TOURCODE 71533 (SWT-09) Description
During the Secret War in Laos there were many places of significance, with Long Tieng being the most famous. Luckily for us it is recently open to the public, and this tour will head straight for this mountain outpost that served as the command and control center of the counterinsurgency here in Laos during the 1960's and early 70's.
We will also visit many other important Lima Sites and talk about their history. And in between we will see stunningly beautiful landscapes, eat local meals and take in their unforgettable hospitality, and visit some of the most popular destinations in Laos.
DAY 01: VIENTIANE TO LONG TIENG (L)
We start our journey heading north-east towards Xaysomboun, Laos' newest province established in 2013. Previously called the "special zone", Xaysomboun is very mountainous and was covered in thick jungle, making it the perfect strategic logistical location and hideout during the 60's and early 70's. Recently there has been logging and mining activity (upwards to 3,200 Hmong work in large mining projects) but most of the Hmong, Khmu, and Lao Leum still primarily live off subsistence farming and hunter gathering. And you will be as new and novel to the locals as they will be to you.
By noon we should arrive in the town of Anouvong, named after king Anouvong whose reign was from 1807-1812. Anouvong is the home of Phou Bia, the highest mountain in Laos standing at 2,820 meters and part of the Annamite Range which covers 1,100 kilometers through Laos, Vietnam and a small portion of Cambodia.
From here we will continue on through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled countryside to the town of Long Tieng, where we will stay the night (250 km / approx. 8 hrs.)
Overnight in Long Tieng
DAY 02: LONG TIENG (B/L)
Once considered “the most secret place on Earth '', Long Tieng was the country’s second largest city until the mid-1970s and one of the busiest airports in the world. The town had a population of 40,000 made up mostly of Hmong soldiers in traditional clothing, Khmu and Thai Leu in military outfits, Thai mercenaries and American pilots. Here the Hmong set up businesses such as taxi service, cobblers, food vendors and equipment repair. Today there are still many remains of what was the center of a guerilla-led clandestine war on communism backed by the CIA. We will spend the whole day exploring the area including Skyline ridge, the airstrip and buildings that are leftovers from the Vietnam war era
Overnight in Long Tieng
DAY 03: LONG TIENG TO PHONSAVAN (B/L)
After breakfast we will resume touring Long Tieng. There is a lot to take in, and we will cover anything we missed the day earlier and go over some areas again with a different light.
Then we leave for Phonsavan, which we will reach in the afternoon passing through Xam Thong Lima Site 20 which played a major role in the war. A new school stands on the old Hospital base, and the Air America bunk House Chimney is still standing.
Upon arrival in Phonsavan we will visit the Plain of Jars; a huge site of stone urns, some with lids.
What the jars were used for isn’t known, but there are many guesses. The most popular guess is that the jars were used as a ‘burial ground’. Time permitting we will visit the 1000 step Mountain and the spoon Village. (90 km / approx. 2-3hrs)
Overnight in Phonsavan
DAY 04: PHONSAVAN TO XAM NEUA (B/L)
We set off on another early start and headed north to our next destination, Xam Neua. On the way you will be constantly treated to spectacular views that will leave you speechless.
40 Kilometers north of Phonsavan is the town of Muang Kham, where the road from there to Nong Haet is noted for its Thai Dam funerary shrines with white tombs, prayer flags and offerings. Further up the road is the Tham Piew cave, where on 24 November 1968, at the height of the Secret War, a US fighter plane fired rockets into the cave used by farmers from the surrounding villages for shelter. The first three rockets missed, but the fourth hit, killing all 374 men, women and children who were sheltering within the cave.
Today there is a small museum and statue near the cave with a man holding a deceased child to remember what happened there. This is a rare scene in Laos where the past is not usually brought to light.
From here we again head north right through two protected biodiversity areas; the Nam-Et Phou Loey and the Nam Xam area.
After arriving in Xam Neua in the early evening, we will settle into our guest house. We’ll need to rest up as tomorrow will be a busy day of sightseeing. In particular, the Vieng Xai Underground Cave Complex, which the Pathet Lao used to run their war effort during that historical conflict.
(240 km / approx. 6 -7 hrs.)
Overnight in Xam Neua
DAY 05: VIENG XAI CAVE COMPLEX (B/L)
The Viengxay caves in the north-eastern province of Houaphan are more than 480 in numbers and housed up to 23,000 people. mountains. They served as Pathet Lao's base and shelter from US bombing raids during the war.
The caves had a hospital, a school, a bakery, shops and even a movie theater. It was home to many communist troops, and also American prisoners of war due to its close proximity to Vietnam.
The complex is ingenious and sophisticated. Caves were split into living areas connected by tunnels to larger communal areas, military barracks and government quarters. The bombing outside was so intense that local farmers would only work their fields at night when the bombing stopped.
Return to Xam Neua for the night.
(45km one way / approx. 1 hr.)
Overnight in Xam Neua
DAY 06: XAM NEUA - PHOU PHATI (LIMA SITE 85) (B/L)
We head into the Hills for another full day, and drive to Lima Site 85. Supported by a 210 meter runway in the valley below, this site was upgraded in 1967 to one with an all weather night bombing radar unit allowing the Lao and US air forces to lead accurate raids and make flying safer. The North Vietnamese retaliated by launching many attacks on the site and finally after a ferocious battle took it over in March, 1968, and destroyed all the equipment. This battle took over 42 Hmong lives and 12 Americans.
Fifty years later, we take the steep climb to that mountain top, and are now rewarded with breathtaking views. We leave the site, and head back to Xam Neua
(140 km roundtrip / approx. 6 hrs.)
Overnight in Xam Neua
DAY 07: XAM NEUA TO MUANG HIAM (VIENG THONG) (B/L)
Todays roadtrip is a bit shorter and we can take our time to stop at a waterfall and at the Hintang archaeological site where hundreds of stone steeles (or menhir) of uncertain origin are spread out in the hilly countryside ( although not very well maintained and some places hard to find).
Arrive in Muang Hiam, or Vieng Thong as it was called before in the afternoon.
Relax and explore the local temple and the very small town.
Visit the nearby hot springs today or alternatively tomorrow morning.
(160 km / approx. 4 hrs.)
Overnight in Muang Hiam
DAY 08: MUANG HIAM TO NONG KHIAW (B/L)
In the morning we enjoy the Hot Springs nearby before we continue through the northern mountain roads to reach Nong Khiaw.
Here we still have time to visit the local Phatok cave which was used as an air-raid shelter during the war and could accommodate up to 2000 people.
Optional hike to a mountain view point nearby ( Phou Pha Daeng or sleeping woman)
(170 km / approx. 4 hrs)
Overnight in Nong Khiaw
DAY 09: NONG KHIAW TO LUANG PRABANG (B/L)
After breakfast we will continue our road trip to Luang Prabang with a few stops.
We reach Luang Prabang in the afternoon.
Transfer to your hotel
Overnight in Luang Prabang ( not included)
Included Travel Services
- All sightseeing as described in program above
- Transportation in private vehicles
- Transfer from airport and back
- Accommodation in hotels (twin shared)
- English speaking guide
- Admission fees to sights described above
- Meals: B= breakfast, L= lunch, D= dinner
- Lao PDR governmental tax and service charge
- Luggage Handling
Not Included Travel Services
- International air tickets to/from Lao PDR
- Visa fee (approximately US$40/pax)
- Travel insurance of any kind
- Meals not mentioned in itinerary
- Tips, drinks, personal expenses and other expenses not described in the program above
- Single room surcharge on request
Travel duration (in days): 9
Difficulty level (easy 1 - 5 challenging): 1
Accessibility: Our trips are generally unsuitable for people with reduced mobility and other disabilities. Please contact us to discuss if this trip is suitable for your specific requirements.
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