Temples, waterfalls, the Mekong River, ancient history, the world's most bombed country, delicious food and rich buddhist culture.
That is Laos.
Laos, a landlocked country neighbouring China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, was not on the travel radar until a trip to Tibet was cancelled. In the few weeks leading up to the trip, I began to read up on Laos' history and what it had to offer and it blew my mind. The country has rich cultural heritage with beautiful temples built everywhere and breathtaking scenery all around.
Like most countries, Laos has a haunting history. The Lao Kingdom was first established in the 1400's and went through the rise and fall cycle for several centuries. In the late 19th century (1893), French rule was imposed. Elements of French rule still exist today where Laos has INCREDIBLE bakeries and particularly good baguettes slap bang in the middle of South East Asia. Facing anit-colonial wars, the French granted Laos independence in 1949. By 1955 the Lao People's Party (LPP) was formed, this was later renamed to the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), and still exists today.
In the 1960's, yet another war over Laos began, this time it was the USA during the Vietnam War. Following the formation of a coalition government in 1962, an international agreement was signed banning the presence of all foreign military personnel in an attempt to preserve Lao neutrality. However, with the Vietnam War raging on, Lao neutrality was compromised by the battle for control over the Ho Chi Minh Trail between the USA and Northern Vietnam. Following communist presence in Laos, the USA began its' war for Laos and commenced bombing in 1964. Over the next nine years, Laos became the most heavily bombed in the world. By 1973, the USA had dropped over 2 million tons of bombs on Laotian soil. Over a third of the country's population of 2 million people were displaced and became internal refugees and the total death toll still remains unknown. The effects of the bombing still exist today where over 70 million tons of unexploded ordinance still lie buried just under the ground.