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Looking straight ahead at one of the streams that cut through the hole formations at Sam Phan Bok.

Navigating the Majestic Sam Phan Bok

Sam Phan Bok is on my list of the wonders of the world. Literally translated as “three thousand holes”, Sam Phan Bok is a majestic natural formation. Unlike many natural beauties, Sam Phan Bok is only visible when the water level of the Mekong river is at its lowest. So come visit between December and June and bring along a hat as it may get really hot!

Where do you start?

This is the entrance to the Sam Phan Bok area, which is a series of holes formed from the riverbed along the Mekong river.You first enter a parking area where songthaews and tour guides wait for you. Not to worry, you can easily walk the area on your own. Alternatively, negotiate with the tour guide to walk you through Sam Phan Bok. I went with a guide as I wanted her to point out the interesting formations. Indeed, the guide made many hilarious associations such as a chick, a heart and even mickey mouse!

One of the hole formations at Sam Phan Bok resembles that of a paw of a dinosaur.

The interpretations are endless. You might discover holes that look like the paw prints of a dinosaur, a large oasis or even the root of a lotus. Being the itchy explorer, I climbed up the formations, crawled through the tunnels and went down to the riverbed. There was really a lot to see and definitely enough room for your imagination to run wild.

This is one of the hidden pools at Sam Phan Bok and you can see a clear reflection of the sky from the pool.

I enjoyed sitting by the holes filled with water. The crystal clear pools created beautiful reflections of the sky and tempted me to go for a dip (I did not). Occasionally you can spot fishes that were probably stuck in the hole after the water receded. It felt as if each hole was its own ecosystem, with plants and fishes in it that depended on one another.

Looking straight at one of the streams that passes through the rock formations at Sam Phan Bok.

As you walk further away from the parking area, you can head down to the riverbed and walk along the small streams that cut through the entire formation. The area resembled somewhat like a mini canyon, with a meandering river flanked by sharp and rocky “cliffs”. Climb back up to the top of the formation and your perspective changes.

When should you visit?

Looking at one of the large holes filled with water reflecting the clouds and the blue skies.

I visited Sam Phan Bok in the early afternoon and the area looked like a desert from afar. Come slightly later in the evening if you would like to see the Sam Phan Bok covered with an orange hue. Do bring enough water as the entire area is not shaded. Also, watch out for the burning rocks if you visit during a clear day!

Your visit has not ended!

A panoramic view of the hole formations from the lookout spot at Sam Phan Bok.

As you leave the parking area, do look out for a road that goes uphill. Follow the path and you will reach a lookout spot. This spot overlooks one part of Sam Phan Bok, and you can see various hole formations, streams and ponds all at once. This is also a great place in the evening to watch the entire formation slowly change in colour. From a rocky beige colour, the formation eventually evolves into a dark orange hue.

This hole formation at Sam Phan Bok resembles that of Mickey Mouse

Sam Phan Bok is a natural wonder you cannot miss if you are in the eastern or southeastern part of Thailand. Getting there may be a little tricky though. However, the stunning views of the Mekong and the impressive rock formations will make your journey well worth it.

What do you think of Sam Phan Bok? Share with me your thoughts in the comments below. Also, do share this article with your friends so that more people know about this incredible nature spot!

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