looking towards Vieng Xai
In Jan 2007 we first visited the Vieng Xia area of Houa Phanh province of NE Laos. The Vietnamese border is only about 40 km away and there are extensive cave systems there.
Vieng Xai's claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Lao PDR (Peoples Democratic Republic). Lao gained independence from France in 1949, this was followed by a civil war, and then the communist Pathet Lao came to power in 1975. Around this time, Vieng Xai got caught up in a secret war and became the site of an unprecedented but little known episode in world history.
In the early 1960s the Pathet Lao moved their headquarters from Vientiane to Houa Phanh province. As the United States of America tried to halt what it saw as the expansion of communism after World War 2, Laos became caught up in this secret war. The US set out to destroy the Lao revolutionary movement whilst denying any military involvement in the country.
In an attempt to destroy the Pathot Lao's new command centre at Vieng Xai, the US embarked on a devastating aerial bombing campaign that would last for nine years (1964-1973). More than two million tonnes of ordnance were dropped on Laos over this period - more bombs than were dropped on Europe during the Second World War. This total is equivalent to one planeload of bombs every 8 minutes for 9 years. However this fact is little known in world history!
For 9 years the people lived in caves. The government leaders and their families set up base in caves, and these caves have today become a tourist attraction. In 2007 we were given permission to explore and survey these caves, working with the local tourism body as well as the SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation). We also explored some natural caves.
The 2007 expedition was very successful so a further expedition took place in 2008. These are some of the many photos I took during our time in Laos 2008.
At Ban Navit. Being filmed for TV
On the way to another cave, but we had to stick to the known path due to the danger from UXO.
© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission