Northern Lao - European
Cave Project   

  Laos 2007  Expedition to Houaphan

Expedition time: 4.-20. January 2007  

Expedition video (10 minutes)


Joerg Dreybrodt, Michael Laumanns, Helmut Steiner, Wolfgang Zillig, Liz Price, Jos Burgers, Steve Weston

The exploration primarily targeted several new caving areas in the Houaphan province. The region was one of the high priorities as across the border in Vietnam extensive cave systems have been described by Belgian and British expeditions. Here the communist Pathet Lao had its headquarters for 9 years during the Vietnam war and the ongoing civil war with the Royalists, which were supported by the USA and the Hmong hill-tribe. Extensive military and logistical use of caves was made in this heavily bombed region including underground cave bunkers of the communist party leaders and subterranean hospitals. These historical cave sites are maintained as national memorials and symbolize the birthplace and rise of the communist party of Laos. They attract up to two hundred visitors per month with a growing number of foreigners. This led to an increase of tourist infrastructure and a desire by the local authorities for exploration of the caves that are developed in the extremely scenic tower karst of Vieng Xai formed in Upper Triassic limestone. Underground river courses with huge and beautifully decorated cave passages are abundant and many of them are through caves. Within a few days the 4.8 km long Tham Nam Long was surveyed as well as the 3 km long Tham Nam and nine other caves with a total of well over 10 km of mapped passages.

Another caving area north of Vieng Thong was briefly visited in the Houaphan province. This region belongs to the Nam Et Phou Louey national park from where several caves were described by environmental projects with emphasis on eco-tourism. Three days yielded over 2 km of passage from three caves, including the unfinished Tham Thia Thong where about 200 m of passage needs to be added to the yet surveyed 1.3 km. Many more caves await exploration.

The remaining three of the 15 cave kilometres mapped during the 2007 project came from other regions, mainly from the Phou Khoun area (Luang Prabang province) where the 2 km long Tham Deu-Tham Dout system consists of two unconnected river caves.

Please check also the Media/Articles page for further reading on this exciting area rich of history!