After a period as a French protectorate, Laos gained independence in 1949. A long civil war ended officially when the communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975 but the protesting between factions continued for several years. Private enterprise has increased since the late 1990s when economic reforms including rapid business licensing were introduced. Laos is still ranked among the lowest countries in terms of economic and political freedom. The economy of Laos grew at 7.5% in 2007, 35th fastest in the world. Eighty percent of the employed practice subsistence agriculture. The country’s ethnic make-up is diverse, with around 55% belonging to the largest ethnic group, the Lao. In 2005, the United States established Normal Trade Relations with Laos, ending a protracted period of punitive import taxes.

Vientiane is the capital city of Laos, situated in the Mekong River valley. It is also Laos’s largest city with an estimated population of about 200,000 people. Vientiane will host the 2009 Southeast Asian Games, with 18 disciplines being dropped from the previous games held in Thailand due to Laos’ landlocked state and the lack of adequate facilities in Vientiane.

There is virtually no visible or organized gay community in the country. The current political climate is such that no organized LGBT political or social life can exist. Burma’s social mores about human sexuality have been described as being, "extremely conservative". However, there are many LGBT folks in the city who live closeted lives and only show their truth at such places as the Dong Tan Palace Hotel night club (east of the city center on the river). According to Utopia, there are numerous clubs, karaoke bars, discos, and restaurants in town that appeal to local gays and lesbians.

Read the story about Gay Laos