The Lao Country
Laos is landlocked country situated south of China, north of Cambodia, east of Thailand and Burma, and west of Vietnam. It has an area of 91,000 square miles, about the size of the state of Oregon. Its largest river is the Mekong, which enters Laos from the north and runs the length of the country. The soil of the Mekong River valley from central to southern Laos is very rich. The northern and eastern parts of Laos are mountainous. The Animate Mountains in east serve as a buffer against any large storms or hurricanes from the China Sea. Other than the occasional flooding of the Mekong, the Lao people have never experienced a major natural disaster. Even these floods cause little damage or injury, because the valley people live in houses built on stilts.
The economy of Lao is based largely on agriculture, rice being the most important product. Prior to the war in Vietnam, Laos's rice production was extensive that much of it could be exported. Because of the lack of transportation and communication, economic development is limited. There are no railroads, and rapids at several points interrupt some of the highways, the Mekong River.
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THE PEOPLES OF LAOS
Although Laos is a thinly populated country, there are many ethnic groups living within its borders. The lowland Lao who live along the rivers constitute approximately half the population is the largest single group. Other ethnic groups, upland (Lao Theung) and highland (Hmong and Mein) Lao often support themselves by "slash and burn" farming. Although the government has encouraged increased interdependence, these groups have remained autonomous. All have their own languages and cultures, so assimilation into the broader Lao culture has been slow. The fact that 80% of the people live in villages has enabled them to retain their traditional beliefs.Temple Cave in North of Laos
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