This Laos motorcycle tour takes you to what might be the most special place in Laos.
Riding south towards Long Cheng is on a stone and hard packed sand 4WD road.
The base is pretty sandy, I can recall 3 areas of red clay with some gradient to them that would be tricky in the rain
20km North of Long Cheng and houses made of war scrap
5km away, headed south, you come around a mountain bend & there it is – The Most Secret Place On Earth!
Looking south, the north end of the LS 20A runway is just the other side of those two pointed mounds
2km north of Long Cheng, you hit the “Long Cheng” sign and the Pathet Laos Army checkpoint
The Namngoua village just north of Long Cheng
Then 2 minutes up the road (after getting the bike started) _ & we’re there, the Long Cheng LS 20A runway
I think the best way to understand the history and secrecy around Long Cheng, is to follow the life of Vang Pao – The Laos Army General and Hmong leader.
When the Japanese invaded French Indochina in WW II, Vang Pao joined the French Army to help protect the local Hmong people. After WW II, the French Army recruited Vang Pao as a lieutenant to help combat the Viet Minh. The French lost this war and Vang Pao became an officer in the newly formed Kingdom of Laos. He was in fact the only ethnic Hmong to receive the rank of General. During the 1960’s & 70’s he became the leader of the “Secret Army” or Hmong Army as its sometimes called. They were a highly trained Hmong army, trained by the American CIA to help the U.S fight against the communist Pathet Laos and Peoples Army of Vietnam.
In 1962, the CIA set up a headquarters for Vang Pao at Long Cheng, by 1966 Long Cheng was one of the U.S’s largest foreign military bases on foreign soil. Protected by mountains from 3 sides at am elevation of 1,000 meters, so a good cloud/ fog covering, its made for the perfect B52 bomber base. It was so secret it wasnt on any maps.
During this period, Long Cheng became the biggest Hmong settlement in the world, with 30,000 Hmong living there.
22nd February, 1975, the final defense post around Long Cheng was defeated by the Vietnamese and the evacuation from Long Cheng was being planned. By then there were approx. 50,000 Hmong fighters living in Long Cheng. The Americans removed all the markings from planes and used them for evacuating personnel from Long Cheng.
In the middle of May, 1975, the CIA told Vang Pao it was all over and they could no longer hold the Vietnamese back and it was time to get out. C 130’s evacuated somewhere between 1,000 & 3,000 Hmong from Long Cheng. Tens of thousands of Hmong were left behind to be killed, many found their way into Thailand.
Vang Pao emigrated to the U.S in 1975 after the communist Pathet Laos took power over Laos. Later in life, while living in the U.S, he was involved in various attempted Laos coup conspiracies that landed him in serious trouble, one time released on USD 1.5 million bail & did some time in jail.
Vang Pao died in 2011, 81 years old.
Shack made from war era fuel drums on the edge of the runway
A walk around Long Cheng, military platform metal
Off the goat path and onto the main Army access road up King’s Royal Palace, I can see it, I wonder what reception im going to get when i get there?
Getting close to the King’s old Royal Palace, I gave out a “Sabai Dee” so not to startle anyone. Did seem to cause much reaction so i carried on. What other Laos motorcycle tour can offer you this?
There was a second building to the SE that seemed to be being used as the Army’s kitchen
Firewood for cooking chopped and ready
What a strategic viewpoint the King & Army General had
Looking south east over Long Cheng
The soldiers didnt seem to bothered by me, so i proceeded into their courtyard
Sounded like their were 4/5 soldiers talking inside the house
Presumably a platform for a water tower, maybe a lookout
The Pathet Laos soldiers seemed pretty relaxed
After a good look around, headed down. This is the in double track up Vang Pao’s Royal Palace
There is a steep walking trail short cut to the east taking you down to Long Cheng village
War era metal being put to use
The main Pathet Laos Army camp to the east of Long Cheng runway
Next off to Sky ridge to the north east of the runway. This was Vang Pao’s Armies strong hold defence to keep back the Vietnamese attacking from the east. For safety, we stop at the Police station to get permission
First a quick look around the Ding Dok Cave, I had no idea this was here
Then up to the Sky Ridge to the east. Some say it was named this by an American Military officer who was from Montana, as it reminded him of home – “Big Sky”
Up we go, you can see the Long Cheng runway to the south
Vang Pao’s Hmong Army’s strategic HQ ahead
You don’t normally see armed munition still lying around, the place had a strange feel to it
You could have picked that up and thrown it
What a great lookout
Looking SW over Long Cheng
We walked, but you could get a 250cc enduro bike up there
Still a fair way to go to the high point
Whoa! What a view over Long Cheng
As we approach the summit and the Army base, war scrap starts appearing
Remains of the fortification wall at the summit can clearly be seen
More war scrap
HUGE bomb craters at the summit Army camp
More live motars
More ammo lying around but sorted
Im told a Thai Revolutionary helmet
More live shells
Back down to Long Cheng for some food & security eating with large magazines
A couple of shots of the 990 on the runway
This is what it used to look like
Long Cheng, Laos. Closed off to the world for 30 years, now possible as part of a Laos motorcycle tour.
If you are interested in joining one of our motorcycle tours into Laos, there are 2 links below with available Laos tour offerings: