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Laos

An excursion into Laos can prove to be a cultural awakening. In spite of recently growing tourism, Laos remains unencumbered by extensive commercialism. Instead, Laos has retained its lush countryside, untamed forests, conventional village life, and old-world charm. Among Southeast Asia's lesser known countries, Laos strikes an impressive balance of culture that is both metropolitan and traditional.

Between the 14th and 16th century, the Kingdom of Lan Xang, also known as "One Million Elephants", reigned over Laos. This kingdom marked one of the most substantial of Southeast Asia's states, and much of the country's current cultural traditions harkened back to this period. At the end of the Lan Xang kingdom, Thailand and Vietnam conquered and ruled in Laos.

In spite of domination by its neighbors, Laos has preserved its own distinct culture and way of life. Though much of the society is represented by lowland, wet-rice growing Buddhists closely resembling Thai, half of the mountain population consists of a wide range of minority groups, each with distinct and intriguing traditions and culture.

Visiting Laos is much like a trip into the past. That Laos is culturally connected to Thailand is evidenced by similarities in language, architecture, and religion. Still, Laos seems more like an older Thailand. Though Laos and Thailand share the waters of the Mekong River, which forms a border between the two, Laos remains a distinctly different nation.

There is an unexpected level of sophistication to Laos culture, evidenced in both architecture and cuisine. Laos exhibits the influence of its many neighbors, and, surprisingly, of France. Lao food is a delicious array of French, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisines. Laos is indeed a nation of many flavors.

Laos Cities and Towns

  • Vientiane (Capital city of Laos)

Laos Map

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