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That Phanom

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We love this place! That Phanom is a sleepy small town 55km south of Nakhon Phanom. The locals here have to be amongst the friendliest in all of I-san and it is home to the equally friendly and homely Niyana Guesthouse.

The town is home to Isan's most revered temple, the same-named Wat That Phanom, a spectacular pagoda that sits a few hundred metres back off the riverbank. At 57 metres tall the glittering gold and white chedi is a particularly fine example of the Lao style of design. According to legend, the original construction was built over 1,500 years ago to house, you guessed it, an original relic of the Buddha himself -- in this case a breastbone.

Over the next millenium or so, it's collapsed on a number of occasions, including once in 1975. This collapse is of interest due to a legend floating around that should the chedi fall, so would the Lao government, and sure enough not long after the collapse the government in Laos fell. No word on what happened to the Lao government the other half dozen times the stupa "had issues".


At the full moon of the third lunar month (February to March) a huge festival is held here and every hotel for miles around is packed as Thai and Lao devotees fall upon the town in their thousands. The wat is located on Chayangkun Road and is impossible to miss.

A second, far less grandiose attraction in That Phanom, is the small archway that is a rough copy of the Patuxai in Vientiane.

Further afield, some 10km out of That Phanom, lies the village of Renu Nakhon. It's a small silk and cotton weaving village where reasonably priced fabrics are available. To get there take a songtheaw to the turn-off at km 44 and catch another for the 7km to the village. There are also occasional direct ones from That Phanom or visit it by bicycle - a long way, but it will keep you fit.

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Text and/or map last updated on 11th August, 2009.

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