Don’t just start and end your Laos trip at Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Head northeast to the little town of Sam Neua to experience authentic local life among green hills and do a day-trip to the caves of Vieng Xai.
The limestone caves were converted into living quarters, hospitals, kitchen, safe rooms with cast iron doors and more during the Vietnam War to provide shelter for the Laos Communist forces from American bombs.
Besides the 18-hour bus ride from Vientiane or 15-hour bus ride from Luang Prabang, the only other way to get to Sam Neua is via a daily Lao Capricorn Air flight before taking a one-hour songthaew (two-bench bus) to the caves at Vieng Xai.
On any given day, you will probably be the only foreigner to visit the historical site.