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Nakhon Phanom

Illuminated boat procession on the Mekong river

View of the Mekong river at Nakhon Phanom
Boat at the Mekong river

Nakhon Phanom is a province situated in the Mekong river valley in North East Thailand. The Mekong river, one of the world’s longest rivers, marks the border between the province and neighboring Laos. The provincial seal shows the chedi of the Wat Phra That Phanom, the province’s most highly revered temple. The provincial capital Nakhon Phanom town is situated on the West bank of the Mekong river.

Nakhon Phanom has become a base to travel to Tha Khaek, a small town with some colonial French buildings across the border in Laos. The area around Tha Khaek is known for its spectacular landscape with jungles, mountains, caves and waterfalls.

To do & see in Nakhon Phanom

Nakhon Phanom province houses a number of natural, cultural and historical attractions worth a visit.

Illuminated boat procession

The illuminated boat procession or “fire boats festival” is held annually to mark the end of Buddhist lent (the rains retreat) and the return of the Buddha back to earth after preaching to His mother in the Tavatimsa Heaven. Late October or early November depending on the lunar calender, a procession of illuminated boats and rafts with scaffolding floats down the Mekong river in front of city hall, lighting up the river at night.

The Governor’s House Museum

The Governor’s House is a French colonial style building, constructed about a century ago for the first governor of Nakhon Phanom. In 1955 His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit visited Nakhon Phanom and spend a night in the mansion. In 2008 the house was restored and turned into a museum. The first floor exhibits items relating to the history of Nakhon Phanom including old photographs, as well as an exhibit dedicated to the illuminated boat procession. On the second floor visitors can see the bedroom where the King and Queen spend the night, brought back into its original state.

The Governor’s House Museum is located on Thanon Sunthon Vijit on the banks of the Mekong river, North of the center of town. Opening hours are daily from 10 am until 5 pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is free.

Wat Phra That Phanom

The Wat Phra That Phanom is one of the most highly revered Buddhist temples of North East Thailand. Its most important structure is a 57 meter tall elegant Laotian style chedi, painted gold and adorned with golden ornaments; its top contains 110 kilos of pure gold. The chedi enshrines a chest bone of the Buddha. It is believed that the chedi was first build in the 10th century at height of 8 meters. During later centuries is was rebuild, restored and raised to its current height of 57 meters.

Wat Phra That Renu Nakhon

Another temple worth visiting is the Wat Phra That Renu Nakhon located in Renu Nakhon village. Dominating the area is an elegant 36 meter tall chedi constructed about a century ago in Laotian style. The structure is based on the chedi of the nearby Wat Phra That Phanom. The temple’s ordination hall enshrines a golden Laotian style Buddha image.

Chedi of the Wat Phra That Renu Nakhon temple, Nakhon Phanom
Wat Phra That Renu Nakhon at dusk

Phra That Maha Chai

Another highly revered chedi, the Phra That Maha Chai is found on the grounds of the Wat Khosadaram temple. The elegant 37 meter tall white chedi embellished with golden ornamentation is highly revered, since it enshrines relics of the Buddha, placed by His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. The viharn enshrines the largest wooden Buddha image in Thailand. The building’s walls are adorned with murals depicting stories from the Jataka tales, the stories about the previous lives of the Buddha.

The Wat Khosadaram is located in Pla Pak district, just South of Highway 22, about 40 kilometers West of Nakhon Phanom town. The grounds are open during daylight hours.

Getting to Nakhon Phanom

Nakhon Phanom is located 740 kilometers North East of Bangkok and can be reached by air, train or bus.

Air

Nakhon Phanom airport is found off Highway 22, about 15 kilometers West of Nakhon Phanom town. Air Asia offers 1 flight daily from Bangkok Don Mueang airport. The flight takes 1 hour and 10 minutes, fares start at around 1,100 Baht one way.

Nok Air offers two flights daily from Bangkok Don Mueang airport. While one flight is direct taking 1 hour and 10 minutes, the other is a fly and ride via Sakhon Nakhon. The last stretch from Sakhon Nakhon to Nakhon Phanom is made by bus, total travel time is 2½ hours. Fares start at 1,300 Thai Baht one way. For more information, visit the Nok Air website.

Train

There is no railway in Nakhon Phanom. The nearest train stations are Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.

Bus

Ordinary and air con busses to Nakhon Phanom leave from Bangkok’s North Eastern bus terminal Mo Chit II on Kamphaeng Phet 2 road. The trip takes around 11 hours, fares vary between 350 and 900 Thai Baht, depending on the type of service.