Isaan’s longest suspension bridge
Published/Last edited or updated: 22nd February, 2021
Kaeng Tana National Park is a mildly pleasant place to go for a hike or enjoy a picnic alongside the Moon River. The namesake rapids are a result of large rocks that protrude during the dry months, including a sandstone boulder with a cement marker placed here during the French colonial era.
The rapids can be accessed from either side of the Moon, where two footbridges take visitors to Don Tana, a small riverine island blanketed in teak forest. A sign claims that one of these is the longest suspension bridge in Northeast Thailand, which really isn’t saying all that much. A few small patches of sand and rocks are conducive to relaxing beside the river, an activity popular with local teenagers. Locals use nets to try and catch the fish that teem in underwater caves.
Near the visitor centre on the southern bank of the Moon, a 1.5 km nature trail leads to a large cave, Tham Pu Ma Nai or Tham Phra, where a roughly 1300-year-old inscription proclaiming the supremacy of a certain Khmer prince was discovered. It’s now displayed in Ubon Ratchathani’s National Museum.
Five km south of the park’s main entrance off Highway 2173, Tat Ton waterfall is worth the side trip if you’re here between August and January, when it’s not completely dried up. Water flows over a rock shelf that stands only a couple of metres high but stretches for the entire width of the Tat Ton river. Many smooth notches provide places to sit back within or behind the cascading water. Expect plenty of locals if visiting on a weekend.
The park has a rather unkempt feel and, depending on your budget and time restraints, may not be worth the 200 baht charge for foreign adults. Little or no English is spoken at the visitor centre, but we were given an English brochure. Accommodation is available near the rapids, though it’s only in the form of large bungalows that appear to be designed for school kids on field trips. The smallest sleeps five and costs 1,000 baht a night.
Kaeng Tana is frustratingly confusing to access. Two English signs point south off Highway 2222 to the west of Khong Chiam and north of the Moon River. The first of these, if heading away from Khong Chiam, shoots you to a defunct old visitor centre and pavilion overlooking the rapids from the Moon’s northern bank. While it’s free to go here, you can’t access the rest of the park. The second sign leads to another south-running road that ends at the gated entrance to a dam. If coming this way, look for a small hand-painted sign in Thai pointing left; it will take you to the northern of the two footbridges leading over to Don Tana island.
To access the whole park by road, ignore the signs on 2222 and instead cross the Moon River via the main bridge to the south of Khong Chiam. Stay on Highway 2173 until you reach a blinking yellow light where vendors often sell mushrooms along the roadside. Follow the sign pointing right to Pak Man Dam (there is a sign for the national park but it’s only visible if coming from further south). This road will take you straight north to the park’s front gates and onwards to the visitor centre, nature trail and southerly suspension bridge.
Tat Ton waterfall is more or less a separate attraction; park authorities were not around to charge an entry fee on either of our visits. To find it, take Highway 2173 south out of Khong Chiam, as described above. At the blinking yellow light, follow the sign left towards Phibun Mangsahan rather than going right towards park headquarters. Not long after that, look for a brown cement sign that sneaks up on the right and says the name in Thai only. Turn in here and park, and then look for another Thai sign for the trail leading a few hundred metres to the waterfall.
There is no public transport to the park, but you could hire a tuk tuk for 300 to 500 baht for a round trip in Khong Chiam.
Address: South bank of the Moon River.
T: (045) 406 887 ;
Coordinates (for GPS): 105º28'21.62" E, 15º17'48.46" N
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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.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.