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 (provincial capital) and 55 km from the Vietnam/Lao border in Na Meo.
The biggest attraction of the town is 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 Indochina War.
During the 1960s, political developments in Laos were influential in the future of this whole region. The US 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's, 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 with the US-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 the surrounding jungle. Most of their daily lives was conducted 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 Vieng Xay was established as the capital of the liberated zone. On the 2 Dec 1975, the Lao People's Democratic Republic was declared, and the capital city was transferred to Vientiane.
Songthaews occasionally run between Sam Neua and Vieng Xai. Songthaews depart from the local (intra-provincial) Nathong bus station in Sam Neua, about 4 km east of the centre of town (1-2 km after the airport). The earliest bus or songthaew may depart around 08:00 and takes one hour and costs 20,000.
The other option is to take a Vietnam-bound bus from the main (inter-provincial) bus station in Sam neua at 8:00 or 10:00 for 50,000 kip, and get off at Vieng Xai.
During the low season, there may be no songthaew to take you back to Sam Neua. You could try catching the bus from Sam Tai to Sam Neua passing by around 13:30 or buses coming from Vietnam around 16:30-17:00 from the main road.
If coming from Vietnam, the bus from Thanh Hoa drives by Vieng Xai, so you can get off here and spend the night.
You may be able to rent a scooter in Sam Neua to reach Vieng Xai. There is, however, just a single place, Dan Nao Restaurant, renting scooters, and they only have one or two bikes. The road is very direct and only involves two right turns. The first right turn is at a large 3 way intersection with a petrol station at one corner. The second intersection is 2 km away from Vieng Xai.
Taxis from Sam Neua charge 250-300K kip for a return trip with waiting time. You can get back to Sam Neua for 150,000 kip one way. Inquire at Sabaidee Odisha restaurant, if you have trouble finding a ride.
You can hire a mountain bike from the caves visitor centre, 15,000 kip per tour or 30,000 kip per day.
- Vieng Xai Caves, ☏ . Daily, 08:00-12:00, 13:30-16:30. Discover the “hidden city”. There are tours to the caves in English every day at 09:00 and 13:00 (60,000 kip). You can also take a tour at other times during Visitor Centre open hours for an extra 50,000 kip per group. During the low season, there may only be a handful of visitors, so you may even acquire a personal tour and move from cave to cave with the tour guide on his scooter. The Visitor's Centre also has tourist information for the town and region. To reach the Visitor's Centre from the bus station, head south (away from the direction of where you came, if you came from Sam Neua) and turn left at the fork and monument. The centre will be on your right after a few minutes' walk. 60,000 kip for foreigners, 20,000 kip for locals and nationals of Vietnam and China.
There is an afternoon market and many restaurants selling noodle soup near the bus station.
Sabaidee Odisha restaurant north of the market serves Indian and Lao food. Mains from 1,500 kip. Menu in English and English spoken.
- Naxay Guesthouse (near the Caves Visitor Centre). The cute wooden bungalows have mosquito net, hot water bath and a fan. 50,000–70,000 kip.
- Thavisay Hotel, ☏ . A two storey hotel. All rooms have private hot water bath, a fan and a double bed with a mosquito net. Simple, but the setting is nice and the owners are very friendly. 50,000–60,000 kip.
- Thongnakay Guesthouse, ☏ , . All 6 rooms have a fan, double bed with a mosquito net, and private hot water bath. 50,000–60,000 kip.
- Xailomyen Guesthouse. A large timber guest house that sits on stilts over a small lake. All rooms have a mosquito net. There is also (a bit pricey) restaurant and beer. WiFi. 60,000-70,000 kip.
- Na Meo (Lao/Vietnam border) - 07:15 approximately - a songthaew that departs from Sam Neua at 06:45. You should wait on the main road from Sam Neua to Na Meo (approximately 1 km from Vieng Xai town centre). 2.5–3 hours, 22,000 kip. Buses from Sam Neua to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam pass by on the main road around 9:00 and 11:00. They may be full by the time they arrive, however.
- Sam Neua Many songthaews a day (05:40, 06:40, 07:30, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 15:00), yet may hardly be any (or none) during the low season. Costs 15,000 or 20,000 kip, takes 0.5–1 hours. Departs from the market. Update/Note (October 2011): The fare is 15,000 or 20,000 kip for locals. Foreigners are charged an extra 5,000 kip.