The growing city of Mukdahan offers typically captivating Mekong River scenery along with all of the comforts and conveniences of a mid-size Thai city. Before you continue east into Laos or west to Thailand’s more popular destinations, take a couple of days to let Muk work its magic.
Any visit to Muk should start out along the riverfront, where the sprawling Indochine Market bursts with trinkets and treasures from Thailand’s communist neighbours. While shoppers are sure to find a few one-of-a-kind items, we appreciate the market more for the eclectic and vibrant atmosphere that it injects into the heart of town.
Tuk tuks move every which way as white-clad grannies pay homage to sacred Buddha images at the riverfront temples before learning their fortunes under a banyan tree at the Chao Pho Chao Fa Shrine. Monks can be seen everywhere, lounging along the spacious riverside promenade or poking through the streetside shops along with everyone else.
All the while, you’ve got a great view across a wide stretch of the Mekong, dotted with fishermen working the current in their narrow wooden sampans. Just visible to the north, the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 2 looms as a reminder of the ASEAN region’s ever-increasing connectivity.
Once you’ve had your fill of the busy part of the riverfront, head a bit further south to one of the many restaurants with wide terraces spread out beside the water. Wine Wild Why is a fine choice for a mix of Thai and Isaan food, but those looking for an honest taste of the countryside should make their way a little further south to Bao Pradit.
Served at a number of eateries all over the city, Vietnamese food is another of Mukdahan’s highlights. We still can’t forget the khanom pak mor kai dao served by a couple of boisterous women at Aw Aem, a hole in the wall on Samut Sakdarak Road. The transluscent rice flour wrapper provided the perfect base for tasty ground pork, herbs and muu yor sausage, all beautifully mixed up amid a runny fried egg.
With a full day of hanging around the city and indulging in the night market behind you, take a second day to hike off some of those calories in Phu Pha Thoep National Park. The strange rock formations are worth the trip for many, but we highly recommend putting in the extra effort to hit the breezy viewpoints and a Buddha image placed in a cave atop a serene waterfall.
You might also stop at Mukdahan Tower for splendid views to Savannakhet and a quick primer on the province’s history and diverse ethnic makeup. Finish up with a picnic in a pavilion with even better views at Phu Manorom, and you might be just about ready to continue north up to charming That Phanom and Nakhon Phanom, or south to the many attractions of Ubon Ratchathani.
In either direction, bucolic scenes of farmers working the rice fields are in plentiful supply.
Mukdahan is best explored by bicycle, which is really the only choice other than hired tuk tuk considering that motorbike and car rentals are not readily available. Grab your wheels at the very friendly Nikorn Bike across from the River City Hotel on Samut Sakdarak.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 10th September, 2015.