New Ubon Attraction Sam Pan Bok

There are many tourist attractions around Ubon Ratchathani that do not get much promotion. But lately I have noticed many billboards with pictures of a place on the Mekong River.

Maybe you have seen them too, if you live in Ubon. I got curious and asked around. I discovered it was a place over in Pho Sai district named Sam Pan Bok, meaning 3000 Holes in Thai. I could smell another adventure coming.

It was time to make a trip to Immigration in Phibun Mangsahan so I planned to add a journey to check out this famous holes on the river. I planned an early departure to make sure there was time to take in the sights.

I arrived early enough at the office but had overlooked some copies I needed so had to go correct my oversight. It still didn’t take so long but the hunger pangs were getting my attention so we decided to enjoy lunch at Gaeng Saphue before continuing to Sam Pan Bok.

As usual, the lunch overlooking Mun River was pleasant. If you can go there on weekdays it isn’t too crowded and is rather peaceful as well. There were some families who brought there children to play in the shallow river and having a great time.

My stomach taken care of we headed out. Just across the bridge and turn right on Highway 2222 for the 30 kilometer trip to Khong Jiam. I arrive in Khong Jiam and turned left, heading northwest on Highway 2134, it is only a short distance to connect to Highway 2112 which passes by the turn off to Pha Taem.

I double checked the map and confirmed to stay on Highway 2112. I had to be careful as the exact location of Sam Pan Bok isn’t on my map. Why is that? My map is one I bought when I first arrived in Ubon nearly 10 years ago. Opening Sam Pan Bok as a tourist destination only happened recently.

It is a bit more than 70 kilometers from Khong Jiam to the newest Ubon Ratchathani tourist attraction. The road was nice until we passed the turn off to Pha Taem. After that it was a bit rough in many places. I was beginning to wonder if the site was named for geological formations there or for the number of holes in the road getting there. I didn’t take time to count but I am certain it is close to 3000 if not more.

Driving up a short incline we spotted a small blue sign ahead on the right. In the center of the road were pylons and a flashing red light. Opposite the blue sign was a roadside tent with police and park rangers. As we got closer to the sign it was pointing the way to our destination.

Making the right hand turn in the direction the sign sent us a dirt road appeared. Just down the road another sign notified drivers that Sam Pan Bok is 3 kilometers further. At about the 2 kilometer point there is a fork in the road. Signs point both directions with the same distance. I took the fork to the right. It turned out to be the best decision.

Within 10 minutes we came to the parking area with ample shade trees. I parking attendant came to greet us and after some valuable information he handed over a parking pass for a 20TB fee. One bit of information he passed on was that we could camp there overnight for only 40TB. Thank you, maybe sometime in the future.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 10We were parched after the 100 kilometer drive from Phibun so we hurried over to the nearest vendor to get some cold water. The parking area and vendors are located on a plateau overlooking Sam Pan Bok. From the vantage point we could see that it was a mixture of rock, sand, vegetation and water.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 7It might be new as far as being open to the public but it was easy to tell the site had been created by nature and took thousands, if not millions of years to become what it is today. Nothing compared to nature when it comes to artistry.

Cooled down and our thirst quenched we headed down the dirt path to the scene below. There is solid rock with texture etched by running water. There are many, many holes in rock of differing sizes and shapes. Some of the holes are filled with water and others are dry.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 8The mighty Mekong is very tame this time of year. The main waterway appeared to be a channel with a gentle flow. Other locations the water was stil as though a pond or reservoir instead of the powerful river of July through October.

The way the rocks were laid out it provided an interesting path. Now I could walk the way of water and fish when waters are swollen. Up and down, around and over, I was deifnitely getting my exercise for the day.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 9It is easy to look around and imagine you might be on a desert or even another planet. The rock formations are spread out making for an out of this world scene. Adding to the visual effect is the heat radiating off the rocks and lack of breeze blowing along the river bed.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 1

Walking along exploring we rounded a rock outcrop and suddenly several shades of lovely green came into view. We headed to that point. There in between the rocks was a pool of still water. Along the shore of the pond several species of plants, each a different shade of green were growing. It look like a border or fringe. Just behind the one section was a bed of white fine sand. The diversity was amazing to me. To top it off as I looked at a rock on the far side of the pond it looked to me like a turtle sitting on the shore taking a drink.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 6
There are some vendors in the area. You can rent paddle boats to take a short trip down the river to a rock stage. I also spotted longtail boats taking some tourists or daytrippers on a tour. That is there is you choose to experience it.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 5It was hot and we were feeling it so headed back up to the parking area. I was in need of the cool water again at the top. While cooling down I inventoried the grounds. There is one open air restaurant there. I am not sure as to what’s on the menu butit is the only place in town so if you are hungry that is the place. Of course another option is to bring your own picnic.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 4Also there are restrooms and wash rooms to clean up after your adventure. It is in its infancy in development so I am sure more options will follow. Time will tell.

It was getting late afternoon so made the decision to take off. If I timed it right would make it home in time for dinner. I decided to take the way I didn’t come in by. It is like a loop or ring road. You have to drive down a steep dirt road and at the bottom is bedrock. I soon found out there are some deep ruts in the rock so need to choose your exit carefully.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 3The road goes down then up to the hill again. At the top it appears there are more vendors getting set up. So it seems there is an expectation of increased visitor traffic. The road this direction is not just a straight drive. You must make some turns and I had never been there before so luckily I made the right choices. I guess my army training came in handy.

Sam Pan Bok Ubon Ratchathani 2When leaving there are two choices if you are heading to Ubon city. You can retrace the route back to Khong Jiam, Phibun and Ubon or you can turn right at Highway 2112 and a few kilometers you will see the junction with Highway 2337 that passes through Pho Sai village heading west.  It connects with Highway 2050 south through Trakan Phut Phon and then to Ubon. I think it is about the same either way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short adventure. It was nice exploring a place that has had millions upon millions of liters of water travel over it. It is interesting to see. I would think it would be a nice place for a picnic as well and is great for photo sessions.

Drawbacks as I see it are it can get extremely crowded on weekends. So if you can go on weekdays it might be more enjoyable. There are some young employees there that were driving their motorcycles up the narrow dirt road to the top at high speed. So be careful when walking around. It is isolated so you are restricted to what you brought with you or what’s available.

It is a great day trip from Ubon or neighboring provinces. I recommend a visit, especially if you love the outdoors and natures artwork. If you are ever curious about what is under all that water flowing down to the Delta now you can see firsthand. I am not sure exact dates but come July or August at latest Sam Pan Bok will be underwater and remain so till at least November so the 3000 holes can only been seen part of the year.

If you are a tourist in Ubon or if you live in Ubon it is a nice place to visit and spend a day exploring and enjoying nature.

Happy Ubon travels.


  1. […] the rest here: New Ubon Attraction Sam Pan Bok Posted in Travel Thailand | Tags: add-new-tag, khong-jiam, motorcycles, on-flickr, parking, […]

  2. […] Darwin added an interesting post today on New Ubon Attraction Sam Pan Bok | Life and Times in Ubon …Here’s a small readingIf you are ever curious about what is under all that water flowing down to the Delta now you can see firsthand. I am not sure exact dates but come July or August at latest Sam Pan Bok will be underwater and remain so till at least November … One Comment so far ?. New Ubon Attraction Sam Pan Bok // Apr 11, 2009 at 2:42 pm. […] the rest here: New Ubon Attraction Sam Pan Bok Posted in Travel Thailand | Tags: add-new-tag, khong-jiam, motorcycles, on-flickr, parking, [. … […]

  3. […] location of the video is at a place known as Sam Pan Bok a Thai name meaning Three Thousand Holes. I didn’t count them when I visited, just took their […]

  4. […] Sam Pan Bok – It will give you the impression you have stepped onto the lunar surface or at least on to a sci-fi movie set. A most interesting creation of nature. Best time to go is January to June. […]

  5. […] Tourist Attraction I chose : Sam Pan Bok, Ubonratchathani […]

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