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Laos is a small Southeast Asian country that continues to be Socialist. Its primary ethnic groups are, in descending order, Lao, Khmu, and Hmong, and about 40% of the population (the non-Laos) are members of hill tribes. Lao is the official language, and Hmong is an intriguing, consonant-heavy one. The climate is tropical, and the terrain includes mountains, forests, rivers, and plateaus. The level of development in Laos is low to moderate, and environmental problems are major. A Laotian constitution created in 1991 and amended in 2003 has important provisions for human rights, such as equality between ethnic groups, gender equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Laotians are generally hospitable, interesting people, and that's one of the attractions for visitors. You can go trekking in the lands of hill tribes in places like Phongsaly and Luang Namtha. You can also zipline among gibbons! Rice, especially sticky rice, is a very important element of Laotian cuisine. Vegetables include phak kadao (neem) and many other greens, tomatoes, Lao eggplant, and cucumber. Kaipen is algae from the Mekong River. Dried water buffalo skin and pork belly are popular proteins, and fish paste and clear fish sauce add flavor to many dishes. Pickled fish roe and stir fried water spinach are tempting appetizers, or you can try some fried river moss! Kaeng nor mai is green bamboo stew. Laos has a multitude of Asian restaurants where vegetarians won't go hungry, but organic food is a bit of a rarity when eating out. You can buy health food in Vientiane. Fruit is a good way to have a delicious, healthy dessert in Laos. Choose from rose apple, mangosteen, sapodilla, guava, sugarcane, and many others.