Laos (officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic) was a part of the Asia trip I took in February. At the time, the only thing I really knew about Laos was that it had a pretty awesome waterfall. I figured, why not? I’ll probably enjoy it there, but I was more interested in Thailand and Cambodia. I didn’t even really know how to pronounce the name! (Phonetically, ‘L-ow’, not ‘Louse’, the ‘s’ is silent).
Laos turned out to be my favourite part of the trip. One thing I learned was that it never hurts to ask, which resulted in my ‘sailing’ (heavily supervised) a traditional Laos longboat down the Mekong River, the 12th largest in the world. It also meant when our boat took an unexpected stop on the banks of that river, I was one of the first people onto the sand, with the wild jungle looming above me. These are experiences I will always remember, and I’m so thankful I was able to find the courage to ask if I could.
Some interesting facts about Laos:
- Laos longboats are typically 38m in length and very brightly coloured!
- Poorest country in the world, most bombed country in the world.
- The secret war on Laos happened as planes bombing Vietnam would drop what was left of their bombs when flying back to base. There is still a big problem today with unexploded bombs being found.
- 30% of the population survive on traditional living, with 70% of that amount possessing no money but relying entirely on trading for their needs.
- The curfew in Laos is 11pm, so the ‘wild nightlife’ happens in bowling alleys.
- In Vang Vieng, a tradition was started where they float down the river in inflatable tubes. This makes it a popular destination and had a pub-crawl atmosphere as bars began popping up on the side of the river. Unfortunately, this has led to many accidents (water and alcohol can be a bad combination) so the town is trying to put a halt to this.
- The majority of Laos’ elephants have been captured by/for mahouts, as this is the easiest way to protect them from poaching
- 30% of the population practice animism, which is the ‘attribution of a living soul [or supernatural power] to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena’, according to Google. You will often see little temple-houses with offerings in them on the side of rivers or houses.
- The practice of setting lantern boats to sail down the river is a practice begun in Laos by the king’s ‘foreign’ wife, who practices it as part of her faith.
- Viper whisky is incredibly strong.
I would definitely recommend visiting Laos. Be aware when visiting the waterfalls that other tourists don’t have the same societal barriers when it comes to taking photos with other people, and some people will ask for photos with you.
Laos is an incredible place with an incredible history, and I would recommend it to everyone heading over to Asia.
**~ Have you visited Laos? Let me know any interesting facts or stories!!~**