Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Travel the World - Laos

I started a 50-week series in 2019 that I called Travel the World. Each week of the series I visited a randomly-selected country, sharing bits of information about that country. I then chose one tidbit of information about that week's country as inspiration for a card. As I explored those 50 countries in 2019, I knew I would continue on until I've visited every one of the 195 countries in the world. By the end of 2021, I'd virtually traveled to 145 countries and plan to complete my journey to all 195 countries by visiting the last 50 this year.

This week's country is...


Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. 

Myanmar and China border Laos to the northwest. Vietnam is to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Thailand to the west and southwest.

Geographically, Laos is slightly smaller than Colorado.

There are approximately 7 million people and more than 100 ethnic groups living in Laos.

The Thai and Lao languages are very closely related, so much so that Laos speakers can understand Thai and vice-versa.

About sixty percent of the Laos population is Buddhist.

Monks collect their daily meals from local people at sunrise every morning. This is a daily Buddhist ritual where the Lao people line the streets with offerings of rice, fruit, and snacks for the 200 monks that reside in the city's temples.

Every Buddhist male in Laos is expected to become a monk for at least a short period of his life. Ideally, this would be just after he finishes school but before he starts a career or marries. during this time they are known as nairn or novices.

People in Laos greet each other by putting their hands together in a prayer-like manner known as the nop.

Simply beautiful is the official Laos tourism slogan.

With ideal temperatures and precipitation, flora and fauna of Laos is a luscious paradise. The mountain slopes are covered with tropical forests. Palm trees, beech, oak, pine, magnolias, sandalwood, ad rose are just some of the country's rich flora.

There are 20 natural parks in Laos.

Although Laos is a completely landlocked country in the south part of the country lies one of the most natural attractions known as the 4000 islands. The powerful Mekong River has divided the land of Laos into thousands of exquisite islets. The spectacular islands abound with powdering shores and turquoise waves.

Vang Vieng in Laos is home to the least expensive hot air balloon ride in the world.

The Khone Phapheng waterfall, known also as The Niagra of the East, is located on the Mekong River in southern Laos. It is the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia.

Laos is filled with forests, rugged mountains, rivers and some plains. About eighty percent of the population lives off subsistence agriculture - meaning they grown enough food to support themselves, but that's it. They don't make a profit from it. There isn't a lot of arable land either, with rice being the main crop.

In the words of one enthusiastic tourist, Laos has papayas - lots and lots of papayas - some of which are absolutely ginormous!

Nong Fa Lake - a stunning volcanic lake found at elevated levels in the mountains of southeast Laos, is shrouded in legends, respect and fear. The Laotians refuse to swim or bathe in the waters as they believe that the lake is home to a giant snake-pig that will consume any who dare to wade into its depths.

The lush jungles of Laos are home to a stunning abundance of wildlife and this country is the breeding grounds for King Cobras (the world's longest poisonous snake), white-cheeked gibbons, tigers, and Asian black bears. Other wild animals include sambar deer, sun bears, and leopard cats.

Laos has preserved rare species of animals - marsh lynx, marbled panther, Tibetan bear, and Indochinese tiger, to name a few.

Peacocks walk around in areas of Laos with their tails spread wide.

The wild elephant is considered to be one of Laos' national symbols. In fact, the country used to be called Lane Xang, which translates into The Land of a Million Elephants.

Unfortunately, today there are thought to be just 800 elephants remaining, of which half are kept in captivity.

Irrawaddy dolphins (known for their bulging forehead and short beak) used to be widely found in the Mekong River in Laos. Tragically, in 2012 it was announced that only three hundred dolphins ere left in Laos, meaning the species is functionally extinct in Laos. It should be noted that I also saw an article that said the last Irrawaddy dolphin in Laos had died.

Laos is home to one of the strangest competitive betting sports - rhinoceros beetle wrestling. The first beetle to severely maim, injure, or kill its opponent beetle is the victorious winner. People bet on which beetle they think is most likely to win and in this way rhinoceros beetle wrestling is an enthusiastic and competitive pastime of the locals.

Laos is home to a very mysterious and puzzling pottery site known as The Plain of Jars. The landscape is strewn with thousands of stone jars and no one knows for sure what they were used for but they date all the way back to the Stone Age (500 BC - AD 500). The curious sight has allowed for a great deal of opinions, theories, and stories. Some say the jars are a part of local burial ceremonies, others say that the jars once contained whiskey for thirsty giants who lived in the nearby mountains.

The Vieng Xai Caves in Laos are a network of some 450 shelter caves used during the Vietnam War. The communist Pathet Lao forces were headquartered there. The limestone caves were home to over 20,000 people who used them to escape the bombings. The caves contained hospitals, markets, living quarters, schools, a bakery, a bank, printing presses, government offices, a theatre, and even an elephant enclosure. Today they are a museum that enthralls all who visit.

In the Nam Kan National Park of Laos, you can stay in treehouses that perch 100-130 feet above the jungle below where guests can spot black-crested gibbons in their natural habitat.

Visitors can take an underground boat trip by torchlight down a river in the Kong Lor Cave. This natural wonder is made of limestone and has a river running through it. Visitors can admire rock formations, a pool that glows emerald, and cave ceilings which reach up to nearly 350 feet in height.

The country is rich in natural resources like timber, gypsum, tin, gold, and gemstones.

Mining (mostly copper and gold) helps the country's economy.

Coffee is Laos' biggest agricultural export. The coffee crops continue to grow and expand across the country each year and the high-quality beans are in much demand with the overseas market.

A traditional Laotian iced coffee from the street stalls is served with a large dollop of condensed milk at the bottom, in a plastic bag with lots of ice and a straw.

Laos has a nationwide midnight curfew. In practice, this is not enforced on the people so much, but more on businesses, although many guesthouses will ask you to return before midnight.

Laotian silk is 100% handmade. Laos is famous for its handwoven silk and the finished products can be purchased in various markets across the country. Still today, most weavers are using ancient weaving techniques that result in top-quality silk products.

Laotians consume more sticky rice than anyone else in the world.

There are many festivals in Laos. Festivals include food, dancing, music, and traditional costumes.

Lao New Year is one of the biggest celebrations of the year.

The New Year Festival (known as Pi Mai) in Laos is different that other New Year celebrations in the world because it happens 3 days in April, the hottest month of the year. During this lively festival, people have the opportunity to take part in a unique Water Splash. There is also nonstop dancing and music everywhere.

It is frowned upon to display any form of affection in public in Laos. Even kissing, hugging, or holding hands in public is taboo.

Laotians value foot etiquette. For instance, one should never point a foot at any other person, including Buddha. Moreover, one's feet should never touch someone else and they should never be raised on tables or chairs. Basically, feet should be used for walking, running, or playing a sport. Anything else is considered rude in the Laos culture.

Shoes must be removed when entering temples or homes in Laos.

The most practiced sport in Laos is Kataw. This looks like volleyball, but instead of playing with the hands, they use their feet to kick/throw the ball.

The literacy rate is Laos is 73%.

Laos is the world's second largest consumer of solar energy.

My inspiration for this week's card is based on this fact about Laos... A common sight in Laos is flocks of brightly colored (and noisy) parrots that fly everywhere.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

Stamp/Die Set: Your Next Stamp Parrot-Ise stamped with Memento Tuxedo Black Ink and colored with Copic Markers

Paper: Hammermill 110# White and SU Misty Moonlight CS and other papers from my scrap file

Dies: Mama Elephant In the Clouds, MFT Snow Drifts, and Gina Marie Stitched Rectangles on the inside

Embellishments: Kat Scrappiness White Glass Bubbles


CardsAreMyGame said...

Enjoy the various bits of info you provide on all the countries...

kiwimeskreations said...

what a wonderful country - thanks for sharing your research Jeanette. Love your cheerful, and punny card also - that is so cheerful.