Guide to Sam Phan Bok: The Grand Canyon of Thailand

Guide to Sam Phan Bok: The Grand Canyon of Thailand

In the Thai province of Ubon Ratchathani lies an otherworldly attraction that is little-known to tourists: Sam​ ​Phan​ ​Bok, also known as the Grand Canyon of Thailand.

The Northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani hosts a peculiar natural wonder marketed as “The Grand Canyon of Thailand”. While it may be a bit of a stretch to compare this particular land attraction with its American counterpart, there is no doubt that Sam Phan Bok is worth exploring for its own unique reasons.

What is the Grand Canyon of Thailand?

In the Lao / Isaan language, Sam Phan Bok translates as 3,000 holes. While you may never be able to accurately count them all, the alien-like holes that blanket the rock foundation make this place so fascinating and photogenic. From microscopic burrows to gaping cavernous indentations, these naturally eroded holes are scattered along the river bed, just waiting to be investigated.

What experiences can I enjoy there?

As well as admiring the natural splendour, wander around and see what silly formations you can find in the rock. See if you can spot the well-known heart-shaped hole, or hunt down the hole affectionately dubbed Mickey Mouse.

In another section of the riverbank, volcanic rock formations create a moon-like appearance. Dark black clusters of rock with unusual patterns and textures remain from a time long past. In true Thai spirit, a particular protrusion of rock shaped like a pot is embellished with flowers and other offerings.

If you are looking for a unique perspective, consider purchasing a guided tour on a wooden long tail boat. Costs vary depending on the duration of the ride, but for about THB 1,000 you can spend an hour drifting beside the steep and rocky canyon-esque cliffs.

Where is it located? 

The Grand Canyon of Thailand is located in the Thai province of Ubon Ratchathani. It is close to the area known as the Emerald Triangle, where the three countries of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia meet. The distance from Bangkok is almost 700 kilometres.

You can catch vans from the provincial town of Khong Chiam to take you close to the site. From there, you can either take a short walk down to the riverbed or hire a nearby songthaew for a small fee. Although it is possible to use a combination of buses and minivans to reach Sam Phan Bok, having your own private transportation would be very beneficial to make the most of the area. There are no admission fees to the natural landmark.

When can I visit it? 

Sam Phan Bok is very much a seasonal attraction. During the rainy season and start of the cool season, the high water levels of the swollen river render the intriguing holes invisible. Between November and April, however, the Mekong River starts to evaporate and dry out in the heat, revealing its deeper layers. Popular visiting times are around sunrise or sunset, when the temperatures are comfortably lower and the angled sun glimmers seductively against the stone surface.

Are there other attractions nearby? 

If you do decide to make the journey to Thailand’s Grand Canyon, there are a few other places of interest in the general area. Among these are Pha Taem National Park, with its daring cliffs and historic rock paintings, the Two-Tone River near Kaeng Tana National Park, the Tana Rapids, and Hat Salung beach along the river splitting the distance between Thailand and Laos.

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


Related Posts