Used to be known in the past as Lan Xang (Land of a Million Elephants), Laos is a landlocked and the most mysterious of the former French occupied land.
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Laos, a landlocked country, shares its borders with Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The country is bounded between the latitudes 14 -23 degrees North and the longitudes 100-108 degrees East; the whole country is within the tropic region.
Laos' climate is driven by monsoons which is similar to other South-East Asian countries. But different areas of the country have slightly different average temperatures and annual rainfalls.
Most parts of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand were inhabited as early as 10,000 years ago. Many of the ethnic groups in this area belonged to the Austro-Asiatic ethno-linguistic family.
Before 1975, different areas of Laos were ruled by different kings. In the 19th century the French came and Laos was integrated into French Indochina along with Vietnam and Cambodia. In October 1953, Laos was independent from France through the French – Laotian Treaty, the first Indochina War was finished, but the country didn't enjoy peace then. There were different political factions in Laos at the time, fighting for influence in different areas of the country. In the mean time, Indochina was ready to come into a new war with foreign involvement- the Second Indochina War, which would not come to an end in 1975.
After many years of warfare, peace finally came to Laos in 1975 along with the other Indochinese neighbors: Vietnam and Cambodia. The Lao government took total control of the country in 1975 when the economy was in a bankrupt state. Between 1975 – 1979, the Lao government implemented accelerated socialization policy which nationalized all important economic sectors and collectivized agriculture. The country took a change for the worse: crumbling public infrastructure, lack of food and consumer goods, higher rate in infant mortality and shorter life expectancy. The worsening conditions pushed the Lao government to stop accelerating the socialization policy and turned to consolidating existing state-owned businesses while stopping the expansion of socialization and collectivization. Also in 1979, the Lao government implemented a new policy changes which allow a free-floating currency and free commodity pricing which helped to bring the economy gradually to a more stable state.
According to the 2006 estimate, Laos has a population of 6,368,481 people with an annual growth rate of 2.39%. Life expectancy of the total population is 55.5 years and infant mortality is high at 83 deaths per 1000 live births. On average, a woman has 4.68 children. Laos is a multi-ethnic society of which over 60% follows Buddhism. The literacy rate is high at 66.4%.