Samphanbok - the Mekong holes - from Ubon

DavidFL

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24th January 2016

In between my southern Laos sojourn with “Madam Champa”, hanging out in Ubon for a few days I’d made a note to check out the unseen Samphanbok, Mekong holes.

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The Mekong - Samphanbok - PhoSai

With madam safely on the plane back home & a camera battery charger again after some mini drama scoring one & mentioned here

https://www.gt-rider.com/se-asia-motorcycling/topic/ubon-ratchathani-other

off I went

The info said: Take Highway No.2050 from Ubon & head north-east until reaching Pho Sai District. Its about 120 kms & just follow the “Sam Phan Bok” signs.

I took off on R2050 from Ubon & made my first stop in Khemarat - 104 kms out of Ubon -  asking for directions as I’d yet to see a sign for Sam Phan Bok.

Its a pretty boring run out to Khemarat

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Elevation profile Ubon - Khemarat

with only an 80 metre variation in elevation, so you can carry a bit of speed

& ho hum....apparently I’d missed the first turn off 21 kms back down the road, but never mind you can also back track just 3 kms & take the other road, closer to the river. So onto R2112, the Khemarat – Song Khon road it was.

Onto R2112 it is.....I’d only gone 7+ kms when cresting a hill I was stunned by a strange looking wat, if it ever was.

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I actually road past at first, but nope my interest got the better of me & I had to turn back.

I mean what the hell was that sticking up.

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& the answer is it's Wat Bung Khilek "the octagonal wat."

If anyone has anymore info please let us know, as I'm sure there is an interesting story out there.

Off to the side of the wat is a fine line up of beautiful white Buddhas.

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more to come...
 

DavidFL

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After an intriguing 40 minutes at the octagonal wat it was back on the road.

2o kms after Wat Bung Khilek I turned left onto what I thought might a road to the Samphanbok. The give way was a stack of tour buses parked outside on the highway. It was 4kms down a narrow road to near the river, but I Saw nothing significant, so back out on the highway it was & head southwards again. Ho hum I was beginning to think did the place really exist.

Another 10 kms & voila

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a sign for Samphanbok

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jackpot I thought.

It's 2.7 kms down another narrow winding concrete village road to end up beside the Mekong.

down by the river there's some Lao people with a boat who have come over for some shipping. Its a long long way down to the river & there's a vintage trick cart & mini winch to carry goods up & down from the river.

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Standing on the bank I can see in the distance downstream, what would appear to be the desired spot - the narrow Mekong Samphanbok

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Using the telephoto lens I can also see that you would not be alone down there.

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you'd be on the Facebook selfie trail

There's a rough track along the dry river bank & the Vstrom goes for a meander

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boiling hot it is in the late afternoon sun, I call it quits for the day & venture off in search of some accommodation.

More to come...
 

DavidFL

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Back out on the deserted highway & 1.5 kms down the road I spotted some uninspiring accommodation.

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across the concrete pad in the heat a matchbox bungalow

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but clean & furnished with all the trimmings

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I crashed out asleep & woke up an hour two later to saunter over to the restaurant. I was the only person alive on the planet there - deserted - no food or drink. I retired to the concrete box & survived the night on a bottle of water & a packet of crisps.

Up "early" the next morning it was back down to the cool river.

Heavy overcast it was with a cold biting wind howling down the Mekong - a total contrast to the previous day!

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Hanging out in the biting cold cold wind at the Samphanbok

In the village of Hat Salueng

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The Hat Salueng boat office

there are boats you can hire for 1,000 baht to cruise down the river for the Samphanbok experience.

There are a coulpe of restaurants by the rivr at Hat Salueng where you can top up with food & drink before hitting the Khong for your Samphanbok excursion

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My life saving Hat Salueng brekky.

After brekky it is down the steps you go & onto the boat

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On a cold overcast day there are a few boats tied up. Its no fun on the river when its so cold?

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Heavy overcast on the Khong at the Samphanbok

In the boat you get, first for a 15 minute tour upstream & then head back downstream to the main attractions.

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Downstream there's no mistaking you've arrived at Samphanbok central, despite the cold biting wind.

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more to come.
 
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ianyonok

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So many unusual natural features in this country. Surprisingly busy, must have been peak season.....
 

DavidFL

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From the boat anchor you climb up onto the rocks.
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The Samphanbok: is basically where the Phu Phan Mountain Range runs into the Mekong & is "cut off." A large long rocky sandstone bar the swirling waters of wet season Mekong has cut thousands of holes in the rocks.

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Sam Phan Bok translates as “3,000 holes”. "Bok” is a Laotian word meaning basin & “Sam Phan" is three thousand in Thai = the three thousand (basins) holes. The thousands of holes have been worn away in the rocks by the swirling waters of the Mekong over thousands of years.

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Hin Hua Phaniang, the huge strange-shape rock amid the river. This rock emerges in midstream, dividing the Mekong into two streams or songkhon in the local language. This is the origin of the name "Songkhon Village".

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In the wet season the river rises 5-10 metres & the rocks are all under water, but in the dry they are all exposed & worthy of a visit if you are in the area.

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The rocks stretch along the river for about 10 kilometres

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Pak Bong is the area where the channel is narrowest at 56 meters

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Legend has it that a greedy king once left a dog here to die after it loyally guarded a treasure discovered in one of the holes. Supposedly somewhere there is a hole that looks like the head of a dog, but it eluded me on the day.

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Lak Sila Lek, is a rock on where French colonial soldiers marked the water levels of the Mekong.

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Lak Sila Lek rock

Get back on the boat & sail further downstream & there are Mekong sand dune beaches

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Then there is a moonscape - lava rocks beach

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You could spend a whole day here taking photos, if you wanted to. The best times to go are at dawn & late after afternoon - sunset - dusk. On a bright sunny day the colours are sensational, but unfortunately I did not have that luck, being a heavy overcast day. .And obviously the best - only season - to go is hot season when the water is lowest.

Once at the Samphanbok I could actually see a restaurant on the riverside, wherre you could drive right down & walk out onto the rocks.

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the restaurant viewpoint

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It's an easy dirt side road of 1.5 kms to the restaurant view point

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but not everybody can handle it so well.

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So... Samphanbok you have a choice - boat in or ride in.

Please yourself - the boat ride costs 1,000 baht from Hat Salueng & it gets you 2 hours. Did I get my 1,000 baht's worth for the boat - well yes & no.

Having done a few Mekong boat trips from Houei Xai - Luang Prabang - Pak Lay - Vientiane I can say the river was not that exciting, but if you've never done it, then by all means do the boat ride & later on come back with your bike if you like.

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Enjoy. Samphanbok is a cool place to go - if you're in the area.

P.S. Try not to go on a weekend either. I forgot.
 
Last edited:

DavidFL

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An update - the 6th Mekong Friendship Bridge.
Proposed to be built approximately 20 kms upstream from Samphanbok

2014-0424 - NNT - Transport Minister visits border bridge site in Ubon Ratchathani

สำนักข่่าวแห่งชาติ : Transport Minister visits border bridge site in Ubon Ratchathani

National News Bureau of Thailand
Transport Minister visits border bridge site in Ubon Ratchathani
Date : 24 ?????? 2559

UBON RATCHATHANI, 24 April 2016 (NNT) - Transport Minister Arkom Termpitayapaisit has visited the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani to discuss the construction plan for the sixth Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge.
Mr. Arkom has surveyed a location in Phalan Sub-district in Na Tan District, which is opposite Lakhonpheng City in the Laotian province of Salavan. Ubon Ratchathani Governor Somsak Changtrakul briefed Mr. Arkom on the project.
The Transport Minister said the Department of Highways would undertake a feasibility study of the location, using three main criteria: approval between the Thai and Lao governments, economic viability and the impact on security.
Mr. Arkom commented Phalan Sub-district has many suitable locations for the construction of the sixth Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge, adding that the agency in charge has the duty to choose the most suitable location which may be close to or outside the city center.
The Transport Minister remarked that building the bridge near the city center would enable the government to save the cost of infrastructure development, while picking a location outside the downtown would require expansion of infrastructure which involves a land reform and town planning.
He suggested that the bridge be built at the section of the Mekong River where the distance between the two countries is the shortest to save on costs.
 

DavidFL

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An update - the 6th Mekong Friendship Bridge.
Proposed to be built approximately 20 kms upstream from Samphanbok

2014-0424 - NNT - Transport Minister visits border bridge site in Ubon Ratchathani

สำนักข่่าวแห่งชาติ : Transport Minister visits border bridge site in Ubon Ratchathani

National News Bureau of Thailand
Transport Minister visits border bridge site in Ubon Ratchathani
Date : 24 ?????? 2559

UBON RATCHATHANI, 24 April 2016 (NNT) - Transport Minister Arkom Termpitayapaisit has visited the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani to discuss the construction plan for the sixth Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge.
Mr. Arkom has surveyed a location in Phalan Sub-district in Na Tan District, which is opposite Lakhonpheng City in the Laotian province of Salavan. Ubon Ratchathani Governor Somsak Changtrakul briefed Mr. Arkom on the project.
The Transport Minister said the Department of Highways would undertake a feasibility study of the location, using three main criteria: approval between the Thai and Lao governments, economic viability and the impact on security.
Mr. Arkom commented Phalan Sub-district has many suitable locations for the construction of the sixth Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge, adding that the agency in charge has the duty to choose the most suitable location which may be close to or outside the city center.
The Transport Minister remarked that building the bridge near the city center would enable the government to save the cost of infrastructure development, while picking a location outside the downtown would require expansion of infrastructure which involves a land reform and town planning.
He suggested that the bridge be built at the section of the Mekong River where the distance between the two countries is the shortest to save on costs.

Confirmed 18th January 2016

Tambon Natan to be site of sixth Thai-Lao Friendship bridge - The Nation

Tambon Natan to be site of sixth Thai-Lao Friendship bridge

A committee charged with selecting the location for the sixth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge has selected Tambon Natan in Ubon Ratchathani’s Natan district for the construction, a deputy governor said on Thursday.

Ubon Ratchathani deputy governor Chalermpol Mungkung said the location was chosen because it would be near large communities and could be linked easily to existing roads. He said the bridge will link to Ban La Khone Pheng town in Laos’ Salavan province. He said the project could start without the need to carry out an environmental impact study.

Source: Nation News 19 January 2018