• The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, as it’s officially known, is Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country, and is bordered by Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam.
• Covering more than 236,000 square kilometres, Laos is roughly the same size as the UK, yet has a population of just under seven million.
• Per capita, Laos is the most bombed nation in history. In 1964–73, the US dropped more than two million tonnes of ordnance on the country – more than the total amount that fell across Europe during World War II.
• A constitutional monarchy until 1976, Laos is now a one-party dictatorship and one of the world’s last official communist states. Look out for Socialist Realist posters and the hammer and sickle flags that adorn buildings across the country.
• The official language is Lao, a tonal language closely related to Thai, although the written scripts differ. More than eighty languages are still spoken across Laos by ethnic tribes. Despite historic ties to France, English is now the most widely spoken European language.
• The country’s top-selling brew, Beerlao, is made using local rice. Having won international awards, it’s now exported to more than a dozen countries worldwide.
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