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Published: January 23rd 2012
Sam Phan Bok (Three Thousand Holes)
January was one of my best days on tour since I started visiting Thailand. My legs are still recovering from all the walking and climbing but it was an unforgettable day. Sam Phan Bok is close to the border of Laos and that is how the location is spelt on site so I will go with that and it means “Three Thousand Holes”. At this time of year the Mekong River is very low instead of the powerful river seen between July and October.
It took two hours to get to Sam Phan Bok and the nearby roads seem to have more than three thousand holes in them but only for a short distance approaching the river. My driver is not a guide and usually one of the local kids act as a guide at Sam Phan Bok . Today no one seemed interested probably because of the lack of English language skills with the only guide that I saw there on that day. It would not have bothered me and saved me a lot of time finding the most spectacular sights in the river bed. In any case my driver
went for a nap and this was another one of his great traits. There was never any pressure on how much time I spent anywhere and he just waited and gave me a big welcoming smile when he next saw me.
I walked down to the river bed and wandered around for an hour or so amongst the craters and many holes in the Mekong river bed. The river still runs although a relatively slim waterway and you can hire a boat if you like but I was happy to explore the amazing moon like surface inundated with holes of all shapes filled with varying levels of water. I was tired and thought I had seen enough so I went back up the sandy hill to return to the car park. My driver was sleeping so I asked the girl at the soft drink stall to take some photos of me at the Sam Phan Bok sign overlooking the river.
I then noticed a large group of Thais wandering down to the river bed and heading towards the right hand side. From my past experience in travelling throughout Thailand I knew that they could lead me to some
more interesting sights at the river. And this time I was so very correct in my assumption. While walking I joined the group and it turns out they were from a school in Ubon and they were very inquisitive about my travels and why I liked this area. We kept walking to the far right from the car park past the moored boats in the river and to some higher parts of the river bed. This is the best part for sighting many amazing looking holes in the river bed formed by thousands of years of erosion and water flow of the mighty Mekong River.
I noticed some other tourists turn back before they got to this area and missed seeing these incredible holes and shapes. Next I was invited into one of the craters to have lunch with some very nice teachers and students and we shared stories of travel through Thailand and some of them had been to Australia. These people were so very warm and typically lovely Thai people and this really made my day very special by spending some time with them at Sam Phan Bok. After three hours wandering the river bed I was
very tired but as soon I found out there would be a lot more exploring before the day was over.
We had approached Sam Phan Bok from the north and after leaving drove south and entered the pha Taem National Park to firstly visit the Soi Sawan waterfall which is better viewed in rainy season but still a refreshing sight on a fairly warm day. Next stop was to view Sao Chaliang which are a natural formation of large rocks sitting on top of each other that appear mushroom shaped.
At the nearby limestone cliffs there were some great views of the Mekong River from a very dangerous cliff top where there are few signs and it would be easy to walk over the edge. I was six feet from the edge and I could sense the sheer terror of falling and would go no closer to the edge. It is a long drop so I was happy to be safe.
There is a walkway that descends to view the three thousand year old rock paintings on the side of the cliff walls and some were very clear or others were pointed out by some Thai people
I met along the trail. I was tired and it was getting late in the afternoon, my driver was rested after another nap and we then drove to Khong Jiam where we viewed the two colored river where the Mun and Mekong Rivers meet appearing as two contrasting colors. We then drove back to Ubon and had a Thai meal at a small outdoors restaurant near the train station which was very delicious and needed after ten hours of driving and touring some of the most interesting and amazing parts of eastern Thailand.
Click on any of the 36 photos if you want a larger view.
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