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Tales From The Ho Chi Minh Trail-Tham Nam Cave

 Tham Nam -Ban Nongboua


Location; N17° 32.915′ E105° 44.863′


Caves played a huge part during the conflict in Laos, with the war against the Americans run from a massive cave complex housed in Xam Neua.  Smaller caves served similar purposes, and were all very safe, natural shelters from the bombers above. Cant imagine is was much fun being inside whilst the planes came.

Foot of the cave.
Crater trail in the area.
In the middle of the picture sits the cave
village life.
Plenty of scrap laying around. POL pipe line,

The cave we talk about here, Phu Tham Nam, is at the bottom of the Mu Gia Pass as you enter the Phanop Valley near Ban Nongboua. There are actually two caves there, joined by a single access tunnel.  As going into caves is a dangerous activity, make sure you tell people where you are going, before you go.

We made a short video about this place a few years back. It served the villagers and the Vietnamese Army as shelter for 9 years whilst the bombing of the Trail continued.  Bombing evidenced by the craters plainly apparent just outside the cave.

Large crater outside the cave.
Very close to the cave

The Caves are just a short distance from Route 12, and very easy to find.  You can go into the front cave and look around, but the rear cave is said to be unstable due to a direct hit by a bomb. The first is quiet deep, the second I just poked my head into. There are still a lot of things left lying inside and around the cave from all those years ago, especially outside the caves.  For your personal safety, keep on the paths.

found in 2013
Very small sandals worn by the NVA, made from truck tires
Inside the village.
aluminum tubes housed rockets, now a ladder.

If you go to the village, the locals would be happy to take you to the Cave.  Some of the villagers actually lived in the Cave during the war.  Additionally, in exchange for a few dollars, they can tell you many stories of those times.  That exchange is a great help to the local economy, and means a lot in the countryside.

Small climb up to the entrance
How it would have looked. Pic,Tri Minh Dong.
Rear cave entrance, the man on the right lived there for many years.

Its really quiet a nice area, with the Karsk Mountains and Annamite acting as a natural border to Vietnam.  All very quiet now, but a great place to go and look around.  The Xe Bangfai River Cave is not far, you can get a boat from Ban Saenphan at the river crossing to the cave.

Here’s a little of what we found inside and outside of the cave.

There was a lot more scrap laying around, so many bullets.

We returned in December 2022, the whole cave has been fenced off with barbed wire, we jumped the fence and went to have a look around. It appears the 2nd cave has collapsed, I imagine that’s why its been fenced off. We had  a poke around and it wasn’t long before we found some more NVA sandal’s, then a live Anti personal mine, BLU-3, it looked brand new, time to leave.

Blu-3 Anti Personal Mine.
Looks like this when opened.
NVA Sandal.
No idea what this, but there were many.

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