Animals and Plants
What is growing in Laos?
Half of the country is covered with tropical forests. In the south there is a deciduous forest and in the northern mountain regions mountain forest. In the north there are also savannahs on the plateaus with the typical savannah vegetation.
Laos is home to rare species
Since many regions in Laos are difficult to access for humans, many animals that are either already extinct or threatened with extinction in other countries have been able to survive here. Most live in the country’s rain and monsoon forests. These species include the Java rhinoceros or the Siamese lyre deer. The rare animal species also include the Siamese wild hare, the Javanese mongoose or a dolphin that lives in the Mekong and is called the Irrawaddy dolphin. Tigers, leopards and tapirs have also survived in Laos.
The land of the elephants?
Many elephants considered sacred can also be found in Laos, most notably the rare white elephant. Laos used to be called the “land of elephants”. Today only a few elephants live in freedom, most are used as work animals and are anything but free. Often the animals are also used for tourist tours. Many organizations that offer this “elephant ride” treat the animals very badly.
The forests in Laos are also a playground for many species of monkeys. Crested gibbons or robed monkeys shimmy through the trees of the primeval forests. Even the little panda, also known as the “red panda” because of its red fur, has a home in Laos. Many animals are under nature protection in Laos, including the bears, who still have a retreat in mountain regions. Over 600 species of birds have been counted and, like everywhere in Asia, many species of butterflies live in Laos.
The king cobra
One of the most dangerous species of snake also lives in Laos. This is the king cobra over four meters long. But people live with snakes and not all snakes are ultimately dangerous. In addition, the king cobra prefers to live deep in the forest and not among people. If an animal does get lost in a village, the Laotians know how to handle the problem.
Reforms were only carried out in the country in the 1980s and Laos opened up economically. This is how the Laos economy is growing now. Despite this economic growth, Laos is known as one of the poorest countries in the world.
75 out of 100 people work in agriculture, yet they only generate 30 percent of the gross domestic product. Mainly rice, tobacco, cotton, sugar and coffee are grown. Industry and mining and slowly growing tourism are also important to Laos.
Economic growth and environmental problems
The energy sector – above all hydropower – is also gaining in importance. There are many fast flowing rivers in Laos. Dams are being built and hydropower is used to generate energy. However, as is so often the case, the growing economy has consequences for the environment, and many people lack awareness of this. They are surrounded by so much nature that they cannot imagine how quickly this nature can be destroyed. So there are always violations of current regulations such as clearing forests through fires. The groundwater is sinking and such deforestation is often devastating for the animals. But the wood brings money into the country.
What to do with Lao goods?
As a country located in Asia according to getzipcodes, Laos has economic ties primarily to China, Vietnam and Thailand. Many goods that are produced in the country are exported to these countries by Laos. As a landlocked country, Laos has a much harder time doing foreign trade. In contrast to neighboring Vietnam, for example, it does not have a seafront port from which goods can be shipped.
What is a “temporary monk”?
The Buddhism is very important for most people of Laos. And many become “temporary monks”. This means that young men or even children enter the monastery for a certain period of time. At least one son from every Buddhist family goes to a monastery for a period of time. Some leave it again after a certain time, others stay there to continue living as monks. In the monastery they get food and the typical monk’s clothing, they sleep there and are basically looked after all around.
It’s not that easy as a monk
There are around 50 monasteries in Laos where the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is worshiped every day. But life in a monastery is not that simple, it is subject to very strict rules. There are many things the monks are not allowed to do, for example they are not allowed to farm themselves. For example, they first have to see how they can get food. It’s pretty complicated sometimes.
How do monks get their breakfast?
The monks get up early in the morning, and the novices, the new or “part-time monks” too, have to go with them and collect their breakfast. If you are still tired and don’t get up quickly, you can expect one of the older monks to pour a bucket of cold water over the head of the tired newcomer.
Life in the monastery is strict and everyone has to submit here. The community is everything. The monks usually go to the next district of their monastery with an alms bowl and beg for breakfast. However, they do not understand it that way, they see the gifts as offerings and not as gifts.
Everything they have collected they bring back to the monastery, then there is food first. Usually sticky rice is one of the staple foods in Laos. But even fruit or sweets sometimes end up on the plate, depending on what was donated. By the way, money is sometimes donated.
What comes after breakfast
The monks bless the people for the donation. Often it is women who willingly donate their food or whatever to them. This is a consideration and gives the giver good karma, which is very important in the Buddhist faith.
Breakfast is then around seven in the morning. The monks are only allowed to have lunch until twelve o’clock. The monks do not have to collect it; it is cooked by families who live near the monastery. You then donate that to the monastery. Large monasteries have their own kitchens. People from the neighborhood also watch here, exchange ideas and talk. There are also only two meals a day for each monk. Dinner is canceled. In Laos this is handled very strictly, in Buddhist monasteries in other countries it does not have to be the case, the monks also have dinner there.
And did you already know that?
By the way, monks in Laos are not necessarily vegetarians. That’s what we often say, but it’s not true at all. In the country’s inaccessible mountain regions, the monks could often not have survived without meat. So Buddhism is not a purely vegetarian religion. On the contrary, Buddha is said to have even died of poisoning with pork, so the founder of the religion ate meat himself. Incidentally, modernity has also found its way into monastic life. Sometimes the monks even get chocolate bars as gifts. Will they eat it then?