sign in a cave in Laos

2 August 2011

Laos Vieng Xai caving expedition 2008, part 1

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 (People's 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.

See my blog on Vieng Xai. See also part 2 of this blog.

The expedition consisted of 10 members, plus a film crew from Germany filming for Arte TV. We drove from Luang Prabang to Vieng Xai, stopping for a late lunch at Vieng Thong.
restaurant kitchen
We stayed in a hotel at Vieng Xai. This is the view from the hotel
The town is surrounded by limestone hills
Film crew

We were up early each morning and the lake by the hotel was always covered in mist due to the freezing temperatures at night

Each morning we went to the market to buy food for lunch.
buffalo head and blood
Young girls in the market, dressed in their best clothes as they are going to a ball game where they hope to meet a suitable husband.

Walking to a cave

having lunch

This cave was also used as a hospital and the ampoules are already being covered by calcite

Before caving we had to visit the village headman to get his permission

The caves were generally very big, but this particular one had some small crawls

View of the valley

This cave is high up on a hill and was used as an observation place. The entrance
defence wall
We had to be careful where we walked as there were still bomb heads and ammunition lying around

One cave was used as a hospital and there are still lots of ampoules scattered around
Thick walls and fortified door

UXO or unexploded ordnance is still a problem. This marker shows this area has been cleared
Bomb crater

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