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Through literature on Lao recent history you'll learn why Viengxay takes crucial place in the communist state, and some things are also explained here and another you'll learn if you visit or through conversation.
Apart all that historic infromation, it's good to know that Viengxay is now very pleasant, safe place to go and maybe spend overnite. It's very quiet - true, the restaurants and guesthouses are few but basic, but as you'll walk around there are neat gardens to see and fine views over the village and a landscape - huge lime stone rocks dot the settlement and make for the idillyc canvas. Amazing combination - that's all I can say. It seems like rock (mountain) and houses are cohabiting together well and rocks provide great shelter - thus no wonder it has been chosen as a seat of Pather Lao those days of that terrible, insane and completely unnecessary was ( called 'secret war', ah - come on).
In sume - you're perhaps visiting one of the most interesting settlements in Laos. Both for its historic and landscape potential.
Written Feb 16, 2011
Souphanuvong was one of key members of Pathet Lao and first Lao PDR president, also called Red prince due his royal blood (in the hierarchy of royal family he had inferior position from those of his other cusins and half-brothers).
His site in Viengxay is below the mountain and has shady, pleasant garden with trees and shrubs in front of the house and cave - a garden was designed by himself - and also a kidney shaped pool. He was civil engineer, married to Vietnamese woman, political activist whom she had great influence upon him and there are some very interesting stories linked to that. As a young man he was educated in France and later worked in Vietnam - where he got inspired by Ho Chi Minh (and revolution) and he had became one of the leading anti-colonial figures of Lao modern state. But because of his royal backgorund they didn't allow him to gain more power so he had to satisfy with role of president of Lao PDR who didn't have much decisive power and influence on politics.
At the site there's also a small stupa for his son who was killed by agents of the enemy side (they believe he was killed by CIA agents).
First picture: the site and the mountain with his cave behind the house.
Second picture: pool and garden
Updated Nov 4, 2009
Kaysone was leading revolutionary figure, most important Lao communist (you can see his photo on the wall in almost any office, even in some guesthouses around the country) - hence you'll be first taken to his site in the begining of Cave tour.
During the war he was visited in Viengxay by foreign colleagues, one of them was Fidel Castro who admired Lao anti-colonial resistance.
His cave is one of the brightests and airy comparing to others in Viengxay which are dark, damp and unpleasantly claustrophobic. Has several rooms here, also meeting rooms where the politburo planned and dicussed on further actions. There are also Kaysone's personal things on display - not much interesting, though (his bed and books, etc...).
First picutre: corridor in Kaysone cave
Second picture: Kaysones bed
Third picture: mechanism in separated room from which they delivered fresh air during bombing campaigns
Fourt picture: bookshelf with Communist literature
Updated Nov 4, 2009
Siphandon was another important figure in Lao history and president of Lao PDR. His cave is few minutes walk from Souphanuvongs cave and has very pleasant setting in front of the large rock - nice garden and light shadow. You will be taken to his HQ and then you'll continue from the inside the cave to the villagers living quarters - large, dark place with claustrophobic feel and suffocating air. This one has no nearby access to the outside and at those days they didn't have electricity yet so they had to use candles. But now the guide will turn electric light for you: inside there are few different sections - smaller and bigger parts with high ceiling, a corridor which leads you to outside and to connect to other vital parts of the system. The villagers cave looked more natural with karstic features.
Yet, how can we imagine living there for decade, shoulder to shoulder with your fellow citizen in dark, mold, cold, with little food, with constant fear of being shot if you try to grow some vegetables outside, with constant indoctrination as well? This is beyond comprehension unless you lived in such conditions by yourself. Seeing these caves actually gives only a glimpses to the past and once again it confirms that those who were 'beyond' ordinary citizen did actually had a bit better life, although they lived in the caves by themselves. Yet their were caves with direct exit to fresh air and sunlight - a big difference here.
In the end you'll be then show the concert and theatre cave which is enlighten with natural light from the cave opening. That was the place where citizen were also given lessons from leaders and stuff like that.
Written Jul 31, 2009
When you come to Viengxay for reason of seeing caves you'll need first to go to the Kaysone Phomvihane Memorial Tour Cave office. There are small green signs from the pick up station/market that will point you to its direction. It's a small village and you shouldn't have troubles finding it as it's only few min walk from the market. Locals are helpful and can help with directions. At office you register yourself and will be provided with guide.
There are guided tours twice daily: first one at around 9 am and second tour at 1 pm approx. It takes about 2 hrs to see Kaysone cave, Souphanuvong cave, Siphandon Cave and villagers cave which are in a few locations scattered around Viengxay. In caves is a bit colder than outside so you may want to wear light jacket there. The caves have been well cleared off and provided with concrete stairways and corridors so it's easier to walk inside. You don't need torch because they use electricity when tours are on. Guide can speak a bit English though not that much and he may not be able to give many answers due language barrier and complexity of historical, political background. Many caves are not yet opened to public.
Guided tour will cost you 30 000 KIP for foreigner.
For citizen of Greater Mekong region country the ticket is 20 000 KIP.
For Lao is 10 000 KIP.
If you want to see cave outside of official hours you have to contact the Office and they will provide you with guide at additional cost.
Note that caves are quite large underground system with plenty of paths and if you distant yourself from the group you may get lost.
The guide also seem to take time to get at the Office so waiting half hour for him seem normal there.
Written Jul 31, 2009