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Introducing Pha Taem National Park

Up the Mekong from Khong Jiam is a long cliff named Pha Taem, the centrepiece of awesome but unheralded Pha Taem National Park. From the top you get a bird's-eye view across the river into Laos and down below a trail passes prehistoric rock paintings dating to at least 1000 BC. Mural subjects include Ъlah bèuk (giant Mekong catfish), elephants, human hands, geometric designs and fish traps that look much like the huge ones still used today. The second viewing platform fronts the most impressive batch. A visitor centre here contains exhibits pertaining to the paintings and local ecology.

North of the cliff is Nam Tok Soi Sawan, a 25m-tall waterfall flowing from June to December, the same period as all the park's waterfalls. It's a 19km drive from the visitor centre and then a 500m walk, or you can hike (with a ranger) for about 15km along the top of the cliff if you arrange it in advance. What the park calls Thailand's largest flower field (blooming November to February) lies near the falls.

The northern half of the park holds more waterfalls, ancient art and wonderful views. Pa Cha Na Dai cliff serves Thailand's first sunrise view (Pha Taem is about one minute behind and has the first sunset view), and amazing Nam Tok Saeng Chan waterfall flows through a hole cut naturally into the overhanging rock. Scattered across the 340-sq-km park are many oddly eroded rocks, including four sites known as Sao Chaliang, which are mushroom-shaped stone formations similar to those found in Mukdahan's Phu Pha Thoep National Park.

Pha Taem has campsites and five bungalows and vendors sell snacks and fast food until about sunset.

Pha Taem is 18km from Khong Jiam via Rte 2112. There's no public transport, so the best way to get there is to hire a motorcycle in Khong Jiam.