The holiest stupa in Isaan (north-east Thailand) is a site that is revered not just by Thai Buddhists, but also by those across the Mekong River in Laos. The tower is said to contain a chest bone relic from the Lord Buddha in addition to many other valuable items. Archeological experts say the original Khmer-style stupa was constructed between the 7th to 9th centuries, but it’s undergone various renovations since then. In August 1975, storms and days of heavy rain resulted in the collapse of the stupa. Donations from the public and the Thai government allowed the necessary restoration work which was completed in 1979.
The distinctive white and gold stupa is located within the grounds of Wat Phra That Phanom Woramahawiharn. An annual 10-day festival, the Phra That Phanom Fair, is held here during the third lunar month (usually February) and draws thousands of visitors from all over Isaan and neighbouring Laos.
A visit to Phra That Phanom is considered auspicious for all Thai Buddhists, but there are particular associations depending on when you were born. That Phanom is a pilgrimage site for Thai Buddhists who were born in the Year of the Monkey and a visit here is also regarded as lucky for those born on a Sunday. Those that make seven visits to Phra That Phanom are said to become ‘children of the stupa’ and prosperity will follow.
In 1942, Wat Phra That Phanom Woramahawiharn was formally honoured with the title of royal first class temple. The royal connection actually goes back many years. Not far from the stupa, in the compound of the temple, there are seven ponds. Water from one of these ponds is considered to be holy and has been used in the coronation ceremonies of Thai monarchs dating back to King Rama VI.
The stupa is 12 metes wide at the base and over 53 metres high with the golden umbrella that sits at the top weighing 110kg. That Phanom is an icon of Nakhon Phanom province and visitors to the area will notice it cropping up on street signs and souvenirs.
How to get there
That Phanom is located 55km south of the town of Nakhon Phanom on Highway 212. A frequent bus service departs daily from the bus terminal in Nakhon Phanom town centre with return journeys from the market area close to the temple.