Landlocked Laos is a remote and mountainous landscape, widely covered by unspoiled tropical forests. Laos qualifies as a "least developed country” by UN standards, is the poorest country in the region. Economic reforms in recent years have fostered growth in the private business sector, and growth rates in 2013 were projected to be amongst the highest in the world.
The nation was drawn into the American War (as the Vietnam war is called in Southeast Asia). More bombs were dropped on Laos than during World War II. At that time the royal family was the most ancient dynasty of humankind. In 1975, the nation became communist.
The main crop is rice, which is 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 drug producing "Golden Triangle", Laos has vigorously fought opium production and is now deemed “opium free." Outside the cities, the majority live without access to basic facilities like clean water, electricity and medical services.
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 often their own language.
The country is largely Buddhist, the form practiced intertwined with animist elements.