Holidays in Laos + Lima 85

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by rhiekel, Jan 8, 2006.

  1. jayree

    jayree Member

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  2. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

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  3. mat.ward

    mat.ward Ol'Timer

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    When we were in Xam Nua in Feb this year we were very keen to head towards Phu Pathi. We met a friendly tourism development guy (Lao) from the Phonsavan area who had good english. We asked him for rough directions to get to the area. After initially agreeing that it would be a good trip he came back after talking with some local colleagues and said that until the UXO had been cleared from the area tourists were not allowed near the mountain. We spoke with another 6 Lao people, and everyone we spoke with said things like “too difficult for you”, “bad road”, “too much UXO”, "military road blocks", and other less defined reasons why we could not go.

    One guy initially said that it would be no problem on bikes, and that the old US airstrip and mountain was right next to “Houayma” the town we could ride to. After initially saying he would find a Hmong guide for us (initially we were not thinking of a guide, but we figured there would be no harm in going with a local, and there might even be a small chance of getting near/up the the mountain) he left a note for us at our guesthouse saying that the area is “prohibited for some reasons” (see note below). The seventh and last Lao person we talked to about going there briefly mentioned problems the government was having with the Hmong. Maybe this the the real reason is for all the perplexing discouragement we got when inquiring about traveling to the area. Apparently the government has said that the mountain itself would open to tourists once the UXO is cleared, maybe this means that the mountain will open once the Hmong rebels/bandits/whatever have been “cleared”.

    We figured that it would be foolish/rude if we headed to the town after being discouraged from going by so many locals (and by the sounds of it there would have been an army checkpoint) so we decided not to go.

    Maybe someone with better spoken Lao or better contacts in Lao would have a better chance to figure out the real issue involved with a trip towards LS85 (if there even is an issue). We figured that it would be a bit muppety to barge on up.

    The note from Bounphone, the project director for Nam Et Phouluey NBCA who was visiting Xam Nua:
    PhouPathinote.

    Phou Pathi and LS85 are further west than they are marked on David's map. The second half of a ride there looks like fun I recon.
    PhuPhathi2.
     
  4. rudecam

    rudecam Member

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    eh! i'm glad other people are trying to climb it! it's been 2 years now that i am back in canada taking physical therapy courses in college. It's hard and demanding and i can't travel anymore. I will be following this post real close. Wish you good luck!

    I remembers locals trying to discourage me with the same arguments don't give up! that peak will be doable eventually
     
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Bump for "the Ambassador."
    A shame all the photos are gone.
     
  7. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Very interesting footage and detailed description of Lima Site 85 and what went on there.





    Cheers
    Brian
     
  8. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

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    Great Video Brian, I enjoyed that, Great Info! The Crew manning the Radar Station Probably thought they were pretty Safe Living on top of Cliffs. Poor Buggers.
     
  9. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Active Member

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    Very informative video. Thanks for posting it.
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #35 DavidFL, Apr 7, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2017
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Researching a bit more on LS85

    A book well worth reading: One Day Too Long by Timothy Castle.

    PHOU PHATI – One Day Too Long
    P239-240- 241
    From a Vietnamese Report quoted in the book

    The orders: destroy & seize the American communications centre.
    Attack & seize the TACAN
    Kill the Americans
    Defend & stay in place until the infantry arrives.
    The assault was carried out by
    3 officers
    15 non commissioned officers
    15 soldiers
    + 9 man sapper squad
    The team combined ethnic Vietnamese + 4 different ethnic nationalities.
    Their weapons
    3 x B40 grenade launchers
    23 AK assault rifles
    4 carbines
    2 K54 pistols

    On 7 December 1967 the assault team was stationed at Muang Kao
    11 days later an 8 man team reconnaissance team surveyed the area
    One month later another team led by political officer crawled up next to the TACAN site to resurvey.
    On 7th March 1968 a Party Committee meeting approved an assault for 0400-0500 hrs on 11th March 1968.
     
  12. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

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    The photos are back !! Changed servers and had to relink all of them.
     
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  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Great stuff. Thank you Robert.
     
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #39 DavidFL, Jan 6, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
    Stumbled across this one

    Two former North Vietnamese commandos who took part in the attack showed the investigators three places where they had thrown bodies over the cliff. The investigators threw mannequins over the edge at those points while a photographer in a helicopter videotaped their fall. That pointed the investigators to a ledge, 540 feet below.

    Mountaineer-qualified specialists scaled down cliffs to the ledge, where they discovered human remains, leather boots in four different sizes, five survival vests, and other fragments of material that indicated the presence of at least four Americans. The team worked in hazardous conditions, including strong winds and falling rocks, which constrained the search.

    In December 2005, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office announced the identification of the remains of TSgt. Patrick L. Shannon, one of the 11 airmen at Phou Pha Thi. Further excavation of the ledges is planned, assuming the willingness of the Laotian government to approve access to the site.

    Source:
    The Fall of Lima Site 85
     
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  15. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Great resource.. lots of good info here
     
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #41 DavidFL, Dec 25, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2017
    LS 85 Phou Phathi now has a stairway with access to the top!



    Confirmed - the stairway is complete, but not yet open to tourists.

    The official opening is 13 March 2018.
     
  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Some images of the stairway
    23658444_2013399765602998_7650605942347374067_n.

    23754809_2013363598939948_1300918186359021114_n.

    23755699_2013364042273237_6106887547221432023_n.

    23794912_2013363972273244_6698176369048590873_n.
     
  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Two more images of the stairway
    FB_IMG_1514952241723.

    FB_IMG_1514952241723.
     
  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #44 DavidFL, Jan 3, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    A news report from John McBeth at Asia Times 2 January 2018

    Revolutionary monument to CIA’s fall in Laos

    The North Vietnam Army's surprise attack on Air America's Phou Pha Thi radar station will be memorialized on the pivotal assault's 50th anniversary

    Half a century after North Vietnamese sappers scaled sheer 200-meter cliffs in the dead of night to overrun a strategic US Air Force radar installation on the western rim of Phou Pha Thi, the Lao government is finally opening the towering limestone massif to domestic and apparently foreign tourists.

    Once locked in remote jungle fastness, northeast Laos’ tallest peak is a scenic attraction itself, but the official opening of a steel staircase to allow visitors access to its eastern ridge-line is expected to come on the 50th anniversary of the one of the North Vietnamese Army’s (PAVN) greatest feat of arms.

    Construction crews have still not finished carving a 60-kilometer all-weather road through rugged country from the wartime Pathet Lao headquarters of Sam Neua to Houayma, a Hmong tribal settlement at the eastern end of the seven-kilometer-long escarpment.

    But a secondary road has replaced the dirt track from Houayma to the foot of Phou Pha Thi, where a new information center marks the beginning of the new staircase, winding several hundred meters up a steep slope to an army post on a small plateau.

    From there, officialdom permitting, it will be a tough slog along the mountain to reach the site of the US’ former ‘Project Heavy Green’ radar installation, which was obliterated by concerted US airstrikes after falling into Vietnamese hands in the surprise pre-dawn assault.

    It is not clear who paid for the staircase, but in apparent competition with the Chinese, Hanoi is funding new roads stretching 58 kilometers west from Houayma to Mueang Xon, then north to the Vietnamese border, allegedly for use by logging trucks.

    As a so-called revolutionary monument, Houaphan province officials have long been keen to add Phou Pha Thi to the province’s other big tourist attraction, the Viengxa caves, 20 kilometers west of Sam Neua, which were home to 20,000 Pathet Lao soldiers during the Indochina conflict.

    Up until now, the few foreign motorcycle adventurers who have sought to approach Phou Pha Thai have been turned away by Lao government soldiers for security reasons, perhaps because of unexploded ordnance littering its lower slopes.

    Known to the Americans as Lima Site 85, located deep inside territory held by Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces, the radar was established in late 1966 to direct F-105 fighter-bombers in raids aimed at degrading North Vietnam’s surface-to-air missile system.

    Lying just 40 kilometers west of Sam Neua and 200 kilometers from downtown Hanoi, it proved to be an inviting target for a specially trained platoon of elite Dac Cong commandos, who stormed the site on March 11, 1968, killing 11 American technicians.

    It was the USAF’s largest ground combat loss and only the bodies of two of the missing servicemen were recovered from the mountain’s slopes by the US Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command and Vietnamese and Lao searchers between 1994 and 2005.

    The sappers reportedly lost only one dead in the battle, but according to the sole survivor – a relative of a Vietnamese official now married to an Australian journalist – the entire platoon was wiped out in a B-52 strike during the siege of Khe Sanh in South Vietnam some months later.

    Supporting communist forces killed more than 40 Hmong and Thai defenders guarding a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) post and runway just below the radar site; two case officers and four other Americans were evacuated by helicopter at the height of the battle.

    The commander of the Thai forces, who was away at the time having dental work, was communications expert Lieutenant Chamlong Srimuang, later to become one of the leaders of Thailand’s 1981 Young Turks coup which only failed because of the intervention of then King Bhumibol Adulaydej.

    Local residents and frequent travelers to the Lao hinterlands say it is unlikely the Vientiane government will also relax access to Long Chieng, the mist-shrouded valley in central Laos’ Xaysomboun province that served as the nerve center of the CIA’s so-called ‘secret war.’

    Driving along the rutted 1,350-meter runway, it was not readily apparent to this correspondent during a specially approved visit in 2013 why the old base with its 1,000 inhabitants and small detachment of soldiers was still off-limits to outsiders.

    Overlooked to the north by the once heavily-defended Skyline Ridge, the picturesque valley is hemmed in on other sides by jagged limestone karsts, including one outcrop at the end of the runway known as the ‘Vertical Speed Brake.’

    Abandoned in 1975 in one of the last acts of the war, Long Chieng was once the busiest airport in the world, home to Lao Air Force T-28 bombers and Pilatus Porters, Helio Couriers and an assortment of helicopters, mostly flown by Air America and Continental Air Service

    Although the valley itself now seems at peace, government security concerns stem from continuing pin-prick attacks by ethnic Hmong rebels, descendants of the 20,000 CIA-backed tribal guerillas who, along with 21,000 Thai mercenaries, fought communist forces to a virtual standstill.

    Once designated a special security zone, Xaysomboun was supposedly opened to the tourism in 2015, but the 3,000 meter Phou Bia, the country’s highest peak, remains a rebel sanctuary and other scenic attractions are still not safe to visit.

    Many of the attacks go unreported, but only last June the Chinese embassy in Vientiane issued a safety warning to its citizens after a Chinese worker was ambushed and killed at a road construction site in Long Chieng district, north of the Australian-operated Phou Bia gold mine.

    It was not the first time the Chinese have been targeted. In January 2016, two more workers were killed when their car triggered an improvised explosive device in the same area and two months later another Chinese national died in an attack in neighboring Luang Prabang.

    China is expected to forge ahead of Vietnam and Thailand in the struggle for influence in Laos when it completes the 414 kilometer, US$5.8 billion railway connecting China with the northern Lao border town of Boten to Vientiane as part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

    The new link, filling an important gap in the Trans-Asia railway network, is expected to be in operation by late 2021, turning the land-locked communist state into what Lao officials are enthusing will become a “land-linked” country. Given its route through Namtha, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, it is unlikely to experience any serious security issues.

     
  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    50 years since that battle & the Fall of Phou Phathi

    There was a ceremony in the USA honouring the US airmen who died
    Air Force honors 12 airmen who died defending top-secret outpost in Laos during Vietnam War
    watch the vdo clip interview with Joe Panza a chopper rescte pilot at the scene.

    In Xam Neua city there was a huge anniversary celebration at the stadium
    28951805_2007296109539051_2729125067165270016_o.

    sorry i could not be there to witness the event.
    If anyone knows of some reports, please post them.
    I cant find anything about officially opening the stairway to tourists..
     
  21. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

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    Unbelievable Story and Fantastic Video, well worth a watch. And definitely a spot worth looking at if anyone ever ends up way out there? Specially if You can actually get right up to the Actual site now!
     
  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Some Thai guys have succeeded in getting up Phou Phathi in June this year.





    36044142_2048451088560249_5000051370946985984_n.


    36176771_2048451151893576_6310597960568668160_n.


    36045407_2048451421893549_94323898501300224_n.


    36052808_2048451641893527_9168856145815666688_n.

    35991031_2048451765226848_2453874425779453952_n.

    Bas Loei Gs was the leader. What a fantastic effort pulling that off.
     
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  23. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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