An audio tour launched in late 2009 in a remote corner of Indochina brings alive the story of America’s ‘secret war’ in Laos. Between 1964 and 1973 America, which was at war with North Vietnam, secretly dropped more bombs on neighboring Laos than were dropped on Europe in the whole of World War II.
Over 20,000 people in Viengxay in northeast Laos survived by living in an elaborate network of caves which are now open to the public. Many of the caves had specialist functions such as hospital, bakery, school, shop, theater or government office. A new audio tour of the caves, produced by a Sydney-based company, is now available to tourists visiting Viengxay. The remote area is a scenic mix of limestone mountains and green valleys with rice paddies and hamlets.
“The creation of the audio tour is of historical significance,” says Ms Penny Street, Director and Founder of Narrowcasters, which produced the audio tour. “Forty-nine survivors were interviewed including farmers, doctors, soldiers, nurses, and even mothers who gave birth in the caves. It is the first time a large number of eye-witnesses have been tracked down and their testament recorded for posterity and future use by historians.”
The 90-minute audio tour combines eye witness accounts and a narrative that explains the wider conflict of the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1960s and 70s as the cold war dominated geo-political thinking around the world, the ‘domino theory’ compelled decision makers in Washington DC who were trying to contain communism in Indochina. The consequences were dire for Laotian villagers, most of whom were subsistence farmers.
In October, Lonely Planet named the secret war caves at Viengxay among the top ten underground experiences in the world. Listen to an extract of the audio tour.
This article, written by Marc Albert, was originally posted on his own blog www.travel-lao-isaan.blogspot.com