Located in the heart of the Indonesian peninsula, it lacks access to the sea. The main crop is rice. There are also crops of coffee, medicinal oils, cotton, spices, tobacco, and corn. Likewise, the country produces opium in the northwest, in the area belonging to the so-called “Golden Triangle.”
It limits to the East with Vietnam, to the North with China, to the West with Thailand and Burma and to the South with Cambodia and Burma.
The low life expectancy in Laos is an eloquent index of the poor sanitary conditions of the country. One of the government’s priorities is to provide public health services to the entire country. Although all the provinces have hospitals, rural dispensaries and infirmaries, the country lacks sufficient qualified medical personnel, although their number is increasing.
The most common diseases are malaria and gastroenteritis. This picture is exacerbated by massive malnutrition (the average daily food consumption per person in Laos is 2000 calories). Since 1975, the public health service has been evolving relentlessly. In 1985, Laos had 1,123 hospitals and clinics, with a total of 9,815 beds. There were also 558 doctors, 2346 medical workers and 6,600 first aid assistants working in the country.
According to topschoolsintheusa, civil wars interrupted educational processes and contributed to keeping the illiteracy rate high. In 1985, in the population between the ages of 15 and 45, the illiteracy rate was 16.1%. There are no private schools in Laos. Primary school begins at the age of six and secondary school at eleven, and lasts for five and six years, respectively.
In 1985, total enrollment in primary and secondary schools equaled 56% of the school-age population. In 1986 there were 7,000 schools with 620,000 students. There were also eight higher education institutions, 39 professional schools and 78 teaching institutes. In 1985, likewise, three medical institutes, four medical schools and a medical university were active.
In 1989 there were about 425,000 radio receivers and about 32,000 televisions in use. In addition to the national service, there are several local radio stations. Daily television programs were sent from the USSR via satellite. In 1983, a national television service began to be broadcast. In May 1988, a second television station began broadcasting from Savannakhet.
In 1978 the Central Steering Committee to Guide Agricultural Cooperatives was founded with the objective of helping to organize and plan regulations and policies for such cooperatives. At the end of 1986 there were some 4,000 cooperative groups employing about 74% of the workforce.
Lao cuisine has a great influence from China. The bases of the diet are rice, fish, tea and a seasoning called “nuoc-nam” that is obtained by marinating the waste of some fish in brine and that gives off an unpleasant smell.
In the middle of the 14th century Fa Ngum, the son of a Thai chief from the upper Mekong, occupied Vieng Chan with the support of a Khmer army and proclaimed himself king of present-day Laos in Luang Prabang. At that time in its history, Laos was called the kingdom of Lang Chang or the “Million Elephants.”
Capital and most important cities
Vientiane: Located northwest of the Mekong River, it is the largest city and the capital of Laos. A landlocked country, having a port on the most important river makes it the economic center of the nation.
Although it was founded in the 13th century, it did not reach the capital until the 16th, when the old capital was transferred from Luang Prabang. In 1778 it fell under Siamese rule and 50 years later, in 1828, it was destroyed when the King of Laos rose up against the hegemony of Siam. With the French occupation, it was the seat of the colonial administration until Laos achieved independence in 1953.
It has an important manufacturing industry that includes beer, wood, bricks, tiles, textiles, cigarettes, matches, detergents, plastic bags, rubber sandals, iron and steel. Located in one of the most fertile areas of the country, the fields on the outskirts of the city have rice and corn crops.
The contrasts between modern buildings and traditional wooden houses give the city the charm of Southeast Asian cities. Added to this is the beauty of some of its monuments, such as the That Luang temple, which dates back to 1566. Vientiane is the main cultural center of Laos and home to Sisavangvong University, the Ho Phakeo National Museum and the National Library.
A fleet of ferries connects the capital with the right bank of the Mekong River. It is connected to the main cities and the Vietnamese capital by highways and has an international airport.
Savannajet: Laos’ second city is located on the left bank of the Mekong River. It has an airport, as well as a highway that goes to Muang Phalan and Muang Xépon and goes to the Vietnamese city of Quang Tri. There are soda and ice cream factories there, and a sawmill.