Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world: nearly 50% of the population lives below the poverty line and 80% of the population supports itself through agriculture.
Its tormented contemporary history, decolonization, bombardments linked to the American-Vietnamese conflict and the establishment of a communist regime in 1975, which has continued to this day, have long kept it apart from the rest of the world.
This period of closure is now over. Foreign visitors can finally discover a fascinating country that seems to ignore the hectic globalization at work its neighbours know. Authenticity, nature and smiling are surely the terms that best describe this country.
Population in 2009: 6.8 million inhabitants (64 million in France), 38% of whom are under 15 years of age
Population density in 2008: 26 people per square km (Vietnam 274 !... France 112 people / km²)
Infant mortality rate in 2009: 77 per 1000 births (France 3.3 deaths per 1000 births)
Crude mortality rate in 2009: 11 per 1000 inhabitants (France 8.56 deaths per 1000 inhabitants)
Life expectancy at birth in 2008: 56 years (81 years in France)
Income per year and per capita in dollars in 2009: $1,900 (France $32,800 or 17 times more...)
Official religion: Buddhism (85% of the population) animism (15%)
Political system: republic with Marxist ideology since 1975
Capital city: Vientiane
Currency: the kip, 1 €uro = approx. 10 000 kips in 2010 (a bottled drink 8 000 kips - a "phö" noodle soup 8 000 kips)
Ethnic groups: 68% Laotian Lem (plains), 22% Laotian theung (plateaus), 9% Lao Soung (mountains) including Hmong "meos" and Yaos "mine", 1% Vietnamese and Chinese
Languages: Laotian (official), French, English and various ethnic languages
Literacy: 68% of the population
Climate: tropical; rainy season from May to October - dry season from November to April
Production: sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, cane sugar, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice, water buffalo, pigs, poultry.
In Laos, there is no popular celebration without a khene player. This mouth organ, composed of sixteen bamboo pipes arranged in two parallel rows, is the emblematic instrument of the Lao people. It is considered as a link between genii and men and plays an essential role in social, family and religious life.
The musicians improvise from well-known melodies at parties, weddings, funerals, or to sing love songs and court the "phoussaos", the young girls to be married.
The Laotian or "Lao" sings all the time; melancholy, carelessness, sadness, joy, daily life, love, are the framework of these improvised songs. Music is a true spontaneous language and singing a way of life.
In Laos, if religion and beliefs are the rhythm of life, eating, singing and dancing are essential for the development of any good Lao. The spiritual and the festive are often mixed.
On the occasion of the various festivals organised by the villagers to honour the "falangs" (Europeans with long noses...) who came to work, or on the occasion of the inaugurations, the dances are always on the program.
Katow or Kator, the Laotian name for Sepak Takraw (Thailand), which means "kick with a braided ball", originated in Malaysia, but developed in Thailand.
In the 11th century Takraw was practiced in a circle by the villagers who had to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. These exchanges symbolised the village's community spirit. It was only in the 19th century that the game was played with a net on a field identical to badminton. The traditional ball, which weighs 200 grams and has a diameter of 15 cm, is made of woven rattan, but now mostly made of plastic.
The modern rules are inspired by those of volleyball, but with the technique of football. Players can touch the ball 3 times or make a maximum of 3 passes, before sending the ball back using all parts of the body except the arms or hands.
Ban Na Teui was founded in 1796 by Sayavong the "elder" and his wife Long, who migrated from their native village of Normuang. The name Nateuy or Na Teui comes from the many pandanus plants (baï teuï in Lao) around the village.
Ban Na Teui is located 2 km from road n°9, at kilometre 15 from Savannakhet. There are nearly 300 houses for 1735 inhabitants, including 955 women.