"feels distant but that's okay" Khoueng Houaphan by picek

Khoueng Houaphan Travel Guide: 23 reviews and 43 photos

This is a province of departure from Laos, or - or enter to.
It is one of the remotest areas in the state by the border to Vietnam and important historic place. Seems it's one of the places that changed little and will change a lot. Scenery is one of the nicest I've seen in Laos with many mountains, caves and fields with extensive agriculture. Population is about 280 000 people; among them there are many who belong to variety of ethnic groups. But if you're going to look for 'hill-tribe-trekking-kind of a stuff' here, you came to wrong place. Nothing such as 'tribal/ethnic' tourism doesn't exist here. Yet.

There's abundance of rain and forests. Logging is not yet as terrible as in other border provinces. I am glad.

Viengxay

Viengxay is small village about 1 hr driving from Sam Neua. It is abundant with caves many of which were turned into hidings of Communist leaders and the whole village during the civil war. Therefore it still holds an important place in Lao history nowsadays and Lao tourists come here in far greater numbers than foreigners - obviously to learn about Pathet Lao underground living conditions. Maybe that's one of the reasons that they paved the road here - in that very remote corner of Laos.

Hiding in caves people were safe from bombs but living in darkness for decade, in a damp, moist and suffocating air was difficult experience for them all. Sometimes it was not safe to leave caves for long periods and many people were starving. Everything here was very basic. Caves have been long time off limits for foreigners - for interesting account in middle 1990ies read Stalking the Elephant Kings by australian journalist Christopher Kremmer.
In Houphan province there were most notorious prisons for political prisoners - and it's widely believed that last uncrowned King of Laos had died here. When exactly and how - only few people know and it was Lao best kept and darkest secret of where his stationing was. Historians have a lot of research ahead yet noone from ruling elite wants to give certain answers.

You can now see few caves that are open to public and there are guided cave tours from Kaysone memorial centre twice daily (you cannot go into caves by yourself). Caves had been much changed since its original state and they're not praticularly interesting if you expect them looking natural. The whole places were changed to serve purposes of people living there. Its however interesting from historical point of view; on the other side there are caves that aren't open yet.

On cave tour you'll see Kaysones cave, Souphanuvongs cave, Siphandons cave and cave where villagers stayed - also the large cave mouth where they performed concerts and public speeches for people.

border with Vietnam

In short:
no visa on arrival facility on Lao side of border. If you want to enter Laos here, then obtain your visa from embassy in Ha Noi.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:unspoiled beauty, not crowded, historical important
  • Cons:far to get there
  • In a nutshell:worth doing the trip
  • Last visit to Khoueng Houaphan: Dec 2008
  • Intro Updated Feb 16, 2011
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