Sakon Nakhon Guide
The province of Sakon Nakhon lies in northeastern Thailand’s Isaan region, and is in the area once controlled by the Khmer empire. In those days, the city of Sakon Nakhon was a major centre of the empire of Khotraboon. The city was established in the 11th century by the Khmer.
Sakon Nakhon Travel Guide
The province of Sakon Nakhon lies in northeastern Thailand’s Isaan region, and is in the area once controlled by the Khmer empire. In those days, the city of Sakon Nakhon was a major centre of the empire of Khotraboon. The city was established in the 11th century by the Khmer. After the eventual decline in power of the Khmer, this region would later fall under Laotian rule before Siam (Thailand) took over. The city was originally called Sakon Thavapi, or New City by the Pond, but was renamed in 1830 to Sakon Nakhon, the City of Cities.
History of Sakon Nakhon
Hundreds of years ago, a new empire began to spread out from Cambodia. The Khmer Empire, based in Angkor, ruled most of Southeast Asia from about the 6th century until the middle of the 15th century. The Khmer civilization included both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs living in harmony, and was highly influenced by the Indian civilization of the day. The empire covered present-day Cambodia, as well as parts of Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. What they’ve left behind is memories of a people rich in architecture and sculpture, but ultimately unable to hold the empire together against resistance.
The region was obviously hotly contested in ancient history. During World War II, this area became the home of up to ten secret training camps. The Seri Thai (Free Thai) movement set up here to recruit and train members to resist the invading Japanese forces and to preserve Thai independence. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the province was also the scene of fighting internally during the communist insurrection.
Nowadays, things are more peaceful in Sakon Nakhon. Inside Phu Pan National Park, the Thai Royal Family has established a residence that they use during their trips to the region, and visitors quickly learn why this is a wonderful vacation spot. Daily flights from Bangkok allow you to easily reach this idyllic location near the Phu Pan mountain range. Visit a wide array of temples and religious sites, see the dinosaur graveyard, and relax by the third-largest lake in Thailand, the beautiful Nong Han Lake.
Culture opportunities abound here as well. The local mix of Lao and Thai promotes a blend of history and customs that will enthrall visitors. Enjoy the Thai traditional New Year’s celebration each year in April (Songkran Festival) or the wax castle parade every October. The region also offers boat racing on the lake, scenic waterfalls, and a relaxing atmosphere. All of this is topped off by the renowned hospitality of the Isaan people. You won’t find a warmer reception anywhere else in the world, and the language barrier is no barrier at all to enjoying the scenery and the people of northeastern Thailand.
When you need a respite from the hustle of Bangkok or the boisterousness of Phuket and Pattaya, head up north. Take a detour from the often-visited Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and spend your free time in Sakon Nakhon, the City of Cities.
What to see and do in Sakon Nakhon
Visitors to Sakon Nakhon are in for a treat. This region abounds in natural splendor and spectacle, and time spent here immerses you in the Buddhist traditions of the nation and can even take you back in time a few million years.
Thai culture places great emphasis on respecting your elders, so we will visit our ancestors first. In the area between Sakon Nakhon and the bordering province of Kalasin, the Phu Pan mountain range houses full-skeleton fossils of sauropods from approximately 120 million years ago. The fossil record here also includes some plant and petrified wood samples, and the larger fossils can be seen in large-scale open pit excavations. Satisfy your inner archeologist with a visit to the digs.
We have to turn a lot of calendar pages to get to the next stop, chronologically speaking. Phu Pha Yon Mountain sits in the midst of a meditation center 40 km outside the city. The mountainside holds one of the best examples of prehistoric representative art. Local tribes carved depictions of people, animals, and agriculture into the side of the mountain more than 3000 years ago. Surrounded by natural beauty in peaceful surroundings, this mountain is well worth the short trip from Sakon Nakhon city.
Seasoned travelers will often tell you that the best places in any locale are the places that the locals frequent. The residents of Sakon Nakhon tend to take their leisure along the shores of Nong Han Lake. The lake covers more than 120 square kilometers and is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the kingdom. The shoreline has largely been converted into a massive public park for the city, and a number of small islets dot the lake. Hire a boat to visit the largest of these, Ko Don Sawan, to see ancient Buddha images in a deserted temple. The untamed greenery of the island makes it a popular nesting ground for several species of birds.
It can be a lot of fun to join local festivals while on vacation, even if you don’t understand what you’re celebrating! Thailand’s traditional New Year’s celebration is in April each year, and is called Songkran. The festival traditionally marks the beginning of the rainy season. While Songkran can be an excuse for rowdy behavior in more southerly cities of Thailand, in the northeast it is a more civil event. People pour water on one another to cool off and to share a laugh. Most businesses will close during Songkran days, so expect larger crowds, but the more, the merrier.
Should you be in the region in October, there is the annual Wax Castle Parade. Competing teams spend countless hours building replicas of popular temples and structures, and then form a parade to show off their handiwork.
When its souvenir time, take a trip to Ban Charn Arts and Crafts, or Wha Yai and Ban Don Daeng. Ban Charn Arts & Crafts Center is a training and distribution center for the local crafts of woodcarving, silk production, and blacksmithing. Wha Yai and Ban Don Daeng are renowned for local silk products and textiles. Take home a memory or two!
Eat, drink and sleep in Sakon Nakhon
Apart from the hardcore survivalist types, most tourists enjoy a good meal after a day of touring waterfalls and temples. And of course, you have to eat a good breakfast, or you’ll have no energy for the next day’s activities. Don’t worry about anything. You definitely don’t have to go hungry in Sakon Nakhon.
First things first: yes, they eat dog in Sakon Nakhon. Among Thailand’s seventy-six provinces, Sakon Nakhon has the largest reputation for the preparation and consumption of dog meat. You shouldn’t be alarmed by this at all. You’re visiting a very different culture, and this is their custom. Further, you won’t be served dog unless you order it. If you’re curious and adventurous, the local fresh market is rumored to be the place to pick up your serving.
For other types of meals, you have many choices. Of course the Thai food will be fresh and flavorful, just like in every province of the kingdom.
Recommendations for Thai restaurants
Thai oriented menu, but also with Western options. This is a good choice for breakfasts, as they serve a really decent omelet. Lunch and dinner also available, but bring an interpreter.
Phra Cha Chuen
Thai food only, but served in a more casual setting. Great meals, unpretentious, nice atmosphere.
If you’re after a more westernized menu, this is your spot. Of course good Thai and Isaan-style options are on the menu, but you’ll also find a selection of pizzas, Italian food, and a nice bakery.
Sakon Nakhon Sandwich and Steak House
Western and Turkish menu with good prices. Located at the entrance to the PLR Apartments, on ITU Street. Run by Hakkan with his lovely wife.
Nightlife in Sakon Nakhon
Many of us have the habit of looking for a pub or nightclub sometime after dinner is done. While Sakon Nakhon is not known as a party town, don’t give up all hope. There’s always a place to find an open bar stool, a live band, and a cold drink. In Sakon Nakhon, you can try the karaoke bar inside the MJ Hotel. But if you prefer to listen instead of sing, you still have options. Toon Army Bar offers a live band and a friendly atmosphere. A more dance-oriented vibe is at the Golden Pond Disco just around the corner from Toon Army Bar, but you’re likely to find it rather crowded with local students. Welcome Bar is on the same street as Golden Pond, and is targeted slightly more to the western visitor. If you like live rock, specially Thai Rock, why not head to the Tawan Daeng with excellent singers. Finally, check out Mak Mi Sigh Tan country music bar for more live band enjoyment.