Laos

With a population of 6.9 million living on an area of 236.000 square kilometres Laos is not only one of the densely populated countries in South-East Asia but also the only landlocked country of the region.  Despite the low population its ethnic variety is one of the largest in Asia. In Laos there are 49 different ethnicities, with depending on the categorization 130 to 240 subgroups. Besides the Laotians, which is the biggest population group, the Hmong, Yao, Akha and Khammou are also important groups which are again divided in subgroups. The huge variety is closely connected with the geography of the county. Many villages are difficult to reach and are therefore still quite isolated even in the 21st century.

 

Im Hochland um Luang Prabang herum

 

Laos is a mountainous, unexploited and untouched country and therefore builds a contrast to its pulsating neighbours Thailand, Vietnam or China. These countries have been the ones Laos had strong relations to and they are still the most important economic partners of the country. The energy of the many hydropower stations at the Mekong river is mainly exported to Thailand. That is why Laos is also called the battery of South-East Asia. With this form of energy generation ecological problems arise. They manifest for example in the change of the decrease of the water level in southern neighbour states Vietnam and Cambodia.
More and more foreign firms are exploiting natural resources like copper, tin and gold. Laos is known as a country rich in natural resources and a lot of these resources haven’t been made available yet. So in this sector great improvement can be expected in the next years.  Though there is a growing industrial branch 75% of the Laotian people are working in farming, growing, rice, tobacco (not tabacco), tee, coffee and different kinds of fruits and vegetables.

 

Terassenreisfelder im Norden

 

The tropical climate offers the possibility to harvest rice two times a year in Laos. The population’s strong connection to agriculture and the two seasons are the reason why the year is separated in two parts: the rainy and the dry season. From mid of May until the beginning of September the monsoon brings wet weather. On the contrary from September to April there is nearly no rain. Laotian New Year “Pi Mai Lao” doesn’t take place on the 31st of December but on the end of the dry season in the mid of April. The Laotians are though celebrating European New Year, Hmong New Year in the beginning of December and Chinese New Year in the beginning of February. The Laotians like to celebrate all kinds of festivities, as they are very welcoming and like coming together, eat, drink, listening, singing and dancing to music with their family, friends and even strangers.
As Laos has a long Buddhist tradition the religion has a huge impact on the Laotian holidays and traditions. The temple is the centre of every village and gives shelter to the socially disadvantaged and to people without familiar support.

 

Wat Ho Pha Keo in Vientiane: Im 16. Jahrhundert erbaut, mehrmals beschädigt und in den 1930-er Jahren wieder renoviert gilt er als einer der schönsten, da ursprünglichsten Tempel in Laos

 

Sources:  CIA World Factbook (2015): East & Southeast Asia: Laos.  In: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/la.html.