11 July 2024

In the lower part of northeastern Thailand, along the Thailand-Laos border through which the Mekong River winds its merry way, lies Ubon Ratchathani—a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Known for the renowned candle festival, delicious “moo yor” pork sausage, and a rich cultural heritage, this province also boasts captivating landscapes and scenic woodlands.

From November to January, as winter arrives, wildflower meadows burst into bloom across national parks and sandy rock woodland acros the province. In these three months, blooms and tiny wildflowers like common pipewort (“kra dum ngern” in Thai), Burmese sundew (“chok bor wai”), and purple bladderwort (soi suwanna) add a vivid backdrop to the winter countryside.

There’s nothing more blissful than walking through these meadows in winter when they’re at their most beautiful.

Burmese sundew (chok bor wai) adds beauty and colour to a woodland in Ubon Ratchathani. Photo by TAT Ubon Ratchathani Office

To fully appreciate the wildflower meadow, it’s crucial to resist the temptation to wander through the flowers. Trampling not only disfigures the meadow but also flattens rare plants and poses a threat to hidden nests. Instead, stay close to designated footpaths and boundaries, and enhance your wildflower identification skills. Take a seat and allow yourself to be immersed in the vibrant display of flowers and swaying grasses as you experience the meadow from a hare’s-eye view

Discover the top five wildflower meadow walks in Ubon Ratchathani province—among Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s favourites when she chose to stroll on the wild side.

DONG NA THAM FOREST

To the north of Pha Taem National Park, Dong Na Tham upland extends above the Mekong River. This forest, adorned with a high plain and scattered sandstone hills, invites nature enthusiasts to explore its rich biodiversity, which includes a splendid array of flora and an enchanting wildflower meadow. One highlight is Pha Hin Cave, a region boasting expansive wildflower fields where blooms emerge from rocky crevices, creating a delightful spectacle, especially during winter visits.

Look upwards and you may spot pipewort (“kra dum ngern” in Thai), net veined bladderwort (dusita), and purple bladderwort (soi suwanna). The pipewort, recognized as ‘kra dum ngern’ or ‘silver button’ in Thai, adds a charming touch to the landscape with its small, round white flower. In contrast, the net veined bladderwort is strikingly beautiful with its bluish-purple petals, creating a captivating scene despite sustaining itself by feeding on tiny insects.

Whether observed up close or from a distance, the net veined bladderwort flower stands out as a testament to nature’s artistry, showcasing elegance in its unique structure and adding immense wonder to the tiny bluish wildflower. As an additional allure, the Mekong River adjacent to the forest reveals a dramatic spectacle of craggy cliffs.

SOI SAWAN WATERFALL

Located 20 kilometres north of Pha Taem National Park, Soi Sawan Waterfall holds a special place in Queen Sirikit’s heart, often chosen as her favourite retreat to bask in the beauty of wildflower fields. From June to December, the park is blessed by a mesmerizing curtain of cascading water resembling a necklace from heaven. As winter unfolds, the sandy ground transforms into a spectacular wildflower display, bursting with vibrant colours, buzzing insects, and melodious birdsong. Notable wildflowers on the rocky plateau contribute to the vibrant tapestry.

The star here is the Burmese sundew (chok bor wai), ranging from vibrant greens to deep reds. This carnivorous plant showcases an intricate design, with slender stems bearing small, glistening leaves covered in sparkling dew-like droplets. The dewdrops contain a sticky substance, serving as a trap for insects. As insects get caught, the Burmese sundew secretes enzymes to digest and absorb nutrients from its prey, adding an element of deadly beauty to the landscape.

Trees with yellow-orange-coloured leaves mark the arrival of winter in Ubon Ratchathani’s uplands. Photo/ TAT Ubon Ratchathani Office

PHU CHONG – NA YOI NATIONAL PARK

Tucked away in the southern tip of Ubon Ratchathani, where Thailand meets Laos and Cambodia, Phu Chong – Na Yoi National Park is covered with deciduous forest. With shady trees and an expanse of hay meadows, the park is a safe haven for wildlife (such as deer, wild boars, gibbons, and civets) and a paradise for wildflower enthusiasts. In the rainy season (July-September), the entire field bursts into a riot of colours with vibrant flowers, including the exquisite net veined bladderwort (dusita), two-flower bladderwort (soi suwanna), and common pipewort (kra dum ngern) blossoms.

As the late rainy season transitions into early winter (October-November), small flowers like the net veined bladderwort again grace the field with their presence. The scene transforms into a picturesque setting, ideal for leisurely strolling, sitting, admiring the beauty, and capturing moments that seem to linger in time. Moreover, the landscape features large sandstone formations sculpted by the forces of rain and wind, showcasing unique and captivating shapes.

PHU SAMUI FOREST

Located in the northern part of Pha Taem National Park, Phu Samui features alternating high plains and steep mountains along the Mekong River bank. The woodland showcases scattered rock formations and open spaces with hay meadows. During the late rainy season and early winter, typically from October to late November, the forest comes alive with blooming wildflowers, including the net veined bladderwort (dusita), the two-flower bladderwort (soi suwanna), and common pipewort (kra dum ngern).

Common pipewort (kra dum ngern) adorns the ground at Dong Na Tham woodland in Pha Taem National Park. Photo/National Park Department

Adding to the tapestry of wildflowers, you’ll discover diverse varieties of ground orchids. This spectacular display of wildflower meadows, combined with the elevated peaks of Samui reaching up to 1,400 metres above sea level, makes it a perfect winter escape for campers and trail walkers. Beyond strolling through wildflower meadows, Phu Samui is also worth a visit for its spectacular earth pillars, prehistoric caves, ancient standing stones, and boat rides along the Mekong River.

PHA LUANG WATERFALL FOREST PARK

Part of Dong Phu Lon Reserve, Pha Luang Waterfall Forest Park covers approximately 4,550 acres. The reserve comprises a series of sandstone mountain ranges with towering trees, shrubs, and thriving vegetation. The park is a delightful spot to visit in winter when the upland hay meadow bursts with wildflowers. Set atop the mountain, with far-reaching captivating mountain valley views, you start from a narrow path heading out for three kilometres to the wildflower meadow.

A visitor admires the wildflower meadow in Pha Luang Waterfall Forest Park, Ubon Ratchathani, northeastern Thailand. Photo by TAT Ubon Ratchathani Office

Look for species such as net veined bladderwort (dusita), two-flower bladderwort (soi suwanna), and common pipewort (kra dum ngern). Pha Luang Waterfall Forest Park is also beautiful after dark, as you can gaze upwards to capture celestial wonders like the Milky Way and deep space objects.

An upland hay meadow is a riot of wildflowers at Pha Luang Waterfall Forest Park. Photo by TAT Ubon Ratchathani Office

By Thai PBS Feature Desk