Nakhon Phanom Travel Guide
Introduction to Nakhon Phanom
Located along the Mekong River (and therefore, along the border with Laos), Nakhon Phanom is a laid-back place that sees few foreigners. This is great news for those looking to get off the beaten track, as they will be able to observe Thais going about their daily lives without having to deal with the distraction of tourist traps, nor the clientele they attract.
From being a place where Ho Chi Minh allegedly planned the Vietnamese communist revolution to the usual assortment of landmark Buddhist temples, there is plenty to see and do here.
Cultural Attractions in Nakhon Phanom
Nakhon Phanom is known for its historic association with Vietnam, dating back to the early 20th century when none other than Ho Chi Minh called this place his home for seven years before he returned to his home country to spark a revolution.
Learn more about his time in Siam by dropping by Ho Chi Minh House. See the bed where he once slept, and gaze upon pipes he once smoked and hats he once wore. While this attraction is often sparsely attended, this can change drastically once a busload of Vietnamese tourists roll in, so be aware of this fact if crowds bother you.
Fans of Thai Buddhist temples will not want to miss checking out Wat Phra That Phanom during their time in Nakhon Phanom. This place is understood by Thais to be home to the Buddha’s breastbone, so it is a very popular place for locals on pilgrimages.
In addition to this, there is a 53-metre tall pagoda on the grounds which is crafted in the Laotian style, so be sure to bring your camera when visiting this attraction.
As mentioned before, Nakhon Phanom is home to a significant community of Vietnamese people. While many are Buddhists, a significant portion of the population is Catholic – accordingly, Saint Anna Nong Saeng Catholic Church was built to serve their needs.
Constructed in the French style, it is a unique sight to see in a part of the world which predominately believes in non-Judeo Christian religions – if possible, try to visit over Christmas, as the grounds and church interior is beautifully decorated at this time of year.
Outside the city of Nakhon Phanom in the countryside, you’ll find Phra That Tha Uthen. Sitting on the banks of the Mekong River, this tranquil wat is home to a chedi which houses relics of a disciple of the Buddha, which were transported here from a temple in Yangon, Myanmar.
Soaring over 66 metres above the ground, the white stone chedi makes for excellent pictures, as does the nearby river, so don’t be in a rush to head off to the next attraction – move slower and enjoy your surroundings in this sacred place. Fun fact: this temple is a popular destination for pilgrims born on Friday – it’s true!
Other Attractions in Nakhon Phanom
Learn a few things about the Nakhon Phanom area by spending some time exploring the Nakornpathom Provincial Governor’s Residence Museum. Built in the early 20th century by a Vietnamese builder, this former mansion used to be the home of this province’s top authority.
Later sold to the Ministry of the Interior, this house was used by King Rama IX (the recently departed King Bhumibol Adulyadej) and Queen Sirikit during their tour of Northeastern Thailand during the 1950s. Later in the century, it was converted into a museum meant to chronicle this province’s history.
Exhibits show off old photos from the city and province’s past, chronicle the life of the governor who once called this place home, and the visit of the Thai Royals in the 1950s. With English translations, visitors will be able to appreciate most of the artifacts found here.
When you are out strolling the riverfront of Nakhon Phanom, don’t forget to check out the Paya Sri Satta Nakarat. A statue featuring a series of nagas (snakes), this monument is most impressive at night, when coloured spotlights illuminate the feature, which spouts water in dramatic fashion.
As a popular gathering place for locals, you will be able to find a series of food carts, so be sure to grab a bite to eat in the evening here, as it will also give you a chance to do some people watching.
While the creatures who live beneath the waves of the ocean get a ton of attention, not as much focus is directed towards their freshwater cousins. You’ll get a chance to see what marine animals live below the muddy surface of the Mekong River at Mekong Underwater World.
While it is a bit on the small side compared to conventional saltwater aquariums, the modern tanks here give visitors a chance to walk amidst the fish of this mighty river via a glass tunnel. With endangered species among the specimens kept here, coming here may be the last chance you’ll get to see them, as megaprojects continue to threaten the biological viability of the river with every passing year.
Finally, check out the impressions that our giant reptilian ancestors left behind in Thailand’s soil at the Dinosaur Footprints Park. Preserved in sandstone, it tells the story of a region that was teeming with these gigantic animals aeons before humanity took charge as the dominant species on this planet.