The route, 11 miles (18 km) from Khong Chiam up to Pha Taem or “painted cliff,” is a circuitous one, really acces sible only by rental car or tuk-tuk. Along the way, a few kilometers before you arrive at the cliff top, an unusual, sandstone rock formation can be seen at the side of the road. Known as Sao Chaliang, it is reminiscent of the Ho Nang Ussa at Phu Phrabat Historical Park .
At the end of the journey, an unmarked trail leads from the parking lot to the cliff face. This is decorated with huge figures and geometrical designs. Painted in an indel ible red pigment derived from soil, tree gum, and fat, the paintings are thought to date back some 4,000 years. Covering 560 ft (170 m) along the cliff face, they include depictions of fish traps, wild animals, giant cockroachlike fish, angular human beings, and a 98-ft (30-m) stretch of handprints. The artists who created these decorations are thought to be related to the early inhabitants of Ban Chiang and were rice cultivators rather than cave dwellers. Pha Taem is particularly beautiful at sunset, when it has tremendous views across the Mekong and of the wild Lao jungle beyond.