:: SAKON NAKHON

Sakon Nakhon, the ancient, Khmer town formerly known as'Nong Han Luang', is now an important Buddhist religious center that contains a very sacred Buddha relic, and many forest temple retreats for meditation founded by a highly revered, deceased Buddhist monk, considered to be the greatest teacher of all monks. Situated in the upper northeastern region among the Phu Pan mountain ranges, it is also a land of natural beauty comprised of green, overlapping hills. The lifestyle of the people around the town's vicinity provides an interesting insight of the local Thais and the Thai So group. Sakon Nakhon is 647 kilometres from Bangkok and has an area of 9,605 square kilometres.

:: Attractions

Within the city's principal temple of Wat Phra That Cherng Chum Worawiharn is the most sacred, ancient structure that is the pride and joy of Sakhon Nakhon, Phra That Cheong Chum (Cherng Chum Relics), kept within a whitewashed, square-shaped, brick chedi with a golden cap, built during the Ayutthaya period. Also within the 24-m, Laotian-style chedi are 4 of Buddha's Footprints. The beautiful temple complex also houses a large bot and wiharn and a 10th century Khmer prang (tower). Also within the 24-m, Laotian-style chedi are 4 of Buddha's Footprints. The beautiful temple complex also houses a large bot (chapel) and wiharn (prayer hall) and a 10th century Khmer prang (tower). An ancient Khmer inscription is etched into the prang's base and encircling the base are Buddha images of Laotian and Khmer-style. The chapel houses the holy Luang Pho Ong Saen Buddha image.

For a relaxing spot in the city, head for the large, freshwater lake of Nong Harn , the province's major agricultural and fishery center, whose shorefront has been developed into the Somdej Sri Nakarin Park , popular with locals and visitors. Rental boats are available for paddling to the scenic island in the middle of the lake, which is the origin of an ancient Isan (northeastern) folk tale. In addition, there is Sa Phang Thong, an ancient pool believed to have been constructed at the same time as Phra That Choeng Chum.

About 25 km out of town, the Phu Pan National Park contains a beautiful natural surrounding, including the scenic road that passes through the overlapping mountains of Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, and Kalasin. Within the park is the Phu Pan Royal Palace where the royal family resides while visiting the northeastern region. Other interesting sites include Khum Hoi Falls, the largest kilometer post marker at Kong Ping Ngu (Snake-Pike Bends), Lan Sao Ae, and the Buddha image etched into a cliff wall at Phu Payon (Payon Hill).

The sandstone, 12-13th century chedi housing the Phra That Phu Pek is located at the summit of the Phu Pek Mountain, within the Phu Pan mountain ranges, in Phanna Nikhom District. The double-layered, square-shaped, 7-m tall chedi appears unfinished because it lacks a roof and a pinnacle. Legend has it that a competition arose between a man building this chedi and a female constructing the chedi for the Phra That Narai Cheng Weng for housing the holy relic of part of Buddha's rib cage. But the man terminated his work upon seeing the Pek star in the skies, a deceit conjured up by the female.

Located within the city, Queen Cheng Weng commissioned the construction of Wat Phra That Narai Cheng Weng which contains a five-layered, 12th century, Khmer prang (tower) and a sandstone pagoda on a laterite base. The lintels, doorways, and windows contained intricate stone engravings that have been well preserved to this day. It is believed the queen built the compound in a competition with the men who built Phra That Phu Pek. Narai is a Khmer and Thai word for Vishnu, the most powerful Hindu god.

The Phra Achan (teacher) Mun Phurihuttho Museum , located in Sudthawat Forest Temple, is a modernized structure that houses the highly revered, deceased monk's sacred personal items commonly issued to all monks, his relics (ashes), and a beeswax replica image of him. Based upon his teachings that lean towards meditation, the area has seen many forested temples built and have produced a great number of famous Vipassana (a type of Buddhist meditation) monks.

Within the Udom Somporn Forest Temple in Phanna Nikom District is another institute that pays homage to another well-known Thai monk. The Phra Achan (teacher) Fan Acharo Museum also displays the deceased monk's sacred personal items, a beeswax replica and information about his life story. Phra Acharn Fan and Luang Pu Thet, both highly revered nationwide, used to meditate in Wat Thum Kham (Kam Cave Temple), where a chedi was constructed to house the latter's ashes.

The vast Nam Oun Dam surrounded by the Phu Pan mountain ranges provides a spectacular sight, particularly at sunset. The earthen dam obstructs the Oun Stream, a tributary of the Songkhram River, for irrigation usage.

The Huay Huat National Park offers a beautiful scenery, especially from Huay Huat Reservoir which provides a great viewing of the Song Sai Falls (Two Path Falls). Other natural wonders include the stony plateau and sprouting of numerous wildflowers everywhere towards the end of the rainy season. It also features many caves with prehistoric drawings, such as Muang Cave, Pradangrang Cave, and Palai Cave.

An interesting comparison of the Thai So and Thai scripts can be seen at the Thai So Museum in Kusuman District. The museum also features a collection of common household products used by the Thais who earlier, immigrated from the other side of the Mekong River. Within the museum is the sacred structure housing Pu Mahasak, a deceased Buddhist monk who is still highly revered by the Thai So people.