Beaches and dancing shrimp
Published/Last edited or updated: 22nd February, 2021
If you thought that lounging on a beach was out of the question in Ubon province, think again. Meet Sirindhorn Reservoir.
Head south out of Khong Chiam for 15 km and you’ll reach a crossroads. A left takes you to the border crossing and market in Chong Mek, while a right shoots to the northern shore of the massive Sirindhorn Reservoir.
One of Northeast Thailand’s largest bodies of water, Sirindhorn stretches north to south for over 50 kilometres, with a width of around 15 kilometres at its widest point. The most popular attraction is Pattaya Noi (“Little Pattaya”), a stretch of sand along the northern shore where you can swim or get whipped around on a raft pulled by a jet ski. The best part is a cluster of restaurants serving rustic Isaan dishes like whole grilled river fish (pla plao) and a salad made with mini freshwater shrimps—kung ten if still alive and “dancing,” or kung nawn if not. Patrons are led to floating bamboo huts with thatch roofs to graze while lounging on grass mats.
Little English is spoken at Pattaya Noi but locals come here to have a good time and will most likely be pleasantly surprised to see foreigners joining them. From here you could continue west along Highway 217 before cutting south on to back roads that run down to out-of-the-way lakeside villages and temples. Or you could turn back east and stop by the border market in Chong Mek for a taste of grilled buffalo skin and wasp larva.
If you get a really early start, you could keep going all the way down to the remote Phu Chong Na Yoi National Park to see its waterfalls and vast fields of wildflowers that bloom from October to December. It straddles both the Laos and Cambodia borders, roughly 100 kilometres south of Chong Mek.
To reach Pattaya Noi, take Highway 2173 south out of Khong Chiam and go right onto Highway 217, following signs for Phibun Mangsahan. After a few km, look for signs in Thai script with pictures of floating thatch roof huts on the left. Several different restaurants line the beach, many offering cruises on the lake in a variety of boats.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.