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Sam Pan Bok
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrImagine standing in between two walls of jagged rocks that are also reflected under the water. A scenic view of the sky and the sunset peers over the horizon. This is what one can experience when exploring Sam Pan Bok in Thailand. Located in Pho Sai District , near Ubon Ratchathani, it is often compared to the Grand Canyon because of its gorge that is around 23 feet deep and up to 66 feet wide. It is made up of sandstone cliffs that run along the Mekong River, and holes carved out of rocks. Sam Pan Bok, when translated to English, literally means ‘3,000 holes’. These holes were formed over millions of years, which make it even more fascinating.
Portions within the Sam Pan Bok also have their names. Hat Hong sits between two ridges, which give the best vista of the sunset. Pak Bong is the area where the Mekong River canal is at its narrowest at 184 feet. Lak Sila Lek or ‘Siladej Rock Cliff’ is a rock that served as reference by French soldiers in history, to mark the water level of the river when shipping goods using their steam boats.
The holes are made of odd and random shapes, yet some turned out to be familiar, like the shape of Mickey Mouse. Some are smooth, while others are textured and uneven due to wind and water. Some of these holes remain as ponds, some small and some big enough where people can swim in it. Tourist guides have mentioned that the most serene of these ponds is called Sa Morakot, meaning “emerald pond”. The area is also a hub for fishing in the community during January and February. The villagers are known to use big swings to catch fish. Water jelly-fish, though rarely seen, can also be found in the river.
When To GoThe best season to sightsee in Sam Pan Bok is during the dry season, to appreciate the natural uniqueness of the weather-beaten rocks. A visit during the months between December to April is recommended because from July to October, the river will overflow and cover thousands of the holes. As for the time of day, an early morning or late afternoon trip is advised, as there are no trees that can offer shade. Thailand is a tropical country and it can get very hot during mid-day. However, don’t go too late in the afternoon because watching the sunset is worth experiencing the heat.
How to Get ThereFortunately, the road towards Sam Pan Bok has been improved by the local government; from rough dirt to concrete road. Follow the path from Ubon through the 2050 highway, which will lead to the parking area at the shoreline of the river. The parking fee is at ฿20 ($0.62) for a day pass, and ฿40 ($1.24) for overnight parking. Driving an autonomous underwater vehicle can even bring tourists further, towards the rim of the rock cliffs. But before that there is a fork in the road, the concrete road mentioned earlier is on the right. The rough road on the left reveals more interesting features of the canyon. Travelling by land is the fastest way to arrive at the destination.
For those with extra time to spare, a boat cruise is another option. The trip starts at the shore called Had Salueng at the Song Khon village, while the cruise ride will travel a distance of around 4 to 3.1 miles. There are many restaurants in the area to pass time while waiting for departure. First-timers should order freshwater fish from the menu. The cruise also has stopovers at other tourist attractions along the way.
Tourists can also opt for a more cost-friendly bus ride, and for a local commuting experience. To do this, one can ride a bus from Motchit 2 Station in Ubon to Pho Sai. It is quite far, though, with a distance of 12 miles from Sam Pan Bok. A bus ride from Ubon to Khemmarat is closer and will take lesser time to travel.
A train route is also available daily for guests. From Ubon, ride from the Hua Lamphong station or Bang Sue station, and then take the Bangkok-Ubon Ratchatani route. If by air, book a plane fare from Bangkok to Ubon.
There are also food and drink vendors at the parking area, so buy what’s needed to recharge and hydrate before taking a long walk.
Places to Visit NearbyAside from the Pak Bong, the narrow river channel, there are many other nearby attractions. It includes the Phupan Mountain and the Hin Hua Paneang, an enormous island that lies in the middle of the Mekong River, splitting it into two. Khae Song Khon, a waterfall streaming on rocks, Had Phong and Longan farms are the other sights nearby. It is also rumored that a dam project will eternally submerge the Sam Pan Bok and it will happen in five years. If it is indeed true, then tourists will have to visit soon.
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Author: LisaN505. Last updated: Sep 04, 2014