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Laos (or Lao PDR) is a developing country in South East Asia. The UN classifies it as one of the 49 ‘Least Developed’ countries - alongside Angola, Yemen and Haiti.
It is the most heavily bombed place on earth (per capita)  – over 1.3 million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Laos as the Vietnam War spread into neighbouring countries. This deadly legacy continues to have a massive impact on development – and still kills and maims.
Laos first emerged as the Lan Xang Kingdom (‘kingdom of a million elephants’) which became a regional power in the 14th century.  Despite bursts of independence, the kingdom generally found itself paying tribute to more powerful neighbours, including the Siamese (Thais) and Vietnamese. Laos became a French colony in 1893, administered from colonial Vietnam.  Geography ensured Laos was sucked into the Vietnam War and a lengthy civil war culminated in the Lao People's Democratic Republic being declared  in 1975.  After many years of isolation, Laos began to experiment with economic reforms in the 1990’s.
Bordered by Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Laos today has a population of 7 million in an area of 236,800 sq km, making it the least densely populated of South East Asian nations.  80% of Laos is mountainous and it is home to over 100 ethnic groups. Generally, the Mekong River plain is home to lowland ethnic Lao, who make up the majority of the population. Khmu (10%) and Hmong (9%) are the dominant minorities, living mainly in mountainous areas.
About 70% of Lao people are involved in agriculture, which provides around 30% of GDP. According to the World Bank more than 75% of Laotians live on less than US$2 a day. Total GDP per capita amounts to US$2300 per person. Major exports are power, timber products, minerals, garments and coffee. In recent years tourism has become a significant source of foreign income.  Hydropower is becoming an increasingly important revenue earner with Laos predicted to be supplying 10% of South East Asia’s power by 2025. Work has already begun on an adventurous 400 km plus rail link to China.
In 2016 Lao chaired the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and President Obama became the first US President to visit Laos.  He pledged $90M to assist UXO clearance.
Recently Laos became part of a new pan-Asian trading zone.  This is offering exciting opportunities for those with business and English skills, something we are developing at Lone Buffalo.

Phonsavan (or Xieng Khouang) is a developing rural town of some 60,000 people, in the north east of Laos.
The town is located on a flat plain in the northern highlands at an altitude of 1100 metres, surrounded by mainly wooded hills and mountains. These mountains are home to many ethnic H’mong villages.  The province is famous for its mysterious stone funerary jars, which are more than 2000 years old.
As a result of Phonsavan’s proximity to both the Vietnamese border and the capital, Vientiane, it became strategically important during the Indochina conflict and as a result was heavily bombed. The modern town of Phonsavan was built after the bombing ceased in 1973.
Today, Phonsavan is a bustling provincial capital, home to Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese communities. Tradition and modernity co-exist comfortably among the colourful mix of ethnicities.  The town is preparing to host the 11th National Games in late 2018.

Download our Student Guide to Phonsavan