Politics & The Economy

At first glance the politics and economy of Laos seem simple enough: a one- party system is controlled by ageing revolutionaries that themselves have me a new elite, who have the power to control the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, can squash any dissent and cooperate enough with foreign donors to keep the aid dollars coming in. But this generalization is just that – the reality is more complex.

Ethnic Groups

Laos is often described as less a nation state than a conglomeration of tribes and languages. And depending on who you talk with, that conglomeration consists of between 49 and 134 different ethnic groups. (The lower figure ii that now used by the government).

Population

Laos has one of the lowest population densities in Asia, but the total population has more than doubled in the last 30 years, and continues to grow.

Women in Laos

For the women of Laos roles and status vary significantly depending on their ethnicity, but it’s fair to say that whatever group they come from they are seen as secondary to men. 

Religion

About 60% of the people of Laos – mostly in lowland, with sprinklings of tribal Thais – are Theravada Buddhists. Theravada Buddhism was apparently introduced to Luang Prabang (then known as Muang Sawa) in the late 13th or early 14th centuries, though there may have been contact Mahayana Buddhism during the 8th to 10th centuries and with Tant Buddhism even earlier.

Arts

The focus of most traditional art in Lao culture has been religious, specifically Buddhist. Yet, unlike the visual arts of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, lever encompassed a broad range of styles and periods, mainly become has a much more modest history in terms of power and because existed as a political entity for a short period. 

Sports

Like most poor countries, you won’t read much about Laos when the Olympic circus sets up its tent. Laos has never won an Olympic medal or much else in the international sporting arena, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete sporting black hole.

Food and Drinks

Lao food doesn’t have the variety and depth of the more famous cuisine of neighboring China, Thailand andVietnam, but you can eat well in Laos if you take the time to learn a little about the cuisine while you’re there. While few people travel to this country with food as their prime objective, a little experimentation can take you a long way towards appreciating the cuisine can be very rewarding.

Dangers & Annoyances (Laos)

Over the last 15 years or so Laos has earned reputation among visitors as a remarkably safe place to travel with little crime reported and few of the scams so often found in more places such as Vietnam, Cambodiaand Thailand. 

Travelers with Disabilities

With its lack of paved roads or footpaths (sidewalks) – even when present the latter are often uneven – Laospresents many physical obstacles for people with mobility impairments. 

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