In this very poor country, one of the things you notice, is that nobody dies of hunger. Most families manage, not only to meet their needs, but even to put an important part of their small earnings to one side so as to participate in the small futile pleasures that make life enjoyable. Laos is a country of smiles, where composure and serenity reign and from where a sort of karma and an invigorating energy exude. Laotians say that this special karma, was born with Laos, many centuries ago.
Laos was born at the being of the XIVth century of our era, with the “Realm of a million elephants and a white parasol” of Fa Ngum, and gained its independence in 1954. They only found their political stability some 30 years later by adopting the communist regimen, especially under the pressure of Viet-Nam.
Head of a realm (or even several realms, as was finally the case for most of Laos’s history), Laos managed to develop commerce and crafts. They initiated an extension of Buddhism in its most primitive form, that of Theravada or Small Vehicle, under Khmer influence. Even today, it still conserves a large influence in Laotian everyday life even if we still find strong allusions to animism and the cults of their ancestors.
Laotians generally have an easy, smiling and pleasant character; generally preferring to take their time, the same as in their way of life, they savour each moment and don’t try to think too much into the future. Overall, Laotians have a definite tendency to put everything off until the next day as much as they possibly can without having too many inconveniences. This is one of the things that decidedly give this country its exceptional charm, completely the opposite to the Vietnamese or even Thai restlessness.
The years of French protectorate finished in the middle of the 1950’s. Laotians sustained heavy bombings during the next few years from the Vietnamese war. In spite of this and the intrigues put into motion by Occidental Powers and of which their country was a victim; Laotians didn’t hold any animosity towards the farangs (European foreigners).
The country opened up to tourism quite a few years ago, but it wasn’t until the years 2000 that a tourist could move about freely in all areas, even the most remote (at their own risk). Its a magnificent country by its wide open spaces with dense vegetation and many animals (you can still find tigers and wild elephants). Many ethnical groups continue to live according to their ancestral traditions.
Its also an authentic country due to development which is controlled by the communists, and whose authority, has not allowed the country to grow just any old way, as had been the case over the years with certain newly emerging Asian countries.