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Pha Taem National Park/Thailand

Introducing Pha Taem National Park

Up the Mekong from Khong Jiam is a long cliff named Pha Taem, the centrepiece of unheralded Pha Taem National Park. From the top you get an awesome bird's-eye view across the river into Laos, and you can see the first sunset in Thailand. 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, fish traps (looking much like the huge ones still used today) and geometric designs. The second viewing platform fronts the most impressive batch. A clifftop visitor centre 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. 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. 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 amazing Nam Tok Saeng Chan flows through a hole cut 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, cabins and five bungalows. Vendors sell snacks and fast food near the visitor centre 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 (from 200B).