Ubon Rachatanee is one of those hidden away provinces with some lovely charms missed by most tourists.
Tucked away in a corner of the Isaan region, Hidden Ubon is squeezed between Cambodia in the south and Laos in the east.
Pha Taem National Park
Pha Taem National Park covers about 340sq km of extensive rainforest on the Thai side of the Khong River.
On the Laos side of the river is the related Phou Xieng Thong National Protected Area.
The park isn’t mountainous but has some hills and plateaus with interesting view points.
Limestone cliffs and caves are a feature, formed by ancient earthquakes.
Pha Taem is notable for the many ancient rock paintings found on cliffs above the Khong river. which can be viewed on one of the trails.
The park also has a number of ‘Mushroom’ rocks, natural rock stacks which look a bit like giant mushrooms. They are big enough that trees can grow on top of them.
The areas known as Pha Taem and Pha Kam near the park HQ are limestone cliffs covered in prehistoric paintings dated back 3,000-4,000 years.
They depict a traditional way of life of the ancient people who once lived there.
Scenes include include fishing, rice farming, human figures, animals, hands and geometric designs.
More recent discoveries show that the area was settled by humans up to 14000 years ago.
You get a stunning view of the Khong River and Laos from the trail here.
Soi Sawan Waterfall is very popular locally. Unusual for a waterfall its especially pretty in October and November when blooming flowers cover even the big rocks, creating a beautiful vista.
Getting there: The park entrance is in Khong Chiam district. Follow the Khong Chiam- Khemmarat Road for 15km, then turn right and continue another 5km to the park headquarters.
Ubon Candle Festival
Ubon’s candle festival is famous across Thailand and attracts thousands of visitors, almost all of them Thai.
It’s an amazing experience that should not be missed if you’re in Thailand during July.
Traditional dancers and amazing wax coated colourful floats parade the streets accompanied by Thai music.
Each float can represent a different temple or village, and many long hours go into the design and preparation of these unique displays.
On Asanha Bucha Day the floats are gathered in Sri Muang Park in Ubon city. The finishing touches are put on there while open to public viewing.
The next evening on Khao Pansa Day, these beautiful structures are paraded through the city.
Before setting off to watch such a lovely festival carefully check the date the festival will take place, as Asanha Bucha and Khao Pansa are moveable in line with the phases of the moon.
Its also important to book hotels and flights well in advance as they get booked solid ever year.
Getting there: Thai Smile Airways fly daily from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. Nok Air and Air Asia fly from Bangkok’s Don Muang airport.
Wat Sirindhorn Wararam Phu Prao
This unique temple is famous for it’s absolutely beautiful after-dark illuminations created by phosphorescent paintwork.
The result is stunning as decorations both on the building and the surrounding gardens come to life in an amazing display that’s not visible in daylight.
Photography here isn’t easy and using a mobile phone brings poor results. If you want a photo as stunning as the one at the top of this page, you’ll need an SLR or better, and a lot of patience.
The temple sits on a hill with some great views across Laos. The border is at Chong Mek, just a km or so away.
For some obscure reason there are some rock carvings of modern comic book characters just below the temple.
Getting there: Buses run between Ubon Ratchathanee and Chong Mek, then you’ll need to hire a tuk tuk to get to the temple. You could also hire a car if you plan to tour the area.
Sam Phun Bok
Sam Phun Bok translates as 3000 holes. It’s the biggest rock reef in the Khong River, created by water rushing over and through the rocks.
Water has formed an amazing variety of different shapes and sizes of holes, and each seems to be unique.
For some strange reason Sam Phun Bok has been given the nickname of “Grand Canyon of Thailand”.
The area is very slippery and many of the holes are deeper than they seem at first look. So, be careful!
The only time it’s good to visit is from November to April, during the hot dry season.
The water which completely covers it in the rainy season evaporates to reveal the 3000 holes.
Getting there: It’s about 110km from Ubon city. Your best bet is to book a Khong river trip which includes round trip transportation. These tours include a number of interesting sights, including Sam Phun Bok.
Two Coloured River
This effect is a result of blueish coloured water of the Mun (or Moon) river flowing into the much larger Khong river, which is a muddy brown colour.
At certain times of the year the two colours can be seen clearly side by side. At other times its possible to see it but its more of a mixed bag.
However, video and photos don’t always show it so well.
Getting there: The river confluence is in Khong Chiam district at the eastern most point of Thailand. Visiting might be best via an organised tour from Ubon city.
That’s our quick look at the fascinating province of Ubon Ratchathanee. We can’t cover every amazing place but we are sure you’ll find plenty more when you visit.
And don’t ignore Ubon City which has a lot to offer the intrepid traveller!
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