sign in a cave in Laos

28 July 2011

Vieng Xai Hidden City in Laos

Vieng Xai’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Lao PDR (People’s Democratic Republic). Laos gained independence 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 1960’s the Pathet Lao moved their headquarters from Vientiane to Houa Phanh province. As the USA 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 Pathet 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!
Kids playing on old bombs made safe

To escape from this onslaught, around 23,000 people took to Vieng Xai’s natural caves and they constructed the ‘Hidden City’ for the leaders.

In internal exile, the Pathet Lao continued to direct the resistance struggle from the city hidden in the limestone hills.

They lived in the caves from 1964-1973. Today this network of caves is open to tourists, and as you go around, you can learn more about the history of Laos.

Several caves were selected as the family homes and offices of the leaders.

Natural caves were enlarged, tunnels developed and internal ceilings inserted. Airtight rooms with air filtering equipment were constructed, to use in the event of a gas attack.

Blast walls over 1.5 metres thick were built to shield cave entrances from rockets and guided missiles. Visitors to Vieng Xai today can visit the leaders’ caves, some of which still contain their personal possessions.


There are about 6 major caves to visit.

We stayed right by this lake.

UXO or unexploded ordance is still a huge problem.

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