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Geography of Laos


Laos is a landlocked country on the Indochina Peninsula near the eastern extremity of mainland Southeast Asia. Laos occupies an area of 236,800 km² (91,429 mi²), extending 1,162 km (722 mi) south-southeast to north-northwest and 478 km (297 mi) east-northeast to west-southwest. Comparatively, the area occupied by Laos is slightly smaller than Romania. It is bordered on the north by China, on the east and southeast by Vietnam, on the south by Cambodia, on the west by Thailand, and on the northwest by Myanmar, with a total boundary length of 5,083 km (3,158 mi). The capital of Laos, Vientiane, is located along the country's southwestern boundary.

The terrain is rugged and mountainous, especially in the north and in the Annam Range, along the border with Vietnam. the mountains reach heights of more than 2,700 m (8,860 ft), with Pou Bia, the highest point in Laos, rising to 2,817 m (9,242 ft) in the north-central part of the country. Only three passes cross the mountains to link Laos with Vietnam. The Tran Ninh Plateau, in the northeast, rises to between 1,020-1,370 m (3,350-4,500 ft), and the fertile Bolovens Plateau, in the south, reaches a height of about 1,070 m (3,500 ft). Broad alluvial plains, where much of the rice crop is grown, are found only in the south and west along the Mekong River and its tributaries. Of these, the Vientiane plain is the most extensive.

Except for a relatively small area east of the main divide, Laos is drained by the Mekong and its tributaries. the Mekong flows in a broad valley along the border with Thailand and through Laos for 1,805 km (1,122 mi). In its low-water phase, it is almost dry, but it rises more than 6 m (20 ft) during the monsoon period. the river is wide, but except for a navigable stretch between Vientiane and Savannakhét, rapids are numerous. Below Savannakhét and at the extreme south there are large rapids and waterfalls. Floods are common in the rainy season.

Laos has a tropical monsoon climate with three main seasons. the rainy season is from May through October, when rainfall averages 127-229 cm (50-90 in). November through February is a cool, dry season. March through April is a hot, dry season, during which temperatures can be as high as 40°C (104°F). Humidity is high throughout the year, even during the season of drought. Average daily temperatures in Vientiane range from 14-28°C (57-82°F) in January, the coolest month, and from 23-34°C (73-93°F) in April, the hottest.


Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates:
18 00 N, 105 00 E

Map references:
Southeast Asia

total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Romania

Land boundaries:
total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)

tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)

mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m

Natural resources:
timber, hydro power, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones

Land use:
arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)

Irrigated land:
3,000 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:
333.6 cu km (2003)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards:
floods, droughts

Environment - current issues:
unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:
landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand





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