Ruth: Nong Khiaw is only a 30km detour off our route to Luang Prabang, and well worth the additional distance. The Karst landscape provides a stunning backdrop to this lovely town squeezed between mountains and the river Ou. We visited a nearby cave that sheltered the Pathet Lao, the communist revolutionary force, from American air strikes during the Vietnam war. The former regional capital was so damaged by bombing that it was moved to Nong Khiaw. In 1975 the Pathet Lao took power folloeing their defeat of Royalist forces in a civil war that had been going on since the French left in 1953.