As the Mekong River flows East past Nong Khai and then South, it progresses down the Nakhon Phanom's entire elongated eastern side, separating it from Laos. With a past that dates back many thousands of years, the province is a collection of diverse cultures and traditions from the various ethnic groups that now inhabit this land. The province, literally translated as "city of hills", is renowned for its beautiful scenery and a great place to spend a few relaxing days by the Mekong River. The city contains one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, revered in both Thailand and neighboring Laos. The province is opposite Tha Khaek in Laos. Nakhon Phanom is 740 kilometers from Bangkok. The province has an area of 5,512 square kilometers.
Wat Phra That Phanom Woramaha Wiharn houses the highly sacred Phra That Phanom (Phanom Relics) in a central, Laotian-style, brick chedi believed to date back over 1,500 years, though legend says it was built 8 years after Lord Buddha's death in 543 BC as a burial place for his breastbones. The 57-m tall and beautifully ornate, square-shaped chedi is capped with an actual 10-kg golden crest. Numerous Buddha images line the inner compound wall of the gem-studded chedi.
The city's principal temple, Wat Okat , was built by one of the town's earliest ruler many centuries ago. It is situated on the banks of the Mekong river by the dam in front of the town which offers a scenic view, particularly in the early mornings when the sun rises above the lush Laotian mountains.
In the Renu Nakhon District lives locals who still maintain the traditional lifestyle of their ancestries and is well known for their weaving and intricate embroideries. Visitors are treated to the local hospitality practices of the baisri sukwan (tying white strings onto visitors wrist as a sign of blessing) welcoming ceremony, hosting lunch, invitation to drink ou (fermented rice wine), and the ranu classical dance.
Built in 1918 and modeled loosely after the nearby Phra That Phanom, the Phra That Renu Nakhon is a 35-m tall chedi that contains the Buddhist Holy Scriptures and the golden Buddha image of Phra Ong Saen. Around the temple grounds are stalls selling textiles and local handicraft products, such as the popular triangular pillows, mon lai kid.
Nestled in the Langka mountain ranges, the Tat Kam Waterfall Forest Park contains a spectacular small, 4-tiered waterfall of the same name and majestic Tat Pho Waterfall, which can be seen from the highway and is accessible by a one-hour, shady hike.
During the summer months of February to April, the water level recedes to reveal a stretch of pristine sandy beach, the Hat Sai Tai Muang , which extends nearly all the way across the Mekong River to the Laotian side.
Buddhist devotees visit the Achan Bua Temiyo Museum to view his personal items and pay respect to his corpse, which miraculously doesn't decompose though it was never chemically treated.
Wat Srithep Pradit Tharam (Wat Srithep) has a very beautiful ordination hall with exquisite wall murals. Enshrined here is the very important Buddha image of Pra Sang and the revered sculpture of Luang Phu Chan, a well-known monk and highly respected by the people of this region.
Wat Kosadaram was home to another important northeastern Buddhist monk, Luang Pu Kumpan Kosapanya. Within the compound, the Phra That Mahachai houses holy Buddha relics, the largest wooden engraved Buddha image, and the region's most exquisite wall murals.
Phra That Tha Uthen is situated opposite Hinboon in the Laotian province of Khammouange, a historical town during the Sri Kotrabun Kingdom. The shrine, with a close resemblance to Phra That Phanom, was built by Phra Achan Sritad in 1912 to store a relic of the Lord Buddha which came from Rangoon, Burma.
Wat Okat on the Mekong bank is on Sunthon Wichit Road and is a temple that has been in the province since it was established. Many old Buddha images regarded as sacred by Buddhists are housed here. The temple also features beautiful wall murals.
Wat Si Thep is on Sunthon Wichit Road. The convocation hall and wall murals are exquisite. The temple houses Phra Saeng, which is said to have been built along with Phra Suk and Phra Sai, two other important images of Nong Khai.
Wat Maha That , another temple on Sunthon Wichit Road, is on the Mekong bank. Phra That Nakhon is a sacred pagoda worshipped by Buddhists everywhere. It has a square base, is 5.8 meters wide and 24 meters high. The pagoda was built by Phraya Ammat (Pom), the army commander-in-chief from Vientiane who built Nakhon Phanom city.
A walkway paralleling the Mekong is a perfect place to enjoy the area's scenery, particularly at sunset when the sun drops below the mountain on the Laos side.
Thai Muang beach is a freshwater beach which occurs only during the dry season from February to April when it extends to the middle of the Mekong almost to the Laos bank. This is another good place to enjoy the river view.
Phra That Tha Uthen is opposite Hin Bun town in Laos. Similar to Phra That Phanom pagoda, it is 66 meters high and was constructed in 1912 to house the relics of monks brought from Yangon in Myanmar. To get there, take Highway No. 212 for 26 kilometres.
Phra Bang of Wat Trai Phum is a standing image 80 inches high with an octagon base surrounded by 8 elephants. Built in 1465, it is believed that this sacred image can grant rain.
Nam Tok Tat Kham Forest Park is in Lanka mountain range, 7 kilometres from Ban Phaeng on Highway No. 212. The small waterfall here falls down 4 levels. The place is ideal for relaxation.
Tat Pho Waterfall is 5 kilometres from Tat Kham Waterfall. Equally beautiful, Tat Pho is best visited during the rainy season.
The waterfall can be seen from the highway paralleling the Mekong. It is 11 kilometres from Ban Phaeng. As it is inaccessible by car, visitors must walk a little over 1 hour to the falls. Both sides of the falls are very good for nature watching.
Phra That Phanom is 50 kilometres from Nakhon Phanom town on Highway No. 212. It is an important Buddhist site of the province. This square-shaped pagoda is 53 meters high and was built during 657-857. It is believed that it originally had Khmer design that was renovated through the years to its present Laotian design. The pagoda enshrines the holy relics of Lord Buddha. On August 11, 1975 at 19.00 hrs., the entire pagoda collapsed after many days of rainstorm. The Thai public subsequently made considerable donations to rebuild the pagoda back to its original splendour. People placed many valuables inside and topped the pagoda with a 110-kilogram solid gold spire.
Phra Achan Bua Temiyo Museum is at Wat Sila Mongkhon in Ban Lak Sila, 5 kilometres from Amphoe That Phanom. The museum houses the remains of the famous monk Phra Achan Man Phuritatto and the religious items of another monk, Phra Achan Bua Temiyo. In addition, the well-preserved body of the latter monk is kept here and is much revered by locals.
Phra That Renu Nakhon is 52 kilometres south of Nakhon Phanom town on Highway No. 212. Upon reaching the 44-km marker, turn right and drive for 7 kilometres. The pagoda was built in 1918 and is a smaller replica of Phra That Phanom. The pagoda is 35 meters high. A Buddhist scripture and a gold Buddha image are housed inside.
Renu Nakhon is the home of many Phu Thai people. This indigenous group excels in woven products that are highly sought after by tourists.
Phra That Maha Chai is at Wat Khosadaram, Tambon Maha Chai, 40 kilometres from Nakhon Phanom town on the Nakhon Phanom-Sakon Nakhon (Highway No. 22). A 2-kilometre road leads to the temple. This important site houses the holy relics of Lord Buddha. Inside the convocation hall is the largest wooden Buddha image in Thailand. The hall also has a most beautiful mural of the life of Lord Buddha that is regarded as one of the finest and rarest of the Northeast.
Phra That Phanom Fair takes place every February. Thousands of locals and people from nearby provinces flock to the temple to pay homage to this sacred place.
Illuminated Boats Procession is organised at the end of the Buddhist Lent or every November. Boats are illuminated with colourful lights and arranged into various designs to pay homage to Lord Buddha. Once lit up, the boats make for a spectacular sight. In conjunction with the festival, provincial authorities have also organised a boat race between Thai and Lao teams to promote good relations.
Hotels and accommodation
- Charoen Suk : 250 Bamrung Muang Road Amphoe Muang [04251 1130] : 160-250 baht
- First : 16 Si Thep Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1253] : 140-280 baht
- Grand : 210 Si Thip Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1526, 0 4251 3788] : 120-490 baht
- Lucky : 131 Aphiban Bancha Road, Soi So Watthana Uthit Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1274] : 190-395 baht
- Nakhon Phanom : 403 Aphiban Bancha Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1455] : 400-900 baht
- Nakhon Phanom River View : 9 Nakhon Phanom-That Phanom Amphoe Muang [0 4252 2333-40] : 800-9,000 baht
- Nakhonphanom River View Hotel : 9 Nakhonphanom-Thatphanom Road, Naimuang, Muang [0-4252-2333-40]
- Nakornphanom River View Hotel : 9 Nakhophanom-Thaphanom Road, Amphoe Muang [(66 42) 522-333-40]
- River Inn : 19 Aphiban Bancha Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1305] : 180-400 baht
- Si Thep : 179 Si Thep Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1439, 0 4251 2395] : 650-1,000 baht
- The Mekong Grand View : 527 Sunthon Wichit Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 3564-70] : 1,500-4,800 baht
- Wiang Inn : 18 Aphiban Bancha Road, Soi So Watthana Uthit Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1298] : 60-240 baht
- Winsor : 272 Bamrung Muang Road Amphoe Muang [0 4251 1946, 0 4251 1156] : 300-560 baht
- Local Cuisine
- Ban Pom : 484 Apiban Bancha Rd., Tel: 0-4251-1871
- Krua Mai Wai : 165 Bumrung Muang Rd., Tel: 0-4251-1625
- Krua Srithep : Srithep Hotel, 190 Srithep Rd., Tel: 0-4251-2280
- Kumlai Thong : Nakhon Phanom Riverview Hotel, Tel: 0-4252-2333-40
- New Suan Mai : 269-271 Sunthorn Wichit Rd., Tel: 0-4250-0202
- Nuan Noy : 311-2 Puang Nakhon Rd., Tel: 0-4251-1828
- Pla Buek Thong : 417 Sunthorn Wichit Rd., Tel: 0-4251-1218
- Por Korean Beef : 180 Puang Nakhon Rd., Tel: 0-4251-2567
- Tatiya : 36 Puang Nakhon Rd., Tel: 0-4251-2559
- Thep Nakhon Cafe : 528/136 Bumrung Muang Tel: 0-4251-1272
How to get there
* By car
From Bangkok, take Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route, then proceed to Ban Phai along Highway No. 2 and use Highway No. 23 and Highway No. 213 via Maha Sarakham and Kalasin to Sakhon Nakhon and continue the trip along Highway No. 22 to Nakhon Phanom, a total distance of 740 kilometres.
* By bus
Buses depart from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal to Nakhon Phanom every day. Call Transport Co. Ltd. 0 2936 2852-66 for more information.
* By plane
PBAir provides daily flight services from Bangkok to Nakhon Phanom, except Tuesdays and Saturdays. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2261-0220 - 5.
Thai Airways has 2 weekly flights connecting Bangkok with Nakhon Phanom every Tuesdays and Saturdays. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2280-0060, 0-2628-2000.