Vieng Xai is a city in Hua Phan Province, Laos.
Vieng Xai (also Vieng Xay, Vieng Sai) is a district and town in Hua Phan Province. The town is located on Rte 6, 30 Km from Sam Neua (Province capital) and 55 Km from the Vietnam/Lao border in Na Meo.
The biggest attraction of the town are the caves. The former Pathet Lao (PL) Revolutionary headquarters of Vieng Xai sit in a striking valley of fertile hills and limestone cliffs riddled with caves, several of which were used to shelter PL officers during the second indo-china war.
During the 1960s, political development in Laos were influential in the future of this whole region. The United States believed that Laos was crucial in the prevention of communist expansion, so this small country became caught up in the conflict between the US and the north Vietnamese. In 1964, the US began intensive bombing of the Lao communist movement – Pathet Lao – base area in Xieng Khouang. The Pathet Lao moved east to Vieng Xay and these limestone karst cave networks sheltered their headquarters during their struggle wite the American-backed Royal Lao Government.
In these caves the Pathet Lao established a “Hidden City” which supported around 20,000 people. During nine years of almost constant bombing, they sheltered in caves and surrounding jungle. Most of their daily lives were led under cover of darkness. Schools, hospitals and markets as well as government ministries, a radio station, a theatre and military barracks were all hidden in the caves.
In 1973 a ceasefire stopped the bombing and the new town of ViengXay was established as the capital of the liberated zone. On the 2nd of December 1975 the Lao People's Democratic Republic was declared, and the capital city was transferred to Vientiane.
Songthaew run regularly between Sam Neua and Vieng Xai. The songthaew departs from the local (intraprovincial) bus station in Sam Neua – about 4 km north from the center of town (1-2 km after the airport). The ride takes 0.5 – 1 hours and costs 10,000 LAK (as of November 2010).
You can hire a bicycle from the Caves Visitor center.
There are tours to the caves in english every day promptly at 9:00 and 13:00 (costs 60,000 kip unless you show up late). You can also take a tour at other times during visitor center open hours for an extra 50,000 kip per group. The tour lasts about 2.5 hours and includes a local guide and an extremely well narrated audio book. A bike is also needed as the tour covers a large area and the centre offers bicycle rentals at an additional cost.
Vieng Xai Caves visitor centre (open 8:00-12:00, 13:30-16:30 all week - 064 314321) also has tourist information for the town and region. The centre is deserted except for the 0900 & 1300 tours.
Update/Note (October 2011): The fare is 15,000 or 20,000 kip for locals. Foreigners are charged an extra 5,000 kip.