Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Nearly three-quarters of Laos is covered in mountains and forested hills that are too steep to live on. There are three plateaus between the mountains and the Mekong River—the Xiangkhiang, the Khammouan, and the Bolovens Plateaus.
The Xiangkhiang is the largest, while the Bolovens Plateau near Cambodia provides more fertile farmland where coffee, tea, rice, strawberries, and pineapples are grown. The lowland region is the most vital to the Lao. There the Mekong River floods the soil providing rich nutrients to grow enough rice and other crops to feed the whole country for one year.
Most of the country’s population lives along the river, which winds more than 2,600 miles (4,180 kilometers) from China through Laos to the ocean in South Vietnam. Only 10 percent of the country is below 600 feet, and the highest peak, Phu Bia is 9,242 feet (2,817 meters).