Sakon Nakhon, the ancient, Khmer town formerly known as'Nong Han Luang', is now an important Buddhist religious center that contains a very sacred Buddha relic, and many forest temple retreats for meditation founded by a highly revered, deceased Buddhist monk, considered to be the greatest teacher of all monks. Situated in the upper northeastern region among the Phu Pan mountain ranges, it is also a land of natural beauty comprised of green, overlapping hills. The lifestyle of the people around the town's vicinity provides an interesting insight of the local Thais and the Thai So group. Sakon Nakhon is 647 kilometres from Bangkok and has an area of 9,605 square kilometres.
Within the city's principal temple of Wat Phra That Cherng Chum Worawiharn is the most sacred, ancient structure that is the pride and joy of Sakhon Nakhon, Phra That Cheong Chum (Cherng Chum Relics), kept within a whitewashed, square-shaped, brick chedi with a golden cap, built during the Ayutthaya period. Also within the 24-m, Laotian-style chedi are 4 of Buddha's Footprints. The beautiful temple complex also houses a large bot and wiharn and a 10th century Khmer prang (tower). Also within the 24-m, Laotian-style chedi are 4 of Buddha's Footprints. The beautiful temple complex also houses a large bot (chapel) and wiharn (prayer hall) and a 10th century Khmer prang (tower). An ancient Khmer inscription is etched into the prang's base and encircling the base are Buddha images of Laotian and Khmer-style. The chapel houses the holy Luang Pho Ong Saen Buddha image.
For a relaxing spot in the city, head for the large, freshwater lake of Nong Harn , the province's major agricultural and fishery center, whose shorefront has been developed into the Somdej Sri Nakarin Park , popular with locals and visitors. Rental boats are available for paddling to the scenic island in the middle of the lake, which is the origin of an ancient Isan (northeastern) folk tale. In addition, there is Sa Phang Thong, an ancient pool believed to have been constructed at the same time as Phra That Choeng Chum.
About 25 km out of town, the Phu Pan National Park contains a beautiful natural surrounding, including the scenic road that passes through the overlapping mountains of Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, and Kalasin. Within the park is the Phu Pan Royal Palace where the royal family resides while visiting the northeastern region. Other interesting sites include Khum Hoi Falls, the largest kilometer post marker at Kong Ping Ngu (Snake-Pike Bends), Lan Sao Ae, and the Buddha image etched into a cliff wall at Phu Payon (Payon Hill).
The sandstone, 12-13th century chedi housing the Phra That Phu Pek is located at the summit of the Phu Pek Mountain, within the Phu Pan mountain ranges, in Phanna Nikhom District. The double-layered, square-shaped, 7-m tall chedi appears unfinished because it lacks a roof and a pinnacle. Legend has it that a competition arose between a man building this chedi and a female constructing the chedi for the Phra That Narai Cheng Weng for housing the holy relic of part of Buddha's rib cage. But the man terminated his work upon seeing the Pek star in the skies, a deceit conjured up by the female.
Located within the city, Queen Cheng Weng commissioned the construction of Wat Phra That Narai Cheng Weng which contains a five-layered, 12th century, Khmer prang (tower) and a sandstone pagoda on a laterite base. The lintels, doorways, and windows contained intricate stone engravings that have been well preserved to this day. It is believed the queen built the compound in a competition with the men who built Phra That Phu Pek. Narai is a Khmer and Thai word for Vishnu, the most powerful Hindu god.
The Phra Achan (teacher) Mun Phurihuttho Museum , located in Sudthawat Forest Temple, is a modernized structure that houses the highly revered, deceased monk's sacred personal items commonly issued to all monks, his relics (ashes), and a beeswax replica image of him. Based upon his teachings that lean towards meditation, the area has seen many forested temples built and have produced a great number of famous Vipassana (a type of Buddhist meditation) monks.
Within the Udom Somporn Forest Temple in Phanna Nikom District is another institute that pays homage to another well-known Thai monk. The Phra Achan (teacher) Fan Acharo Museum also displays the deceased monk's sacred personal items, a beeswax replica and information about his life story. Phra Acharn Fan and Luang Pu Thet, both highly revered nationwide, used to meditate in Wat Thum Kham (Kam Cave Temple), where a chedi was constructed to house the latter's ashes.
The vast Nam Oun Dam surrounded by the Phu Pan mountain ranges provides a spectacular sight, particularly at sunset. The earthen dam obstructs the Oun Stream, a tributary of the Songkhram River, for irrigation usage.
The Huay Huat National Park offers a beautiful scenery, especially from Huay Huat Reservoir which provides a great viewing of the Song Sai Falls (Two Path Falls). Other natural wonders include the stony plateau and sprouting of numerous wildflowers everywhere towards the end of the rainy season. It also features many caves with prehistoric drawings, such as Muang Cave, Pradangrang Cave, and Palai Cave.
An interesting comparison of the Thai So and Thai scripts can be seen at the Thai So Museum in Kusuman District. The museum also features a collection of common household products used by the Thais who earlier, immigrated from the other side of the Mekong River. Within the museum is the sacred structure housing Pu Mahasak, a deceased Buddhist monk who is still highly revered by the Thai So people.
Nong Han is a large freshwater lake with an area of 123 square kilometres. It is where many waterways converge and is also a major agricultural and fishery centre of the province. Nong Han's shorefront has been developed into a public park. In addition, there is Sa Phang Thong , an ancient pool believed to have been constructed at the same time as Phra That Choeng Chum.
Phra That Choeng Chum is an historical site that is synonomous with Sakon Nakhon. This plaster-covered brick pagoda has a square base and is 24 metres high. The chapel houses the holy Luang Pho Ong Saen.
Isan Freshwater Fish Species Display Centre is at the Sakon Nakhon Fishery Station on Sai Sawang Road. The centre has on display freshwater fish and animal species found in the Northeast.
Phra Archan Man Phurithatto Museum is opposite the Provincial Government Centre on Suk Kasem Road in Wat Pa Sutthawat. The museum is built of fired clay tiles. On display are a wax figure of Phra Achan Man who was a famous monk, his personal items and his biography.
Saphan Hin or Saphan Khom is situated right before entering the town on the Sakon Nakhon-Udon Thani Road. It is believed to have been a route of the Khmer people.
Sakon Nakhon Cultural Centre is in Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat Institute, about 6 kilometres from town on the Sakon Nakhon-Udon Thani Road. Exhibits include utensils of various tribes in the province and information on Sakon Nakhon in the old days.
Phra That Dum is at Tambon Ngew Don, 3 kilometres from town on the way to Phatthana Suksa School. Originally, there were 3 brick Khmer pagodas on the same laterite base, but only one stands there today. The pagodas were built in the 11 th century.
Phra That Narai Cheng Weng Sanctuary is 5 kilometres from town on the way to Udon Thani. The sandstone pagoda is on a laterite base. Ornate designs adorn the lintel, doorway and windows. It is believed the site was entirely constructed by women who competed with the men who built Phra That Phu Phek. It dates from the 11 th -12 th Buddhist century.
Pan Mo (Pottery) village is at Ban Chiang Khrua, 15 kilometres away on the way to Nakhon Phanom. Products made here are jars, pots, containers, and flowerpots. All are sold to tourists at reasonable prices.
Pricha Suksan Waterfall is on Phu Phan mountain range, 17 kilometres away on the Sakon Nakhon-Udon Thani route and 10 more kilometres on the left. The waterfall is a rock plateau with water coming down like a slide. It is suitable for swimming.
Phu Phan Ratchaniwet Palace is on Phu Phan mountain range on the Sakon Nakhon-Kalasin road, 13 kilometres from the district office. It is the residence of Their Majesties when they visit the Northeast.
Khong Ping Ngu is 14 kilometres from Amphoe Muang. It is part of the Sakon Nakhon-Kalasin route. This snake-like road is interesting for the largest kilometre marker in Thailand. Many waterfalls, like Haeo Sin Chai, Tat Ton and Kham Hom, are nearby with easy access.
Phu Phan National Park covers a wide jungle area in the upper Northeast. The park headquarters is on Highway No. 203 on the way to Kalasin, 25 kilometres from the district office. Tourist spots in Kalasin include Pha Nang Moen, an observation point 700 metres by foot from the park office, and Lan Sao E, a natural rock plateau on a cliff 2 kilometres away.
Phra That Phu Phek is on a mountain in Tambon Na Hua Bo. To get there, take the Sakon Nakhon-Udon Thani Road for 22 kilometres and take a road on the left for 14 kilometres, then ascend 491 steps. The laterite pagoda is on a square base. It seems unfinished because it has no roof or pagoda top, though it was built in the 11 th -12 th century.
Wat Tham Kham used to be where the famous monks Achan Fan and Luang Pu Thet meditated. A pagoda housing the relics of the latter is here.
Wat Kham Pramong is at Ban Kham Pramong in Tambon Sawang, 40 kilometres from Amphoe Muang on Highway No. 22, then take Highway No. 2355 to Akat Amnuai. The temple is the meditation centre of the famous monk Luang Pu Sim.
Achan Fan Acharo Museum is at Wat Pa Udom Somphon in Tambon Phanna Nikhom en route to Udon Thani. The museum has a wax figure of the famous monk, as well as his personal items and biography.
Phra That Si Mongkhon in Tambon Ban That is 2 kilometres from the district office. This pagoda has a square base and is decorated with fired clay designs. The present pagoda encases the original one, which was made of laterite.
Nam Un Dam is 57 kilometres from Amphoe Muang en route to Udon Thani and a left for 6 kilometres en route to Waritchaphum. The dam is at its loveliest at sunset over the reservoir.
Sawang Daen Din
Ban Phan Na sanctuary is 70 kilometres from Amphoe Muang on the Sakon Nakhon-Udon Thani route. The sanctuary is made of laterite like other Khmer sanctuaries. It is on a rectangular base with a laterite pool nearby. It is believed to have been built in the same era as Phra That Phu Phek.
Achan Wan Uttamo Museum is on Phu Pha Lek. To get there, take the Sakon Nakhon-Udon Thani Road for 84 kilometres to Sawang Daen Din, then a road on the left to Song Dao for 32 kilometres. The museum features paintings of the monk and his personal items.
Phu Pha Lek is a mountain in the Phu Phan range. Some parts of the area are rock plateaus that are covered with flowers toward the end of the rainy season. Tourist spots here include the observation point on the high cliff, Kaeng Kula waterfall, Kao Chan waterfall that has water only in the rainy season, and prehistoric drawings at Phak Nam cave that are over 3,000 years old.
Ban Kut Na Kham Arts and Crafts Centre is 120 kilometres from Sakon Nakhon town on Highway No. 22 and Highway No. 2280. The centre produces earthenware for utensils and home decoration. The designs are varied and are of the finest craftsmanship. A store displays and sells the products on the premises.
Huay Huat National Park has many interesting spots. The park can be accessed via either taking the Sakon Nakhon-Kalasin Road for 5 kilometres and then Highway No. 2339 on the left for 35 kilometres, or taking the Sakon Nakhon-Na Kae Road for 14 kilometres and then a road on the right for 18 kilometres. The park is noted for the visual beauty of the reservoir, the waterfall and the rock plateau covered with flowers at the end of the rainy season. There are also prehistoric cave drawings.
Thai So Museum is in the area of Kusuman District Government Centre, 40 kilometres from Amphoe Muang. The museum displays Thai So alphabets that are similar to Thai ones and has a good collection of household items of the Thai So people who originally came from the east bank of the Mekong.
Wax Castle Procession is held in Amphoe Muang at the end of the Buddhist Lent for 3 nights around the middle of October. The second night features a beautiful procession, an ancient boxing dance (a folk play indigenous of Sakon Nakhon) and boat races. Visitors to the festival can continue on to the Illuminated Boats Procession in Nakhon Phanom that is held immediately after.
Hotels and accommodation
- Araya 2 : 345 Premprida Road, Amphoe Muang : 100-200 baht
- Charoensuk : 635 Charoen Muang Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 2916] : 120-300 baht
- Dusit : 1784 Yuwaphatthana Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 1198-9, 0 4271 2200-1] : 500- 1,000 baht
- Huai Huat National Park : Contact National Park Division Amphoe Tao Ngoi [0 2561-4292 ext. 724-725, 0 2579-5734, 0 2579-7223] : 30 baht person
- Imperial : 1892 Sukkasem Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 1119, 0 4271 1887, 0 4271 3320] : 390 - 2,500 baht
- Kitti : 1812 Suk Kasem Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 3908] : 100-200 baht
- Krong Thong : 645/2 Charoen Muaang Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 1235] : 120-240 baht
- M.J. Sakon Nakhon : 399 Khu Muang Road Amphoe Muang [0 4273 3771-4] : 600- 5,600 baht
- Phang Khon Hotel : 262 Nittayo Road Amphoe Phang Khon [0 4277 1315] : 70-100 baht
- Phet Sakon : 448/1 Amphoe Muang [0 4273 0043-47] : 300-800 baht
- Phu Phan National Park : Amphoe Muang [0 4271 5180] : 20-50 baht per person
- Pretty : 108 Mu 11 Nittayo Road Amphoe Sawang Dan Din [0 4272 1131] : 150-300 baht
- Sakon Grand Palace : 383/14 I.T.U. Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 4886-7] : 700- 2,800 baht
- Sakon Hotel : 581/1 Charoen Muang Road Amphoe Muang : 100-200 baht
- Somkiat : 1348/4 Kamchatphai Road Amphoe Muang [0 4271 1740, 0 4271 1225] : 100 - 200 baht
- Thiam Chan : 7/5 Nittayo Road Amphoe Phang Khon [0 4277 1237] : 120-200 baht
- Local Cuisine
- Best House : 1659/1 Prem Prida Rd., Tel: 0-4271-3166
- Country Home : 1691/11, vicinity of Sakon Plaza Shopping Center, Tel: 0-4271-1542
- Green Corner : 1173 Rut Pattana Rd., Tel: 0-4271-1073
- Kor Pai : 348/4 Suk Kasem Rd., Tel: 0-4271-2235
- Krua Wan : 600 Jai Pasuk Rd., Tel: 0-4271-2233
- Lai Thai : 374/1 Moo 13 Sakon Nakhon-Kalasin Rd., Tel: 0-4271-1718
- Mitr Upatham : 37 Suk Kasem Rd., Tel: 0-4271-1633
- Por Jai : 1308/10 Prem Prida Rd., Tel: 0-4271-1767
- San om Ake : Vicinity of Nong San om Lake, Tel: 0-4271-2806
- Tuk Pai : 1268/6 Kamchat Pai Rd., Tel: 0-4271-2545
How to get there
* By car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 to Saraburi and Highway No. 2 to Ban Phai, which connects Highway No. 23 to Maha Sarakham, then continue the journey along Highway 213 via Kalasin to Sakon Nakhon for a total distance of 647 kilometres.
* By bus
Bangkok-Sakon Nakhon buses depart from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal every day. Contact Transport Co.Ltd at Tel: 0 2936 2852-66 for more information.
* By train
There is no direct train from Bangkok to Sakon Nakhon. Visitors can take a train to Udon Thani and continue the journey by bus to Udon Thani. Call 1690, 0 2223 7010-20 for more information.
* By plane
PBAir provides daily flight services from Bangkok to Sakon Nakhon, except on Mondays and Saturdays. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2261-0220 - 5.
Thai Airways has 2 weekly flights connecting Bangkok with Sakon Nakhon every Mondays and Wednesdays. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2280-0060, 0-2628-2000.