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Standing at the crossroads of Sinitic and Indic Southeast Asia, Laos boasts a rich cultural tapestry woven of ethnic strands from all over the region and from eras past and present. French influences — morning coffee and baguettes, stylish tailleur shops — survive in the ex-colonial districts along the Mekong River, while the great Angkor empire has left behind striking, still-revered stone temples on the slopes of the country's most sacred peak. Perhaps most remarkable of all are the great expanses of wilderness Laos has been able to preserve despite external pressures from near and far. After four centuries of intermittent war with ...

Standing at the crossroads of Sinitic and Indic Southeast Asia, Laos boasts a rich cultural tapestry woven of ethnic strands from all over the region and from eras past and present. French influences — morning coffee and baguettes, stylish tailleur shops — survive in the ex-colonial districts along the Mekong River, while the great Angkor empire has left behind striking, still-revered stone temples on the slopes of the country's most sacred peak. Perhaps most remarkable of all are the great expanses of wilderness Laos has been able to preserve despite external pressures from near and far. After four centuries of intermittent war with Cambodia, China, France, Thailand, USA and Vietnam, Laos — the Land of a Million Elephants — is enjoying its hard-won peace. With the Soviet-installed hammer and sickle gone from the national seal, Laos now charts its own course, and its free-market economy attracts a steady trickle of investors from all over the world. Yet it remains perhaps the most enigmatic and least visited country in Southeast Asia.

Joe Cummings
About the Expert

Joe Cummings has contributed to more than 35 guidebooks, maps, atlases, phrasebooks and photographic works, including his bestselling Lonely Planet Thailand and Buddhist Stupas of Asia: The Shape of Perfection.

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Joe Cummings for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
  • Language: Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
  • Currency: Kip
  • Research: Laos | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight