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Laos – Previously Called Lan Xang

All about Laos for Kids - Image of a Buddhist Shrine
All about Laos for Kids - Image of a Buddhist Shrine

Hundreds of years ago, Laos was called Lan Xang, which means “kingdom of a million elephants.” Sounds like a fun place to visit, doesn’t it? Elephants still live in Laos today, along with Asiatic black bears, tigers and cobras, but the forests are disappearing quickly. Most of Laos is covered by forests and mountains, which are hard to live and travel in. The people are poor and need food. They are cutting down the forests in the low lands to make room for farms. Here they grow rice, strawberries, pineapples and vegetables. Fishermen catch fish.

Laos Facts For Kids

  • Landlocked country in Southeast Asia.
  • Capital: Vientiane.
  • Official language: Lao.
  • Currency: Lao kip (₭).
  • UNESCO World Heritage: Luang Prabang.
  • Majority religion: Theravada Buddhism.
  • One-party socialist republic.
  • Famous for Mekong River views.
  • Known as “Land of a Million Elephants”.
  • Rich in biodiversity and forests.

Laotian Culture and Traditions

Laotian culture, a vibrant and welcoming reflection of its people, is deeply diverse, enriched by its Buddhist roots and the influences of neighboring countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Significant cultural practices, such as the Baci or Sou Khuan ceremony, are deeply ingrained in the fabric of Laotian society, marking important life events such as births, weddings, or even the arrival of guests.

The traditional arts, including silk weaving and silver smithing, are notable aspects of Laos’s cultural identity, as is the enjoyment of music and dance, with the Lam Vong or circle dance often being the highlight of social gatherings. Food is another cornerstone of Laotian culture, with ‘Khao niao’ or sticky rice being a staple of every meal. This intricate blend of traditions and practices makes Laotian culture rich, diverse, and deeply fascinating.

Laotian Cuisine

Laotian cuisine, a captivating component of Laos’s culture, is characterized by its vibrant flavors and an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, making it an intriguing subject for children. The customary food, ‘khao niao’ or sticky rice, is a staple in Laotian meals and is typically served in a quaint, small basket.

This food is uniquely consumed with hands instead of utensils, a fun fact that children might find engaging! Laotian meals also incorporate a wide array of vegetables, fruits, fish, and meats, with ‘larb,’ a flavorful meat salad often prepared with chicken, fish, or pork, being a favored dish. Seasoned with lime juice, chili, and fresh herbs, it’s a testament to the cuisine’s rich taste profile.

While Laotian food can be spicy, it harmoniously integrates sour, sweet, and bitter flavors, crafting a distinctive flavor palette that greatly contributes to the country’s identity.

Geography of Laos

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, more commonly known as Laos, is a Southeast Asian nation characterized by its landlocked geographical status and diverse topography. The country, surrounded by China to the north, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, Thailand to the west, and Myanmar to the northwest, boasts a mostly mountainous landscape with rugged terrains, high peaks, and quickly flowing rivers.

These natural features, including the country’s highest point, Phou Bia at 2,819 meters, and the dominant Mekong River which marks a significant portion of the western border with Thailand, often render transportation challenging. Despite its size, Laos houses a rich variety of unique biodiversity, demonstrating the country’s ecological wealth.

History of Laos

Known officially as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Laos traces its rich and intricate history back millennia. This once powerful kingdom, called Lan Xang or the ‘Land of a Million Elephants’, thrived from the 14th to the 18th century. Entering the colonial era in the 19th century, Laos fell under French rule until it finally achieved full autonomy in 1953.

However, independence did not bring immediate peace as the nation grappled with several decades of civil conflict and political turmoil. Today, Laos has the unique distinction of being one of the only five remaining socialist states globally, its captivating history reflected in the nation’s diverse culture and awe-inspiring architectural designs.

Laotian Language (Lao)

Lao, colloquially known as Laotian, serves as the official language of Laos. This language is characterized by its tonal nature, wherein the tone used to articulate a word can modify its meaning – the word ‘khao,’ for instance, could signify ‘rice,’ ‘news,’ or ‘white,’ all based on the tone employed.

This unique linguistic feature fosters a close relationship between Lao and Thai, enabling mutual comprehension among speakers of both languages. The Lao alphabet, sharing similarities with Thai, has its roots in ancient Sanskrit and Pali scripts.

Within the educational framework in Laos, children commence their literacy journey with the Lao language during primary school, while English is often introduced as a second language.

Ethnic Groups in Laos

Laos is a country characterized by rich diversity, with over 49 ethnic groups further dissected into 160 sub-groups, contributing to a vibrant social tapestry. These groups fall into three broad classifications: Lao Loum (lowland), Lao Theung (midland), and Lao Sung (upland).

A significant majority of the population, around 68%, is made up of the Lao Loum group, who predominantly inhabit the lowland regions and are followers of Buddhism. In contrast, the Lao Theung and Lao Sung groups reside in higher altitudes, adhering to traditional animist beliefs. The unique language, culture, and traditions of each ethnic group play an integral role in enriching the cultural heritage of Laos.

Buddhism in Laos

Buddhism deeply influences the daily lives of Laotians, making it a captivating subject for young learners. Fascinatingly, it’s estimated that approximately 65% of Laos’ population adheres to Theravada Buddhism, rendering it the country’s dominant religion.

A prevalent custom among Laotian boys and young men is to experience monastic life for a certain period, whether it be a matter of days or weeks. The monks’ presence is particularly noticeable during the morning alms giving ceremony, where they traverse the streets to collect food and offerings from the locals.

Further evidence of Laos’ profound Buddhist heritage is manifested in the myriad of ‘wats’ or Buddhist temples that dot the landscape. These temples, aside from their historical and religious significance, also function as community hubs where various social events, religious festivals, and ceremonies are celebrated.

Economy of Laos

Laos, a landlocked Southeast Asian nation, sustains a predominantly agricultural economy, with rice standing as its principal crop. Beyond rice cultivation, it also produces and exports coffee, corn, and various fruits.

The country’s economic landscape is further enriched by its abundant natural resources, including gold, copper, and tin. While the majority of Laotians, especially those in rural regions, continue to rely on traditional means of earning, such as farming and fishing, the industry and services sectors have been experiencing growth, contributing to the country’s overall economic advancement.

In more recent years, tourism has emerged as a significant economic player in Laos, drawing in visitors with its captivating landscapes, rich historical heritage, and distinctive culture.

Politics and Government of Laos

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, more commonly known as Laos, stands as one of the remaining socialist nations globally. Its political landscape is dominated by a single-party system, with the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) being the sole political entity in power.

This government structure is divided into three branches: the executive branch, headed by the President; the legislative branch, made up of the National Assembly members; and the judiciary branch, which encompasses the People’s Supreme Court. Despite its socialist status, Laos has been cautiously implementing economic reforms and allowing foreign investments.

This approach reflects a balance between its political ideology and a growing market-oriented economy.

Tourism in Laos

Located in Southeast Asia, Laos is a captivating landlocked country offering a unique and educational travel experience for families and children. Its stunning natural beauty, manifested in the mysterious Plain of Jars, the scenic Vang Vieng, and the breathtaking waterfalls in Luang Prabang, is a magnet for tourists.

The country’s rich cultural heritage and history, visible in the numerous ancient temples and monasteries like the famous Wat Xieng Thong, provide a profound learning experience for children. Adding to its allure is the diverse wildlife, including elephants seen at the Elephant Conservation Center. The warm and hospitable locals, delectable cuisine, and a range of fun activities such as boat trips and hiking, further enhance the appeal of Laos as a family-friendly destination.

All about Laos Fun Facts for Kids - Image of the Laos Rice Fields
All about Laos Fun Facts for Kids – Image of the Laos Rice Fields

People have lived in Laos for more than 10,000 years. In 1779, the Siams from Thailand conquered Laos. Later, the French arrived in 1893. During the 1960s and 1970s, Laos was involved in the Vietnam War. Many people left the country. Today, Laos is a very poor country. Most people don’t have electricity or running water. The Laos people are happy, though. They believe in close families and worship in the Buddhist religion.

All about Laos for Kids - Image of a Buddhist Shrine
All about Laos for Kids – Image of a Buddhist Shrine

Fun Facts about Laos for Kids

  • 5,924,000 people live in Laos.
  • The country has 91,429 square miles.
  • People here speak Lao, French, English and various languages.
  • Most people are Buddhist or worship animals.
  • People in Laos can expect to live 54 years.
  • 53 percent of adults can read.
Fun Science for Kids on Laos - National Flag of Laos
Fun Science for Kids on Laos – National Flag of Laos

Laos Vocabulary

  1. Kingdom: a country or land
  2. Conquer: defeat, beat
  3. Running water: clean water that comes from pipes
  4. Worship: religious practice

All About Laos Video for Kids

Check out this cool video about Laos for kids:

This is an audio visual presentation of the cultural sites, landscape and other places in Laos.

Laos Q&A

Question: What do kids and adults do for fun?

Answer: People in Laos love the game, kataw, which is similar to volleyball. They also like to watch rhinoceros beetles wrestle with each other.

Map of Laos

Here’s a map of the country of Laos and all its cities and villages. Zoom in to get into street level or zoom out to see other countries around Laos! You can see the terrain, but also see the roads, images of the buildings and even take a 3D tour through the streets of the cities of Laos, as though you are actually there!