Laos is a landlocked nation in southeast Asia, occupying the northwest of the Indochinese peninsula. Its bordering countries are Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and China. Laos is hilly and mountainous, with verdant valleys and dozens of rivers. Its highest point is Phou Bia, which rises some 2,817m into the sky.
Laos has a tropical climate, which is strongly influenced by monsoons. It is a sunny country which also has a high rate of rainfall, as well as plenty of humidity. The average temperature ranges from 22ºC to 27ºC throughout the year. The ‘winter’ season is dry, while summer is humid and rainy. The minimum temperature in Laos is around 18C so if you are visiting, make sure to take lots of light, breathable clothing with you.
Laos is famed for its stunning architecture and natural landscapes alike. Luang Prabang, a small town featuring over 30 temples and stunning royal palaces, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, perched some 700 metres above sea level and embraced by lush mountains. The area boasts romantic waterfalls and the waters of the Mekong River, offering ample opportunity to enjoy a swim and cool down after time spent under the sizzling sun. That Luang, a beautiful stupa in Vientiane, is the most scared monument in the country, while Vang Vieng, with its magnificent mountains, limestone cliffs and rice fields, is an absolute paradise for nature enthusiasts. Laos is, indeed, filled with natural landscapes that seem taken from a blockbuster film; to appreciate its majestic beauty, check out images of the amazing Bolaven Plateau and Tad Fane waterfall, in southern Laos.
The lower Mekong basin has been inhabited for 10,000 years or more. The first settlers in Laos were relatives of the Khmer people, who call Cambodia home to this day. In the 14th century, prince Fa Ngum declared himself king of the country he called ‘the Kingdom of a Million Elephants’. In the late 18th century, the Siamese took over Laos, until the French expelled the Siamese and renamed the country Laos. The French took control of Laos until 1945, when the Japanese took the country as their own for a short period. Laos became fully independent in 1953. During the Vietnam War, many Laotians fled their country, as the war began to encroach upon their territory. Today, Laos continues to be influenced by many countries, including China, which has expanded its investment and trade interests in this country. Both countries have agreed to build a $7 billion high-speed railway to link these and other countries.
Laos’ tropical rainforest boasts three vegetative layers: the top contains tall trees called dipterocarps, the middle consists of hardwood such as teak, and the bottom layer comprises grass and occasionally, bamboo. Laos is also home to several exotic animals, such as the saola ox (a type of deer-antelope), exotic leopard cats, and powerful Malayan sun and Asiatic black bears. Large mammals calling Laos home, meanwhile, include tigers, Asian elephants and five different species of gibbon. If you’ve always wanted to see dolphins swimming in the wild, head for the Mekong River, home to many wildlife species.
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