Photo: Mountain views.

Introduction

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Lying 30 kilometres east of Sam Neua close to the Vietnam border, Vieng Xai is one of the hardest to reach corners of Laos and is also home to one of the country’s most important historic sites, the Vieng Xai caves.



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A tiny town set on a plain guarded by hulking limestone karst, Vieng Xai’s peaceful landscape and sleepy demeanour belies its powerful role during the Secret War as the command centre of the Pathet Lao. Those karst contain hundreds of caves and from 1964 to 1973, as bombs rained down, 20,000 soldiers and civilians survived in a hidden city.

Vieng Xai is not really a boom town. Photo taken in or around Vieng Xai, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Vieng Xai is not really a boom town. Photo: Cindy Fan

The caves are the main reason for visiting Hua Phan Province. The principal caves are open to the public, only accessible via a three hour tour paired with an excellent 18-point audio guide. The tour includes the leadership quarters, barracks, meeting room, emergency safe rooms, cooking areas, artillery caves and a giant theatre. Meanwhile, the audio paints a picture of what it was like living in the damp, dark underground, the narration layered with survivors’ stories. Vieng Xai is a truly remarkable part of the country and makes a compelling case to journey to this remote frontier.

In 1973, a ceasefire was signed between the Pathet Lao and Royal Lao Government. On December 2, 1975, the Pathet Lao took control of the country; they were victorious and Lao PDR was born. They bestowed their heartland with a new name, Vieng Xai or “city of victory”. Leader Kaysone Phomvihane became the first Prime Minister, serving from 1975 until just before his death in 1992. That’s him on all ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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