Pha Taem National Park

Pha Taem National Park

The vantage point for Thailand's earliest sunrise

More on Khong Chiam

Vantage point for Thailand’s earliest sunrise, a vast shale cliff overlooks the forested hills of Laos stretching beyond the Mekong River. On its base, a long series of paintings hint at what life was like here some 3,000 years ago. Also containing strange rock formations, fantastic waterfalls and fields of wildflowers, Pha Taem National Park packs a lot into its 340 square kilometres.

Travelfish says:
Looking south from Pha Taem, with Laos on the left and Thailand on the right. Photo by: David Luekens.
Looking south from Pha Taem, with Laos on the left and Thailand on the right. Photo: David Luekens

From here visitors can walk right up to the cliffside to enjoy the view. Keep small children close at hand here; no guardrails stand between you and the edge of a 160-metre drop. A nearby trailhead gives way to a few concrete steps leading to the base of the park’s namesake cliff: Pha Taem, which translates as “cliff painting”.

The scenic and relatively easy trail runs along the foot of the overhanging cliff, passing five painting sites spread along 1.5 kilometres before climbing back to the cliff top. From here another 1.5 kilometres of easy track takes you across the plateau and back to the car park. Wooden viewing platforms are set up in front of the paintings, which are guarded by an outcrop of barbed wire to stop anyone from adding more modern graffiti.

Monks out for a stroll. Photo by: David Luekens.
Monks out for a stroll. Photo: David Luekens

While the paintings are thought to be around 3,000 years old, no one is exactly sure. Anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 years is plausible, and the art was probably added gradually over a lengthy period of time. The artists are thought to have used palm leaves to apply the natural paints, mostly red but also with some black and white. Much of the cliff face overhangs, sometimes dramatically, as softer shales compose the lower strata that are capped by less easily eroded ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 900 words.)

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Reviewed by

David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.

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