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.
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!