23 Interesting Facts About Laos You Should Know And Take Into Account
Few tourists have been visiting Laos since the country has no access to the sea. As a rule, the travelers prefer Thailand while planning their vacations. Meanwhile, Laos possesses a unique history and culture. Besides, this country is suitable for a Western tourist since the streets are clean while the locals are friendly, similar to the inhabitants of other Buddhist countries. In addition, it's worth noting that there are in fact some places where you could swim in Laos. So, if you're going to visit Laos or this country is the subject of your research or school report, let's get acquainted with some exciting facts about this sunny country.
Laos is underpopulated country. Only a little more than 7.1 million (depending on the source ) people dwell here. The number of citizens is almost equal to the population of a large European city. As a result, you won't feel here like on the Chinese beach.
The residents of Laos are very religious. For instance, you can stumble upon a temple in the town of Luang Prabang at every turn. Indeed, there is no other city where the concentration of the shrines is so high. They were built literally back to back. That's why Luang Prabang is under the protection of UNESCO .
No sea but you still can swim
Many tourists avoid visiting Laos since there is no sea. However, as mentioned above, you still can swim in Laos thanks to the abundance of waterfalls (for instance, Kuang Si Falls and Tat Sae Waterfalls). The water here is so clear and possesses such turquoise tint that your photos might be similar to those from the Maldives.
The best place for the elephant ride
Laos is the best country for the elephant ride. We suggest you visit the MandaLao elephant camp for these purposes. In the 1980s, there were an estimated 4,000 elephants in Laos . However, within the past thirty years, the population decreased by more than 75%. As a result, this mammal means so much to the locals. That's why they cherish the elephants. As a tourist, you thereby might get the unforgettable emotions from visiting the elephant farm. By the way, you can swim with the elephants in the Mekong river here.
Peacefulness excepting two days a year
It's utterly quiet in Laos. As a result, this country is the best place for rehab, relaxation, and meditation. However, there is the party time. During the Pi Mai (Lao New Year, April 14 to April 16), which is less commonly known as Songkran, the locals go crazy. The peaceful and picturesque towns and villages turn into the utter madness due to the incredibly loud music and the custom to pour water on each other.
Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony
Luang Prabang is famous among the tourists, thanks to the so-called Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony. To watch the procession of monks, you must wake up early morning. The ritual looks ambivalent. On the one hand, that's the only way for the monks to obtain some food. On the other, over the years, the procession turned into the show . However, in any case, you must see the ritual at least once in your life.
The Plain of Jars
There is one mysterious place in Laos, called The Plain of Jars. The attraction locates in the town of Phonsavan, 400km northeast of Vientiane . There are dozens of jars spread across the valley. However, the mystery of how the megaliths of such a curious shape got here remains unsolved within 2,500 years. The research on the spot is complicated due to the fact that there remained a lot of bombs abandoned during the Vietnam War.
A curious situation happens at the bridge between Laos and Thailand. The cause of the trouble is the difference in the driving style (right-hand traffic vs. left-hand traffic.) As a result, it was decided to change the traffic each week to avoid the possible conflicts.
Although Laos is a socialist state, the country flag doesn't contain any communist symbolism we used to see on other emblems of the socialist camp. The national flag has been designed by Maha Sila Viravong , who claims that the white disk in the center symbolizes the unity of the Lao people. Another opinion is that the circle depicts a full moon against the Mekong River. However, if you paid a visit to Laos during the hot season, you might have seen the sun behind the gray cloud because of forest fires. The shape of the sun in such a case possesses the exact circle shape like on the national flag.
Most tourists don't see the country
Most tourists who visit Laos arrive in the country, having only one goal, to extend their Thai visa (a visa run). As a result, the most visited attraction in Vientiane is the Thai embassy. Because of this, only a few tourists obtain a chance to get acquainted with this country. On the other hand, if you prefer peacefulness and calmness, you could try to stay in Laos for a while.
But if you were lucky to book a hotel in Laos, you might be surprised by the hospitality of the locals. That's why Laos is the paradise for backpackers. If you hear that your neighbors have a party, you don't need a special invitation. All you need is just visit the nearby hotel to drink and eat for free. Of course, we don't suggest you abuse hospitality. But be sure, Laotians would likely invite you to join the party by themselves.
The local beer called BeerLao possesses a pleasant taste. You have to try this beverage. The reason is that you won't experience a hangover if you drunk two-three bottles of BeerLao. Of course, such an experience could be subjective. Nonetheless, we'd recommend you the Laos beer.
Flora & Fauna
Even though Laos adjoin Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia, this country is distinguished thanks to unique flora and fauna. For instance, only in Laos, you can meet Irrawaddy dolphins who dwell in the Mekong River. Also, the country posses the incredible variety of species new to science . As a result, Laos presents a treasury of wildlife and biodiversity.
Former French colony
Since Laos is the former French colony (1893–1953), the country has inherited the respective heritage. As a result, if you want to impress your friends, you might make a photo in front of any Colonial building, to force them to guess which country is in the picture. Aside from architecture, French food is widespread in Laos as well.
If you desire to visit the night market in any Lao town, you might face a lot of hand-made goods. The most distinguished among them is Lao silk. Unlike other silk manufacturing countries of the region, Lao silk is 100% hand-made. In Laos, each family develops own technique and decorative patterns . As a result, each product made of silk is individual.
Given the fact that Laos once be a part of the Khmer Empire, there remained one attraction of the epoch. Vat Phou  is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex which is situated in southern Laos. Though the ruins don't look so impressive as those of Angkor Wat, this historical site is little known to the Western tourists. As a result, you might enjoy the beauty of the ancient temple almost alone, having no barriers to study it.
Laos has over 4,000 islands. Although the country has no sea, the Mekong River flows across Laos. The river includes a group of islands called Si Phan Don (meaning 4000 islands). We'd recommend you to read the reviews on TripAdvisor  if you're going to visit this tourist attraction in Laos.
Vietnam War legacy
Laos is the country which enormously suffered from the Vietnam War. During the wartime, 87,793 people died in the raid, 40,918 were injured, and 1,008,005 people lost their homes, according to the estimation published in The Asia-Pacific Journal . As a result, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in history.
Buddha Park is also known as Xieng Khuan is a tourist attraction located 25 km southeast of Vientiane. This park contains 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues. Even though all the statues look ancient, they, unfortunately, are freshly built. The park was founded only in 1958 by Luang Pu, a priest-shaman who integrated Hinduism and Buddhism .
Today is complicated to purchase a natural gemstone. Fortunately, there are some places on earth where you can buy the one. Laos is rich in sapphires, which mostly deposit close to Ban Houayxay . By the way, there are only two locations in the world having the deposits of natural sapphires, Laos, and Cambodia.
Buddhism & Communism
Laos is the only country where Buddhism intertwines with communism . Perhaps you know that communism refuses religion. Nonetheless, in the case of Laos, the regime and belief may coexist together. Moreover, the ruling elite encourages the citizens to become monks.
The earliest fossil
Lao skull is the earliest example of modern human fossil in Southeast Asia, according to the discovery during the excavations in 2012. These fossils were about 16,000 years old, much younger than the newly found skull, which dates to between 46,000 and 63,000 years old, according to the Illinois News Bureau .
Lao currency Kip has no coins. The currency was introduced in 1952. However, similar to Cambodia, you may use the US dollars and Thai baht instead of the local money. Nonetheless, like in any other country with the incredible devaluation, it's better to pay using Lao Kips in the local cafe or restaurant. Otherwise, you may pay a double price.
List of references:
- CIA Fact Book ?
- Laos Tourism Marketing Department, Ministry of Information ?
- UNESCO: Town of Luang Prabang ?
- CNN ?
- The Telegraph ?
- BBC ?
- Wikipedia: Flag of Laos ?
- Tourism Laos ?
- Handmade wild silk in all Lao country ?
- UNESCO: Vat Phou ?
- TripAdvisor: Si Phan Don ?
- The Asia-Pacific Journal: A Forgotten Holocaust ?
- Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & the Greater Mekong (Nick Ray, Thomas Huhti, Lonely Planet, 2007) ?
- MinDat: Ban Huay Xai sapphire mines ?
- The Washington Post: Buddhism in Laos Adapts to Communist Tenets ?
- Illinois News Bureau: Lao skull earliest example of modern human fossil in Southeast Asia ?