Capital | Vientiane
Population | 6,477,211 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 236,800 SQ KM
Official Language | Lao
Holidays | Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
Currency | Kip (LAK)
Time Zone | UTC +7
Best Time to Visit | November to February, as Laos knows how to turn up the sweltering heat and torrential downpours are a specialty.
Connecting with the Culture | Circumnavigating Vientiane’s revered Pha That Luang stupa. Shopping nirvana at Luang Prabang’s night market. Floating down Nam Song in Vang Vieng till dusk. Fine dining at one of Luang Prabang’s atmospheric eateries. Cooling off under the Kuang Si waterfall, near Luang Prabang.
Read | Bamboo Palace by Christopher Kremmer- part travelogue. Part mystery, it chronicles the lost dynasty of Laos.
Listen | to expat Paris-based troupe, Molam Lao.
Watch | Bombies, a documentary probing the legacy of the US carpet bombing campaign inflicted on Laos.
Eat | fõe, noodle soup in any variety; tam máak hung, deliciously laden spicy papaya salad.
Drink | Bolaven Plateau brew for coffee aficionados; light and tasty Beer Lao; lào-láo, a clear yet fiery rice alcohol that’s more of an acquired taste.
In a Word | Pai talat (to the market)
Characteristics | Long tail boats; rice; Buddha-filled pagodas and wats; café culture; rural bandits; unexploded ordnance.
Surprises | Laos has one of the lowest population densities in Asia- around 18 people per sq km (about 11per sq mi); by the end of the Vietnam War, Laos had the dubious distinction of being the most bombed country in the history of warfare.
NEWS ABOUT LAOS
Laos Could Become Next WTO Member
(HN, 7/17/12) - Laos is on track to complete its WTO accession negotiations, officials announced last week; with the Asian country’s membership in the Geneva-based trade body widely expected to be formalized before 2012 comes to a close. Laos formally announced at a 12 July Working Party meeting that it had finished its series of bilateral negotiations after finalizing a deal with Ukraine last month, the last WTO member to agree to terms. If it accedes, Laos will become the 6th least developed country (LDC) to finish negotiations to join the trade body since 1995; the country’s negotiators hope to have their accession package ready to present to the Working Party of delegations once the WTO reconvenes in September. Only 5 LDCs have completed negotiations to join the global trade body since the initial 30 LDCs acceded in 1995; these include Cambodia, Nepal, Cape Verde (who has since graduated from the LDC designation), Samoa, & Vanuatu. Ukraine also reportedly remains the final holdout in negotiations surrounding Yemen’s entry into the WTO. (Read more at ICTSD)