Friday, February 17, 2006

Phu Phrabat Historical Park

Phu Phrabat Historical Park Udon Thani ThailandIt was early morning when the 24-seat VIP bus taxied at the terminus in Udon Thani, 564 kilometres northeast of Bangkok. Cool breeze shook us up from our reverie forcing us to zip up our jackets. Tuk-tuk drivers approached us from all directions, all asking the same question: "Where would you like to go?" Udon Thani is very a quiet town these days, a far cry from the bustling place it used to be during the Vietnam War when it served as a US air base. Today, most visitors prefer going to Nong Khai, a neighbouring province where they cross the Mekong River on their way to Laos.

However, the province is a hub of transport and agricultural products in the entire northeast region and also boasts some unique tourist attractions such as the Phu Phrabat Historical Park which could well be on its way to being declared a World Heritage site after receiving a fair rating in the first round by the Unesco committee scrutinising its candidacy. So before the park makes the list and becomes another tourist hub, I thought it would be nice to sneak a visit. Exploring the park can take anything from 40 minutes to a day depending how much and what you want to see.

According to park officer Somdee Aranrut, there are three trails. The first is the shortest and leads directly to major highlights. The second route passes more attractions and takes around an hour to walk, while the last route is a two-hour trek leading to every important stop to the Phu Phrabat mountain top that stands 320-350 metres above sea level.

"We have arrows clearly marking the direction to every attraction together with brief descriptions of the places. Holding this map (the park brochure) just follow the signs and I assure you won't get lost," assured the officer. As suggested by Somdee, we took the longest route. The map, available in both Thai or English, proved quite useful indeed. We started at eight in the morning. The forest, full of hardwood trees, was still covered in a layer of fog. The path was neatly maintained. Small signs attached to trees told us their names and utility.

Phu Phrabat is an important source of water for various streams that eventually flow into the Khong River in Nong Khai. Trees here were big: we spotted the Ormosia, Pterocarpus, Shorea and Dalbergia and plenty of native herbs. At the first stop some 150 metres from the park information centre, we were stunned by the sight of bizarre rock formations. Boulders sat on top of each other as if they had been put there on purpose. Later we found out there were huge moraines in the area. Some of them looked like giant mushrooms while others resembled enormous boots that grew on rocks. A team of archaeologists from the Fine Arts Department was sent there in 1972 to study the rocks. It found that the 3,430-rai Phu Phrabat park sat on sandstone rocks dating back to Ice Age. When the world became warmer, it led to glacial erosion. The moraines were the result of changes in the earth's topography, while rain and wind later shaped the sandstone rocks to what they are today.

Get the rest at the Bangkok Post

delicious furl Yahoo My Web Google Bookmark Blinklist Blogmark Simpy Shadow Netvouz Reddit