Laos is steamed and is served in a special basket made of bamboo. The basket is called tip khao and apart from keeping the food warm and hot, it adds a special flavor to the meal. One food that will leave you asking for more is lap, and is made from chopped meat, fish, chicken and spices. Lemon grass and chillies are used generously in the meals.
If you are a lover of fresh fruit juices, Laos is a country where you will have your fill. There is one called Nam Mak Nao, and is made from lemon and there is the Nam Mak Phao, which is made from coconut milk. In many parts of the country, there is a local brew called bia Lao (or Lao beer), and is widely available, even beyond the borders of the country. Another interesting drink is a whisky called lao-lao (befitting name, isn’t it?). Other beverages that are widely consumed in the country are tea and coffee.
Football and badminton are enjoyed in various parts of Laos but local games and sporting events are also organized, especially in the rural areas. One example of such events is the muay Lao. As a tourist, I also enjoyed the colorful boat regattas in the country.
- Laos was once an amalgamation of kingdoms.
- Opium cultivation is a major activity in the country.
- The nation is known for its Plain of Jars.
- According to the laws, you cannot marry more than one wife in Laos.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria).
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