Rising above Renu Nakhon town some 15 kilometres north of That Phanom, Phra That Renu stands 35 metres tall as a replica of what the old Phra That Phanom looked like before it fell apart in 1975.
The chedi is only worth a visit if you’re really into temples, but the area’s Phu Tai community makes it more worthwhile.
Sporting a broad light-pink base that houses a set of the Tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures), the chedi’s upper portion is adorned with small golden circles before rising to a thin spire. The grounds are somewhat unkempt, especially when compared to Wat Phra That Phanom, but the ordination hall houses an attractive Lao-style Buddha image in the Subduing Mara posture. While here, shake out a fortune stick and see what the future might hold by aligning your number to the fortunes written in English on the shelves.
Renu Nakhon is a predominantly Phu Tai town, and while this ethnic minority has been largely assimilated into larger Isaan culture, the locals proudly keep many of their traditions alive. Displaying their signature dark-blue and red designs, beautiful hand-woven cotton products can be purchased at a few shops near the chedi. Wander around town and you might come across a weaving workshop or, if you’re lucky, a group practicing for a traditional Phu Tai dance performance.
On the way here, check out the giant bubble-gum pink Ganesha statue along Highway 212, a few kilometres north of That Phanom. From there the ride takes you past scenes of farmers and water buffaloes working their paddies.
To get here on your own steam, take Highway 212 north out of That Phanom and then take a left onto Highway 2031, which runs straight to the chedi (there are clear signs off 212). It would be a long ride by bicycle, but the entire route is flat so that’s not out of the question if you’ve got some energy. Otherwise, expect a tuk tuk to charge around 500 baht for a round trip.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.