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Laos is a small mountainous landlocked country in the center of the Southeast Asian peninsula. A long mountain range separates it from Vietnam, and most rivers flow westward to the great Mekong River, the main artery of transportation and communication between north and south which serves as the border with Thailand for about 500 miles. Laos also borders on China to the north, Burma to the northwest, and Cambodia to the south. The country is about 91,000 square miles (a little bigger than Idaho), stretching about 700 miles north to south and averaging 150-200 miles across. Much of the area is quite wild with steep forested slopes and narrow river valleys. Only about 4% of the land is arable, mostly along the Mekong River, in the southern tableland, and in small upland valleys. Other than one major north-south highway and a very few east-west connecting roads, there are few other roads and many of these are impassable in the rainy season. Much travel and transport in the hinterland is still on foot, by oxcart, or dugout canoe. Larger boats ply the Mekong and Ou rivers, and there are small airfields scattered around the country.

The climate is tropical and most agriculture depends on the monsoon rains which come May to October. After the rainy season comes the cool dry season November to February andthe hot dry season in March and April. Temperatures range from about 40 F in upland areas in the cool season to 100 F in lowland areas in the hot season.