Laos has opened up to tourism a complex of caves that once sheltered communist guerrilla leaders from the most intense bombing campaign ever unleashed by the United States.
Initially only five of the caves will be open to the public, the Laos National Tourism Administration (LNTA) said.
Laos was drawn into the Indochina War between 1964 and 1973, when the land-locked country fell victim to the US's so-called "secret war" to wipe out Viet Cong troops who used northern Laos as part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to funnel men and armaments to South Vietnam.
More than two million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Laos over the nine years, more than the amount that fell on all of Europe during World War II.
War tourism has proved a boon in neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia, where thousands of visitors flock to such sites as the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" near Phnom Penh and the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City.
The Pathet Lao, as Lao communist troops were known, were forced to literally move underground into the dramatic, limestone caves to avoid detection and the bombardments.
"Up to 480 caves in Viengxay district in Houaphanh province were transformed into a de facto cave city," the LNTA said in a statement today. "Many caves had specialist functions such as hospital, shop, school, printing house, government office, bakery and theatre. In the hospital cave, patients were treated by Cuban doctors."
The LNTA admitted, however, that one drawback to the new tourism attraction was the location of the caves.
Situated in a remote mountainous area 315km north-east of Vientiane, only helicopters can land at Viengxay's airstrip, which can be hired at Xam Neua, 29km away.
Road access is possible via the Vietnamese border, 55km to the east.
Accommodation in Viengxay is also spartan. There is only one hotel in the town with 16 rooms, and three guest houses with a total of 26 rooms.
The government hopes that attracting tourists to one of the country's most remote and poorest areas will raise local incomes. Houaphanh province is the poorest in a country where 40 per cent of the population survive on less than a dollar a day.
"For tourists who take the time to reach Viengxay and the nearby attractions throughout north-east Laos, we can promise a very enriching and educational experience," said Somphong Mongkhonvilay, chairman of the LNTA.