Laos has one of the most pristine natural landscapes in Southeast Asia. An estimated half of its woodlands consist of primary forest, in particular the tropical rainforest. Unlike the vegetation that grows in the climate of Europe and the United States, tropical rainforest is composed of three vegetative layers. The top layer features single-trucked, high-reaching trees called dipterocarps. The middle canopy consists of hardwood such as teak. Beneath, small trees, grass and sometimes bamboo can be found.
In addition to its fascinating vegetation, Laos plays host to a diverse animal kingdom. Several exotic mammals are endemic such as leopard cats, Javan mongoose, goat antelopes as well as rare species of gibbons and linger, Malayan sun bear, Asiatic black bear and gaur. The discovery of the Saola Ox, a breed of deer-antelope, in Vietnam a few years ago caused a great sensation. This extremely rare animal inhabits the Eastern border regions of Laos. It is thought that these remote areas probably still hide other unknown species.
In Southern Laos, near Khong Island, Irrawaddy dolphins inhabit the Mekong River. While many species of wildlife are shy and can rarely be seen, spectators will generally be able to spot the dolphins in Springtime when the water level of the Mekong is lowest. Laos is also rich in resident and migrating birds. One of the more notable ones is the rare Green Peafowl. Lao religious images and art is also distinctive and sets Laos apart from its neighbors. The “Calling for Rain” posture of Buddha images in Laos, for example, which depicts the Buddha standing with his hands held rigidly at his side, fingers pointing to the ground, can not be found in other Southeast Asian Buddhist art traditions. Religious influences are also pervasive in classical Lao literature, especially in the Pha Lak, Pha Lam, the Lao version of India’s epic Ramayana.
Projects are underway to preserve classic Lao religious scripts, which were transcribed onto palm leaf manuscripts hundreds of years ago and stored in Wats.
Source: Laos National Tourism Administration