Sam Pan Bok (Thai: สามพันโบก) is known as the "Grand Canyon of Thailand" and is the biggest rock reef in the Mekong River. Sam Phan Bok translates as '3,000 shallow lakes'. Sam Pan Bok is in northeastern Thailand (Isaan), on the bank of the Mekong. Administratively, it is in Baan Phong Pao, Lao Ngam Sub-district, Pho Sai District, Ubon Ratchathani Province. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) classified it as one of the tourist attractions of amazing Thailand that must be experienced. The rock holes were caused by rushing water.
Flora and fauna
Sam Phan Bok is very much a seasonal attraction. During the rainy 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. The most popular times to visit are at sunrise and sunset. It is when when temperatures are low and the sun glimmers on the stone surfaces.
Bangkok to Ubon Rachathani
By train From Hua Lamphong station, at Donmuang station Time: 10-12 hours Price: 500- THB 1500 Trains for Ubon Ratchathani leave from Hua Lamphong Train Station in Bangkok. There are six departures per day. The trip may take anywhere from 8½ hours to 11½ hours. There are two-morning trains, #21 at 05:45 (arrives Ubon Ratchathani at 14:20), which is a special express and the fastest one, and #135 at 06:40, offers second class air-con or fan seats only at 800 baht and 550 baht. For afternoon departure (#145) at 15:20, it reaches Ubon at 02:40. There are second class fan seats only on train #145 at the same price of 550 baht. Night trains are the most convenient choice for getting from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani. There are two rapid trains, #139 at 18:55 and #141 at 22:25. The former is a great choice as it has second class fan sleepers, 700 baht. In many cases, fan carriages are much better than a freezing air-con carriage. The latter train (#141) has second class fan seats for 550 baht. The only express train between Hua Lamphong in Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani, #67, leaves at 20:30 and arrives the following morning at 07:25. There is a choice of a first class air-con sleeper at 1,500 baht and a second class air-con sleeper at 1,000 baht with a second class air-con ladies only option at the same price.
By bus From Mo Chit Time: 9-10 hours Price: 400-600 baht. The main bus terminal of Bangkok–Ubon Ratchathani route is Mo Chit. It includes buses to other northern and northeastern destinations. Mo Chit is in the northern part of Bangkok close to BTS Mo Chit station. Buses cover the distance between Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani in about 9–10 hours. This express include VIP and VIP24 buses to choose from. The first choice is VIP24 as they offer the most comfortable ride. There are only three seats in a row instead of usual four which means more space for legs and elbows. A VIP24 ticket with Lotus Phibun Tour costs 730 baht, but note that these are seats in a double-decker, with normal seats (550 baht) on the upper deck and VIP seats on the lower one. This bus departs at 18:45 and reaches Ubon Ratchathani at 03:50. Two other VIPs, which are more convenient schedule-wise, are a Chanapai Tour 20:05 bus arriving at 04:35 and a Lotus Phibun Tour 20:30 bus (05:35). All the other departures of the same companies are Express buses with tickets sold from 470-490 baht. There is a more expensive Air Ubon Express bus at 21:10 (05:40; 590 baht) but they provide exactly the same service with the only difference of being the fastest option (9 hours).
By air From Don Mueang Airport: Time: 1 hour. Price: 900-2,000 baht. It will cost from 700 to 1,000 baht on average to get from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani one-way with Lion Air, Air Asia, and Nok Air. Basic airfares with low-cost airlines may include limited or no registered luggage and no in-flight meals. All the above-mentioned companies are based at Don Mueang International Airport located to the northeast of the capital. From Suvarnabhumi Airport, consider Thai Smile, a subsidiary of the national carrier Thai Airways International. Tickets are usually more expensive but include luggage and meals.
Ubon Ratchathani to Sam Phan Bok: From the city center of Ubon Ratchathani, take the Hwy 2050 to Pho Sai District for approximately 110 kilometers and walk to Hat Salueng at Ban Song Khon and take a boat trip on the Mekong. The route of the boat trip includes "Pak Bong", the narrowest point of the Mekong, and Hat Hong, and ends at Sam Phan Bok. However, if the tourists want to see only Sam Phan Bok, they can drive directly there.
Fees and permits
There are other popular attractions nearby. The Emerald pool is a large pool with a depth of about three meters and clear emerald green water. Others nearby sites include Phupan Mountain, a waterfall called Khae Song Khon, and a narrow river channel known as Pak Bong. The waterfall is open year-round except during the rainy season to avoid the danger of flood. Also, there is a new tourist attraction called Had Sai Sung (High Sand Mountain Beach). Had Chom daw (See Star Beach) is another nearby attraction. This place is ideal to visit in the evening. Stay overnight to see the stars.