Published/Last edited or updated: 3rd November, 2018
In one of the hardest to reach corners of the country, the Vieng Xai caves are a testament to the suffering and struggle that gave rise to a new nation. Now open to the public, the caves are one of the most important and remarkable historic sites in Laos, though few travellers venture here to visit them.
At first glance Vieng Xai doesn’t look like much. The sparsely populated, sleepy village sits on a plain surrounded by hulking limestone karst. As unlikely as it may seem, the peaceful landscape played a pivotal role during the Secret War. Concealed in the rock are hundreds of caves, and for almost a decade 20,000 soldiers and civilians survived the intense aerial bombing by living underground in this hidden city, which also served as the command centre for the Pathet Lao.
Background Displays in the Vieng Xai Caves visitor centre set the stage:
“The Second World War began a long period of turbulence for the nations of Southeast Asia. Japanese intervention had fatally weakened the dominance of the European colonial powers. When France attempted to reoccupy its Indochinese colonies from 1946, national independence movements fought to expel their colonial masters and establish independent nations.”
“In Laos, the dominant nationalist organisation became known as the Pathet Lao (‘Land of the Lao’), a communist movement closely associated with Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh in Vietnam. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam brought an end to French control over Indochina. At the 1954 Geneva Conference convened to settle the war, the Pathet Lao gained two northeastern provinces, Phongsali and Houaphan. These became the base area of the Lao revolutionary independence ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,300 words.)
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
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