Laos, or Lao People's Democratic Republic, a landlocked country of southeast Asia. It lies principally within the Indochinese Peninsula and is bordered by China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma.
Forested mountains cover much of Laos, leaving only a few expanses of level or treeless land. The north consists almost entirely of a series of steep ranges extending roughly northeast-southwest. Between them swift-flowing rivers run through narrow gorges. One of the few relatively flat areas in the north is a broad plateau north of Xiang-khoang; it lies about 4,000 feet (1,200 m) above sea level. Just to the south is the country's highest peak, Phou Bia, reaching 9,252 feet (2,820 m).
Marking much of the boundary with Vietnam is the Annam Cordillera, a steep mountain chain stretching out from the northern highlands. With peaks up to nearly 9,000 feet (2,700 m) and only a few passes, the cordillera is an effective natural barrier. West of the chain are the only extensive lowlands in Laos, in the valleys of the Mekong River and its southern tributaries. The Mekong flows the entire length of Laos and receives the discharge of nearly every stream in the country. Along its banks are most of the larger towns and much of the farmland.
Eastern Asia's monsoons strongly influence the climate, which is tropical and has heavy, seasonal rainfall. Some 50 to 90 or more inches (1,270 to 2,290 mm) of rain falls annually, most of it from May to October during the summer monsoon. Temperatures are usually high, averaging from 90° F. (32° C.) in April, the hottest month, to 60° F. (16° C.) in January.
|Facts in brief about Laos|
|Official language: Lao.|
|Area: 91,429 mi2. (236,800 km2). Greatest distances--northwest-southeast, 650 mi. (1,046 km); northeast-southwest, 315 mi. (510 km).|
|Population: Current estimate—6,361,000; density, 70 persons per mi2 (27 per km2); distribution, 79 percent rural, 21 percent urban.|
|Chief products: Benzoin, cardamom, cattle, cinchona, citrus fruits, coffee, corn, cotton, leather goods, opium, pottery, rice, silk, silver work, tea, teak, tin, tobacco.|
|Flag: The flag of Laos, adopted in 1975, has a red horizontal stripe at the top and the bottom, and a blue horizontal stripe in the center. A white circle appears in the center of the flag. The red symbolizes the blood and soul of the Laotian people. The blue stands for prosperity. The white circle represents the promise of a bright future.|
|National anthem: "Pheng Sat" ("National Music").|
|Money: Basic unit—kip.|