Historically, there appear to be two uses for caves in Laos: storing old buddhas or sheltering from bombs.
About an hour and a half’s walk from Nong Khiaw are two sets of caves in the mountainside that were used not only as shelters, but as regional centres of government, hospitals, etc.
When the USA was secretly dropping bombs along the Ho Chi Minh Trail back in the 1960s and 70s, this area of northern and eastern Laos was blown to smithereens.
The Trail is actually a network of routes that straddles the Vietnam/Laos border. America wasn’t at war with Laos, so the action was officially secret.
However, the damage was so severe and prolonged that it was very difficult to completely cover it up. But news coverage was restricted to an absolute minimum and no help was given to journalists trying to cover the story.
The caves are reached after turning off the road from Nong Khiaw about 2 miles out of town, crossing a river and trekking through jungle.
Steps have been built to the entrances.
Inside, some of the passages are steep and narrow, opening out into massive caverns where thousands of people could shelter from the bombing and shooting.
Areas are now posted with small signs, showing where the regional government convened, where the police station was set, and where the hospital was situated.
There are numerous caves like these in Laos.