town in Nakhon Phanom province, Thailand

Not to be confused with Nakhon Pathom, a city west of Bangkok.

Nakhon Phanom (นครพนม) is a city and province in Isaan. The city has a beautiful landscape, with the Mekong River running adjacent to the city, marking the border between Thailand and Laos.

Although a small town, Nakhon Phanom is famous for its centuries-old temples and beautiful landscape. The city has a reserved and traditional Lao Isaan culture. A traveller may well find the residents of the city very hospitable and kind. The surrounding villages have many tribal cultures unique to Isaan and Laos.

Understand edit

Phra That Phanom. Close-up view

Nakhon Phanom is in the northeastern region of Thailand, approximately 734 km northeast of Bangkok and 378 km southwest of Hanoi, Vietnam. It borders Lao PDR's Khamoun Province, Tha Khaek District. Nakhon Phanom was the site of a US base during the Vietnam War, housing the 56th Air Commando Wing, based at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base. Its mission was search and rescue and interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trails in Laos 48 km to the east.

The population of Nakhon Phanom is a diverse mix of Thais, Thai-Vietnamese, Lao, Thai-Lao, Thai-Chinese, and perhaps a few Thai-Indians. The main languages spoken are Thai, Isaan, and Vietnamese, Isaan being the most popular of them. The primary culture and language is Lao, as Isaan was part of Laos until the late 19th century. Ho Chi Minh resided in a small village between the city center and the air base to the west during the late-1920s and early-1930s. A new museum has been constructed there, his home is preserved and is open to the public, and it draws many Vietnamese tourists.

Get in edit

By plane edit

Nok Air operates flights to Nakhon Phanom (KOP), as does Thai Air Asia. From the airport to town is about 20 km.

A meter taxi from the airport to the city is approximately 200 baht (30 baht flagfall, then 10 baht per kilometer, the trip is about 18 km). "Limousine" shuttle van tickets are 100 Baht per person. [December 2016]

From Laos edit

Friendship Bridge III spans the Mekong between Nakhon Phantom and Thakhek, Laos. It is around 10 km north of town and the Thai-Laos International Bus runs between Nakhon Phanom bus station and Thakhek from 08:00 to 17:30 eight times daily (every 60 - 90 minutes). It is not possible to cross the bridge on foot. You must pay in baht for the bus from Nakhon Phanom to Thakhek. Kip or US dollars are not accepted. Allow about 1.5 hours for the customs rituals on both sides of the bridge. Visa on arrival available on the Laos side. If you enter Thailand from Laos, most nationalities get a 30-day visa exempt entry. Foreigners entering Thailand under the Visa exception scheme are permitted to enter Thailand at a land border crossing only twice in a calendar year.

By train edit

The closest railway stations are about four hours away, in Ubon, Udon, or Nong Khai.

By road edit

Two of the most common means of getting to Nakhon Phanom from Bangkok are by road in private tour buses or government-operated tour buses. These buses start from the central North and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) in Bangkok. The fare for bus travel ranges from 300-850 baht, depending on the type of bus. A more convenient and popular bus is operated by the Transport Authority of Thailand. These VIP air conditioned buses operate under the label 99 or 999. These buses are 24-seaters, with seats as comfortable as seats in the business class of an aeroplane. A toilet is also available inside the bus. The distance between Nakhon Phanom and Bangkok is approximately 740 km. This is about an 11-hour journey. Although it seems long, a bus travelling out of Mo Chit at 19:15 arrives at Nakhon Phanom around 06:30. Buses leaving from Nakhon Phanom to Bangkok at 18:00 arrive at around 05:30.

There are also mini buses from Mukdahan (platform 8 at Mukdahan Bus Station, 95 baht (May 2023), pay directly to the driver upon arrival).

Get around edit

The most convenient way to get around the city is via the famous three wheelers of the northeast, more commonly referred to as "skylabs". There are also buses and vans running to other provinces throughout the day, easily accessible from the central bus terminal or in front of the local market.

See edit

  • Fire Boats. Communities from the province build large scaffolding out of bamboo, which they put on boats and float down the river in the annual fire boat festival. Tin cans are filled with kerosene and stuffed with rags, then arranged on the scaffolding to form images of temples, the king, dragons, etc. At night the boats float down the Mekong for the appreciation of spectators. Held one night a year, at the end of Buddhist Lent (Jul-Oct).
  • Ho Chi Minh House. Uncle Ho lived here for a time.
  • Old City Jail Museum.
  • Old Governor's Mansion. Contains a wide array of historical photographs, including topics such as the fire boats and royal visits to the province. Descriptions are primarily in Thai, often accompanied by limited English translations. Also contained in the building is an English language lending library, open to the public. The library was established by the volunteer teachers, and continues to grow with new contributions.
  • Phra That Phanom Temple (That Phanom District, 53 km from Nakhon Phanom).
  • That Phanom Festival. In February of each year, a festival is hosted in That Phanom to commemorate the rebuilding of the Wat That Phanom. The city draws thousands of Thai and Lao tourists from the surrounding areas, and the generally sleepy town is packed with people, markets, and food stalls. Worth attending if you happen to be in the area.
  • Vietnamese Memorial Clock Tower. This tower is in the Mekong Walking Street. Built by the Vietnamese residing in Nakhon Phanom in 1960, who fled to Thailand because of the Vietnam War, to show their gratitude towards the Nakhon Phanom. At night, the tower has colorful lighting, and there is a night market along the street on weekends (F Sa Su).

Do edit

Buy edit

Nakhon Phanom is famous for its silk fabric and silver ornaments. Most of the manufacturing is done on handmade looms in the local villages in traditional Lao-style. The silver is manufactured and crafted both within Isaan and Laos.

  • Thai-Lao Open-Border Market. Hundreds of Lao cross the river to shop and sell at this biweekly market. It's mostly the same stuff found in other Thai markets, but a few of the Lao traders in front of the temple sell roots, honey, mushrooms, bats, wild animals, orchids, and other forest products.

Eat edit

Nakhon Phanom has some of the best sticky rice and grilled chicken with papaya salad in the country. However, there are not many restaurants open in the centre of town at night. A couple may be found along Bamrungmueng Rd, to the left as you face the river. Menus are totally in Thai, and English is not spoken.

If you are stuck for a meal, order "pat pak ruam" (fried mixed vegetables), and add the word "gai" (for chicken), "moo" (for pork), or "gung" (for shrimp). "Cow soo-eye" is steamed rice. Will give you a tasty and filling feed for around 150 baht, including a large bottle of beer.

Snack type stalls are also available from about 16:00 on Fuangnakom St, which is at right angles to Bamrungmueng Rd. It is an afternoon/night market, and the road is closed off for the duration.

  • Khun Kaew Steak Corner, 137 Sunthornvijit Rd. Good food by a Thai lady who lived in the West for a while.
  • The Tree. Tasty food on an outdoor deck under a magnificent tree, with a view of the river.

Sleep edit

  • Menamkong Grand View Hotel, 527 Soonthornvijitra Rd (1 km S of centre on the river), +66 42 513564-70, fax: +66 42 511037. 1,500 baht (discounts readily available).
  • Nakhon Phanom River View Hotel, 9, Nakhon Phanom-That Phanom Rd (2 km from city centre). 122 rooms of four types: suite, river view, superior and standard. All have air-con, hot water, shower, TV with international channels, minibar, safe deposit box. Swimming pool and bar. Has a nice restaurant/bar with decent selection of wines, beers, spirits, and great food. Free Wi-Fi. 1,050-10,500 baht.
  • Windsor Hotel, 272 Bamrung Muang Rd, +66 42 511946. Older, but clean. 350 baht.

Go next edit

The mighty & magestic Mekong
  • Tha Khaek in Laos to visit the new jungle preserves created by the Democratic People's Republic of Laos as well as to visit the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail.
    • There are 8 buses daily between 08:00 and 17:30 (workdays), 17:00 (weekends) leaving every 60-90 minutes. The price is 70 baht or 18,000 kip during the week and 80 baht or 20,000 kip during the weekend.
  • Mukdahan, Sakhon Nakhon or Bueng Kan in Thailand.

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