Phu Phra Bat historical park in Udon Thani province in the North East of Thailand is a forested hill with natural rock formations shaped as caves with large rocky overhangs. The caves were used by ancient man as shelter and as temples where Buddha images were enshrined.
What makes this site unique, is that it contains traces of several different civilizations and cultures spanning thousands of years. The hill contains traces of prehistoric man, the Dvaravati period and Khmer presence.
The sandstone rock on top of the hill has been cut out during many centuries by glacier movement, wind and rain. Some of the rock formations provide natural shelter, others were carved into by man thousands of years ago creating cave like structures. Many of the rock formations harbour ancient Buddha images and served as ancient wats (Buddhist temples).
Prehistoric rock paintings
Thousands of years ago, prehistoric man wandered around in this area. They left behind rock paintings made in red color depicting various animals and people. As the sandstone is fairly easy to carve, rooms were cut out some of the rocks to create shelters.
During the early days of Buddhism, the rock formations were used by travelling monks, providing them with shelter. A number of very old Buddha images placed in the caves shows the caves were used as ancient temples.
Dvaravati era temples
Boundary pillars from the Dvaravati period can still be found today at Phu Phra Bat. These pillars (or sema stones) mark the sacred area of the Dvaravati temples that existed here some 1200 years ago. The boundary pillars are decorated with depictions of apsaras, female spirits from ancient Hindu mythology. Some of the natural rock formations like the famous Hor Nang Usa rock were used as places for meditations during the Dvaravati era.
During the height of power of the Khmer empire some 10 centuries ago, the Khmer carved Buddha images into the rocks.
The Wat Phra Phutthabat Bua Bok temple in the historical park is an important site for Buddhists in the North East. This temple contains a footprint of the Buddha.
The park contains a total of 68 historic structures, most of which are prehistoric or ancient Buddhist temples. Recognizing the importance of Phu Phra Bat historical park, it was put on UNESCO’s tentative list for consideration as a future World Heritage Site.
A number of walking trails have been been made through the park and there are a number of view points, from where visitors will have great scenic views of the surrounding area. Phu Phra Bat is set in a beautiful, natural and relaxing environment. Wear comfortable shoes like sneakers and bring plenty of water.
How to get to Phu Phra Bat historical park
Phu Phra Bat is located in Udon Thani province in North East Thailand, not far from the border with Laos to the North. The park can be reached from the provincial capital Udon Thani (about 60 kilometers) or from Nong Khai (about 50 kilometers). The most convenient way to get there from either town is to hire a taxi for the day. Most hotels will be able to book one for you. Agree on the price before leaving.
Opening hours & admission
The park is open daily from 8 am until 6 pm. At the visitor center you can get information about the park and the walking trails through the park. Admission is 100 Thai Baht per person.