In a nutshell
The capital town of Nakhon Phanom province is located in the Isaan region, 730 km North East of Bangkok, along the Laos border.
Why go to Nakhon Phanom
The city of mountains (this is the literal translation of Nakhon Phanom) owes his name to the stunning setting along the Mekong River with a dramatic view over the green mountains of Laos on the other side of the border. During the centuries people from Vietnam and Laos have decided to settle down here and their influence on this city’s traditions, food and everyday life is clearly visible. Nakhon Phanom is a chilled and relaxed capital with a long and vibrant riverfront which is ideal to spend a few days break during your travelling in the Isaan provinces and on your way to Laos. Many travelers unfortunately miss the opportunity to explore this beautiful city considering it just as a gate away to Laos; crossing the border here is easier and quicker than other places (Nong Khai as an example) since there’s never a long line and a direct bus to Tha Khaek will wait at the border for people to clear all the customs formalities.
When to go to Nakhon Phanom
Nakhon Phanom is worth a visit all year round since you’ll hardly have to do anything else than chill out, meet locals, enjoy the genuine multicultural atmosphere and admire the wonderful landscape. Nevertheless if you wish to avoid the worst part of the rainy season, don’t plan your visit from June to September. December and January are the driest and cooler months of the year. If possible, try to be here during the Illuminated Boat Festival (see the ‘’what to do’’ section for more information) that takes place every year in October and it’s one of the most spectacular festival in the country.
Where to stay in Nakhon Phanom
Not being a major western tourists’ destination, Nakhon Phanom lacks choices when it comes to accommodation, not offering any real backpackers’ solution neither the classic travelers oriented guesthouses that you can find almost everywhere in Thailand. Anyway the few hotels available still offer enough rooms to accommodate anybody at affordable prices. Reservation is not needed unless you’re coming for the Boat Festival that attracts thousands of visitors from Thailand and Laos.
Where and what to eat in Nakhon Phanom
Like everywhere else in Isaan region, food is one of the main reason that make us love this small capital town. The night market on Fueang Nakorn Rd, just 5 minutes away from the river, is perfect to try all the traditional Isaan dishes. There are a few table available, but we suggest you to get all the food that you need and then move to eat it at the riverfront sipping a cold beer while the sun is going down. Prices are extremely cheap (THB30/THB60) and food is delicious (and spicy).
If you’re looking for a nicer setting and a more comfortable solution there are a lot of riverfront restaurants with a nice terrace on the Mekong River; try the Plaa Pao if you like freshwater fishes. Prices are slightly higher with the whole fish coming for roughly THB200; it’s enough food to be shared among 3 people when you order something else on the side (papaya salad with sticky rice is a must in this region).
Don’t be surprised to see many Vietnamese restaurants all around town; a strong community is present in town and if you want to try a different cuisine don’t hesitate; it will be authentic, tasty and cheap.
Getting around Nakhon Phanom
The city center is small enough to be comfortably covered on foot. Rent a bicycle for THB100 a day (available at many shops and hotels in town) if you want to explore the city a little more; a new bicycle track running along the Mekong River makes a cycling tour safer and pleasant. Tuk tuk and motorbike taxies are waiting at every corner and will take you everywhere in town for few bhat. For a day trip out of town motorbike rentals are available at THB250 per day.
Getting to and from Nakhon Phanom
A small regional airport with daily flights to/from Bangkok Don Muang is located 18 km west of town. A shared minivan to town will cost you THB100 per person.
The bus station is in the city center, 1,5 km away from the riverfront. A tuk tuk or a metered taxi will take you to your hotel for roughly THB50. If you still don’t have a hotel ask them to drop you at the clock tower on Fueang Nakorn Rd. From there you can easily walk and search for accommodation.
Several daily departures to/from Bangkok Mo Chit station are available. The majority of the buses cover the distance with an overnight trip and the last departure from Bangkok is at 8:00pm. The journey takes 12 to 14 hours and tickets range from THB450 for a second class to THB850 for a VIP. The Transport Authority of Thailand runs a very comfortable VIP air-conditioned bus which leave Mo Chit at 7:15pm and Nakhon Phanom at 6:00pm on the way back; remember to bring a jumper with you since air-con buses in Thailand are crazy cold (a blanket is provided anyway).
Daily buses are available to Chiang Mai (THB820, 14 hours), Chiang Rai (THB900, 18 hours) and many destinations in the Isaan provinces (Khon Khaen, Udon Thani, and Khorat).
To That Phanom you can take a minibus for THB40. They leave every 20 minutes from 6:00am to 6:00pm.
International buses to Tha Khaek in Laos depart every half an hour all day long and stop at the border to wait for people to get through immigration. This make any border run extremely convenient and quick when compared to other border crossing in Thailand. The bus ticket is only THB70.
Safe travel in Nakhon Phanom
Nakhon Phanom is a safe town to travel with friendly and chilled locals ready to help you if you need. Don’t expect them to speak that much of English thou since western tourism is still highly undeveloped. A large hospital with good international standards is available if needed along with a tourist police office.
Nakhon Phanom station guide
Nakhon Phanom - Bus
Bordering Laos and situated approximately 740 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, Nakhon Phanom is a city in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region. Nakhon Phanom has a wonderful landscape, with the mighty Mekong River adjacent to the town marking the border between Thailand and Laos.
Buses to Nakhon Phanom depart Bangkok’s Mochit terminal between 6:00 and 20:00 daily. The central bus station in Nakhon Phanom is positioned in front of the market and from here buses and mini-buses provide service to Nong Khai, Udon Thani and Mukdahan. Neighbouring destinations can be easily reached by taking one of the numerous songthaews.
Nakhon Phanom is famous for the tastiest grilled chicken, sticky rice and papaya salad. The town is home to a number of hotels and guest houses with a range of tariffs and facilities.
Ban Phaeng - Bus
Ban Phaeng sits on the banks of the Mekong River in Thailand’s Isaan region, around 785kms northeast of Bangkok. Air conditioned buses leave Bangkok’s Mochit station and arrive in Ban Phaeng roughly 11 hours later, with service seven times per day, including overnight services.
Buses drop passengers off in Ban Phaeng’s town centre, which is situated close to Khruea Khao Lake. There are a number of places to stay here, such as Tian Kham and Rab Tawan resorts plus the Prasert and Ban Phaeng hotels. There are also a few places of interest in and around the town, including Ban Phaeng Namthip Ice Factory, Wat Pa Non Paeng, Tat Kham Waterfall Forest Park and Tat Pho Waterfall.
That Phanom - Bus
That Phanom is a sleepy town in Isaan’s Nakhon Phanom province, sitting along the banks of the famous Mekong River and overlooking neighbouring Laos. It is around 700kms northeast of Bangkok and 300kms east of Udon Thani, with its bus station located at the southern end of the town. There are also a few bus stops along route 212.
Numerous buses leave Bangkok Mochit for That Phanom, arriving into the town around 11 hours later. There are also buses that leave nearly every hour from Udon Thani’s bus terminal. That Phanom houses a couple of places of interest, with Wat Phra That Phanom being its main draw. There are also a few cosy places to stay, such as Niyana Guesthouse, Chai Von Hotel and Rim Kuean Hotel.
Renu Nakhon - Bus
Nakhon Phanom’s Renu Nakhon is a small town close to the Mekong River in Isaan, sitting around 580kms northeast of Bangkok. Its small bus station is situated in the town centre opposite the hospital and offers services to and from Bangkok, with two buses leaving Bangkok Mochit for Renu Nakhon each day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Wat That Renu is the town’s main point of interest, though the Phu Thai ethnic group also calls Renu Nakhon home and is very welcoming to guests. There are a few places for visitors to stay right in the town including Renoo Nakhon, Money and Theerak resorts.
Na Kae - Bus
The small Isaan town of Na Kae sits at the south end of the Nakhon Phanom province, around 560kms southeast of Bangkok. Buses depart Bangkok’s Mochit bus station five times each day for Na Kae and arrive around eight hours and 30 minutes later. The town’s small bus station is situated in its centre at the junction of routes 223 and 2033.
There are a few points of interest in and around Na Kae, with the main draw being the nearby Phu Pha Yon National Park and the Mekong River. There are also a few places to stay in town, such as Santisukh Hotel and Sareing Resort.
Si Songkhram - Bus
The district of Si Songkhram can be found in the northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Phanom, just a few kilometres from the Lao border. This rural area of the country is off the beaten track but local, generally second-class buses from Nakhon Phanom serve it throughout the day. This larger centre is linked to Bangkok by regular service from Mochit terminal.
The small town of Si Songkhram is on the banks of the Songkhram River. There is one main road that runs through the centre of the town, and the bus station is located just 100m off it. There are a number of places to eat near the station, while services such as banks, a post office and a Western Union office are available in the town centre.
Phon Sawan - Bus
Located in Thailand’s northeastern part, which is also known as the Isaan region, Phon Sawan is a district in the province of Nakhon Phanom. Founded in 1986, Phon Sawan has a population of 55,000. Not far away from the district is the majestic Phu Lang Ka National Park with its hills, forests and two popular waterfalls. Home to a diverse selection of wildlife, this national park is a must-see for nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers.
Phon Sawan bus station is served regularly by air-conditioned coaches departing from Bangkok’s Mochit terminal. The surrounding area is home to several first-class hotels as well as resort facilities.