Stretching in the oldest part of Khon Kaen and drawing plenty of exercisers when it’s not too hot, Bueng Kaen Nakhon Lake provides some welcome peace and quiet in a busy city. The lake spans nearly 100 hectares of calm water, almost entirely surrounded by tree-lined parks, restaurants, shrines and a few important temples.
Back when the former Vientiane officer, Chao Phia Mueang Phaen, decided to found a new city in the area in the late 18th century, he chose the west bank of Bueng Kaen Nakhon as the most suitable site. Beginning as a village of only a few hundred people, the settlement eventually ballooned into one of Thailand’s largest cities.
Several temples sprung up around the lake back in those early days, the most famous being Wat Nong Waeng thanks to its impressive nine-floor structure topped by a prasat spire. Nearby Wat Phra That Aram Luang adds its own towering chedi, while Wat Pho Non Than to the northeast is known for its quirky reliefs depicting dinosaurs, Isaan proverbs and scenes from Buddhist hell. The former two wats combine for a good view from the eastern bank, especially around sunset.
A colourful shrine to a local spirit, Chao Mae Song Nang, overlooks the southern bank, and a large Chinese shrine punctuated by picturesque gardens and footbridges stands to the northeast. With plenty of benches and trees joining the religious sites, Bueng Kaen Nakhon reminds us of another Southeast Asian urban body of water: Hanoi’s West Lake.
Every afternoon around 17:00, city dwellers come out to jog around the outer walkway; shoot hoops at a full basketball court; practice tricks at a small skate park; or have fun at the playgrounds and dinosaur statues peppered amid the park’s largest section on the west bank. Abundant trees make this a fine spot for a picnic at any time.
Several eateries are found all along the roads running closest to the lake, including many serving grilled fish and Isaan salads. Near the Hall of Culture and Heritage and an amphitheatre on the northern bank, Bua Luang Restaurant serves a wide selection of Asian food on a large dining terrace set directly over the water.
How to get there
Bueng Kaen Nakhon Lake is about a 20-minute walk south of downtown. Songthaew 13 runs in a loop around the whole lake, and Songthaew 8 can drop you nearby on Klang Mueang Rd. It takes around 30 minutes to walk around the lake if you don’t stop. Plan on spending the better part of a day here if you want to hit the temples and the Hall of Culture and Heritage.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 10th September, 2015.