Phanom Rung Historical Park
Phanom Rung Historical Park, a magnificent Khmer site spanning over a millennium, was built atop an extinct volcano. Originally a Hindu religious site, it later transformed into a Buddhist one with several 15th-18th-century additions.
The grand stairway at the site’s entrance leads from the hill’s base to the top. Most structures in the sanctuary, crafted from laterite and sandstone, feature intricate designs and stretch to the primary pagoda. This layout mirrors Hindu beliefs regarding the heavenly realm of the god Shiva.
The main pagoda, facing east, boasts exquisite designs on its columns, doorways, and lintels, narrating Hindu god stories. Based on these elements and architecture, it’s believed that the pagoda, stairway, and Naga bridge were constructed during the 17th Buddhist century.
Each building incorporates descriptive designs that convey their purpose, utility, and the beliefs of ancient people.
Phimai historical park
The Phimai Sanctuary, a historically significant Khmer-era site, bears the “Phimai” inscription, signifying its religious importance.
This rectangular sanctuary, spanning 565×1,030 meters, boasts meticulously crafted sandstone and laterite structures.
Unusually, it faces south, likely due to its location along the route from the Khmer capital to the south. Built in the late 11th century during King Suriyaworaman I’s reign, it reflects the Baphuon architectural style with hints of Angkor Wat style.
In the early 18th century, under King Chaiworaman VII’s rule, some additions were made. This site has enduring religious significance for Mahayana Buddhism, practiced by both kings.
Key Features at Phimai Sanctuary:
- Naga Bridge: When you visit the site, you’ll encounter the Naga Bridge first. It’s adorned with lion figures and stands in front of the main pagoda’s porch. The purpose might have been to symbolize a connection between earth and heaven, aligning with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs about the universe.
- Gopura (Porch): The Gopura served as both a wall surrounding the sanctuary and the entry points through its four porches.
- Corridor Connection: A spacious corridor links the outer and inner sections of the primary sanctuary, allowing access between these areas.
The centerpiece of the site is the Main Prang, a 28-meter-high pagoda constructed from durable white sandstone, known for its longevity compared to the red sandstone used elsewhere. This pagoda features a square base, a portico, and doorways on all four sides.
What sets it apart are the intricate lintels above the doorways, depicting tales from Hinduism’s Ramayana and stories from the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. Although the carvings suggest construction around the late 12th century in the styles of Baphoun and Angkor Wat, Buddhism’s influence here eventually surpassed Hinduism’s.
Other notable pagodas include Prang Brahmadat, Prang Hin Daeng, and Ho Phram (Brahma Hall).
Pha Taem National Park
Pha Taem National Park is a captivating natural wonder, renowned for its extraordinary rock formations and ancient rock art that offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s distant history. It’s a paradise for both nature enthusiasts and history aficionados, featuring hiking trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints, showcasing the Mekong River’s beauty and the distant landscapes of Laos. The park’s centerpiece is the stunning Pha Taem Cliff, where you can witness awe-inspiring sunrises and explore cave paintings dating back thousands of years.
These ancient paintings depict scenes of fishing, rice farming, people, animals, hands, and intricate geometric designs. Notably, Pha Taem boasts one of the country’s most extensive collections of cave paintings. As the home of one of the world’s oldest agrarian communities, Ubon Ratchathani, where the park is located, holds a special place as the ‘cradle of northeastern civilization.
Khao Yai is the oldest national park in Thailand.
Established in 1962, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Essentially a mountainous park with its highest peak reaching approximately 1,351 meters, Khao Yai, in its tropical monsoon forests, hosts hundreds of animal species, some of which are classified as endangered.
With over 50 kilometers of organized trekking trails across 20 different routes, Khao Yai offers options ranging from easy one to two-hour hikes to more challenging routes that require up to three nights of camping.
Activities such as rafting, canoeing, nighttime safaris, and cycling are available in the park.
Elephants and deer are quite easy to spot, along with herds of gaur, the impressive Indian bison.
Tigers, leopards, lynxes, and Asian bears also roam freely in the park, though encounters with them are rather unlikely.
Khao Yai is a true paradise for butterfly enthusiasts, orchid lovers, and bird-watchers, with over 320 bird species.
The waterfalls, including Heo Narok, the park’s largest waterfall with three cascades, and the scenic Haeo Suwat, are a sight not to be missed at the end of the rainy season.
To facilitate wildlife sightings, there are two observation towers located at Mo Singto and Nong Phak Chi, accessible from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening.