CHIANG RAI, 17 May 2018: Nakhon Phanom, a town on the banks of the Mekong River facing Laos in Northeast Thailand, hosts the Mekong Tourism Forum, 26 to 29 June.
Underwritten financially by Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports and supported by Nakhon Phanom’s provincial office, the event is free to travel executives, academics, non-government organisations and tourism policy makers.
The forum meetings will convene at the Nakhon Phanom University, a 10.2 km car transfer south on highway 212 from the River Hotel in the centre of town.
Organised by the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office the forum acts a platform for member countries – Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – to present their tourism strategies and interact with private sector leaders.
Definitely worth attending if you want to see tourism take a new tack and adopt sustainable tourism for the benefit of a region sometimes called the “last frontier.”
Getting there might be a challenge as there are only two domestic airlines serving the route Bangkok-Nakhon Phanom (LOP) and both operate out of Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport.
For delegate arriving on international flights at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport they will need to make the 50 km transfer to Don Mueang airport (DMK).
Thai AirAsia offer the cheapest fares for 26 to 29 June week with a no-frills, roundtrip fare of THB1461, followed closely by Nok Air at THB 1,640.
Thai AirAsia’s flight departs Don Mueang airport at 0840 and Nok Air at 1020.
Two hotels, The River and Blu, are blocked booked for 26 to 29 June for delegates, which explains why they are not posting rates on popular booking for sites for the conference. They normally sell a double room at THB 900 and THB 990.
The best place to stay to enjoy the charm of Nakhon Phanom is on the riverside boulevard right on the banks of the Mekong River.
There are still rooms available at the Fortune River View at THB 1,364 a night. The hotel gets a score of 3.5 from TripAdvisor’s 113 reviews.
Riveria Hotel sells at THB 1,878 and is rated 3.5 by 42 reviews with some pointing out that it pricy for what you get. That Phanom River View at THB 1,050 has a 4 rating from 44 reviews.
You are paying for the view at any of the hotels on the 3 km long riverside boulevard. Nothing to write home about as far as three-star accommodation and breakfast goes but all hotels have fast and free Wi-Fi. The river view is pretty spectacular along the boulevard and in the evening the 2 to 3 km stroll to the open-air food stalls, past illuminated temples, is the highlight of the visit.
There are three top attractions not to be missed out of 16 listed by TripAdvisor. The list can change as more reviews or posted.
Wat Maha That
Landmark 75 reviews
This is a pagoda for persons born on Saturday. There is a tour of seven temples all close to the river, one for every day of the week. So no one misses out on their birthday temple in this town.
Probably the best time to visit Wat Maha That, if you intend to worship, is at sunrise when the cloisters and courtyards are serenely quiet.
At night the temple is illuminated by hundreds of lights and its vantage point on the boulevard makes it a landmark for an evening stroll.
Paya Sri Saita Nakarat
Monument 35 reviews
Great statue, beautiful landscape views of neighbouring Laos with its mountain ranges and an awesome Mekong river flowing by. There are clusters of restaurants and food stalls around the monument. This is the spot for a Mekong river view selfie, or the place to snack on genuine Isan and Thai food (not the Michelin nonsense)
Thai Vietnamese Friendship Village
Neighbourhood 39 reviews
This village is always the highlight of a visit to Nakhon Phanom for modern history buffs.
It was home for ‘Uncle Ho’ who lived in the village from 1925 to 1930 when he took refuge from British authorities intent on interning him for his Communist beliefs. The two-bedroom house where Ho Chi Minh lived is now a museum and the writing desk and chair are authentic along with household items including an ancient radio.
The house draws hundreds of Vietnamese tourists who pay tribute to the father of the nation. The humble dwelling honours those who fought the French colonials and US military to ultimately unite Vietnam.
Entrance is free, but there are donation boxes. There is no evidence of official support for this small museum, unlike the other one nearby built with the lavish support of the Vietnamese government.
Na Jok village, where the museum resides, has a community of 150 Vietnamese-origin families who have lived here since the reign of King Rama III (1825-1851).