December 2, 2009

Republic Day in Laos

Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It lies between Thailand and Vietnam. Today's public holiday is sometimes called “Independence Day.”

The people of Laos have had to endure a lot of very rough times, including being colonized by Siam and then France, being occupied by Japan during World War II, and being bombed (largely by the U.S.) during the Vietnam War. On this date in 1975, communist forces (part of which came from other countries) forced the Lao king Savang Vatthana to give up his throne, and the communist leader Pathet Lao declared the country to be the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

During French control of the country, a silent “S” was added to the name Lao, because the French language does that sort of thing. Most people in Laos pronounce the name of their country an
d people Lao, without the “S.” That is also the proper word when describing aspects of life: Lao festivals, Lao culture, and so forth.

Learn about Laos with this virtual tour. You can see 360-degree views of a variety of places! One Lao-American girl says about Laos, “It's poor, but it's beautiful.”

Eat sticky ri
ce. This is perhaps the most important food of Lao cuisine (and is also popular in Thailand). Also known as “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice,” sticky rice can be found in Asian food stores.

After it is steamed (or you can cheat and boil it), sticky rice can be formed into small balls wi
th your fingers and used to soak up various dipping sauces. Here is a website with instructions of some easy ways to make sticky rice.

In the West there are not too many Lao restaurants, and many of the ingredients of authentic recipes are unfamiliar to most of us—things like "pepper wood," “monkey vegetable,” and Mekong mushrooms—but substitutions can be found. Here is a recipe changed to be more accessible to the West: Lao Tomato Salsa.

Listen to some Lao kids singing.

Do some coloring pages.

Learn about gibbons. These small apes are great at singing and swinging.

Some people c
all their singing “howling,” and of course the swinging they do is through trees (in the jungle) or on bars (in a zoo).

Did you know that there are tree-top accommodations for tourists insid
e the Bokeo Nature Reserve in Laos? From the “hotel” you can explore the forest canopy—and hopefully get to know some gibbons—by way of a cable network! But if you can't get to Laos today, check out this website, listen to a gibbon “sing,” and watch a gibbon swing.

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