Laos is a remote and beautiful landscape, widely covered by tropical forests and treacherous limestone mountains. It qualifies as a "least developed country” by UN standards, and is one of the poorest countries in the region. Laos continues to struggle under the economic strains of extreme inflation layered over significant poverty.
In the 1960's the nation was drawn into "the American War"(as the Vietnam War is called in Southeast Asia). More bombs were dropped on Laos during the war than during all of World War II combined. At that time the royal family was the most ancient dynasty of humankind. However, shortly after, in 1975, the Lao People's Front seized control, and Laos became a communist nation.
The dominant people group in the country (approx. 51%) are the Lao. The rest of the population comprises a complex mix of 138 groups with distinct cultures and languages. Laos has a significant agricultural sector, the primary crop being rice, grown on the fertile floodplains in the river valleys. Vegetables, fruit, spices, coffee and cotton are also cultivated.
As a part of the region's infamous "Golden Triangle", Laos is a hotspot for drug trade and use. This, along with other economic and social factors, contributes to significant poverty in the region. Laos remains one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, with significant portions of its population below the poverty line. Outside the cities, the many live without access to basic facilities like clean water, electricity and medical services.