TRAVELThe Otherworldly Sam Phan Bok

The Otherworldly Sam Phan Bok

Villagers call Sam Phan Bok the “Mekong Grand Canyon” for a reason. Its otherworldly landscape has inspired fables and fairytales since ancient times.

When asked about special places to see and experience in Thailand, Ubon Ratchathani is one place to my mind that’s off the beaten path. It is located in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region. With the Mekong River flowing along the borders with Laos, the landscapes here are different than the typical places you see in Thailand.

Golden morning honours the alms-giver in rural Thailand.
Sunrise on the Mekong River in Khong Chiam, the easternmost district of Ubon Ratchathani.

You wouldn’t think tropical Thailand would have dry arid landscapes, but in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani there is the otherworldly “Sam Phan Bok.” In the Isaan language, Sam Phan Bok means 3,000 holes. Caverns and canyons emerge as the Mekong River bed evaporates in the dry season, revealing naturally eroded holes just waiting to be explored.

The Badlands – I was surprised to find a place like this in Thailand.
The Chasm
The Badlands of Thailand – dry, eroded, and exposed.
Positively Lunar
The landscapes of far eastern Thailand.
Another night staring into space.
The benefit of unpolluted night skies
Where the brightest moon meets the stars.


  • “Sam Phan Bok,” or the 3,000 holes, is located at Ban Song Khon, Amphoe Pho Sai, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.
  • “Bok” is a Laotian word that refers to a deep hole in the rapids under the Mekong River. These rapids can be noticed in the dry season when there is no water.
  • Villagers call it the “Mekong Grand Canyon.”
  • The most suitable period to visit Sam Phan Bok is from December to May.
  • Transportation: It is 120 kilometres from Ubon Ratchathani province. Drive along Highway 2050 to Amphoe Pho Sai, a distance of 110 kilometres. Travel to Ban Song Khon and drive on for another 3 kilometres.
  • Reference:

Originally from Hong Kong and Canada, Luke Yeung has spent most of his life based in Bangkok, Thailand, capturing the intensity and urban development of Asia and Southeast Asia. Having trained in architecture, he often captures buildings and spaces as the main elements in his images as a means to reflect on the people and culture of the place. To see more of Luke’s travel photography see To learn more about Luke, visit

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