Luang Prabang is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 300 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The population of the city is about 50,000. The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It had also been known by the ancient name of Chiang Thong. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Its population was estimated to be around 6.5 million in 2012.
Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms — Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak — uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.
Laos is a single-party socialist republic. It espouses Marxism and is governed by a single party communist politburo dominated by military generals. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Army continue to have significant influence in Laos. The capital city is Vientiane. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately 60% of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 40% of the population, live in the foothills and mountains.