The Mekong makes up most of the border between Thailand and Laos. I traveled from Nong Khai opposite Vientiane to Mukdahan opposite Savannaket in the south. A journey through places with original attractions and little tourism. The Mekong on the Thai side, the provincial towns along the Mekong have a multicultural touch due to trade with Laos and more indirectly with Vietnam and Cambodia and due to a certain degree of French colonial influence (once the French had cities on both sides of the Mekong) a multicultural touch. They are cities formed by trade and the link with the river.

The Lotus Temple

Starting from Nong Khai it is a little over an hour’s drive to Phon Phisai. There you will find the Lotus Temple, located at the high tide bank of he Mekong. A visual spectacle in bright colors.

Bueng Kan

About two hours further is Bueng Kan, a medium-sized town on the Mekong, center of the rubber trade through the surrounding plantations. Are there cities that really have nothing of interest? Maybe not, but if they are there Bueng Kan is definitely a candidate. A desolate boulevard along the Mekong, with a lonely purple bench.

Stairway to Heaven

The reason I went to Bueng Kan is to visit a special temple. Wat Phu Tok, which means lonely mountain. The Stairway to Heaven in Wat Phu Tok was realized by one man as a symbol of his personal journey to spiritual enlightenment. A rock rising nearly 200 meters from the Mekong Plain has naturally eroded, creating deep horizontal bands. Ajan Juan built wooden platforms and connected the links with planks and stairs. This collection of stairs, wooden ramps and ladders ascend seven levels, symbolizing the seven traditional steps to enlightenment.

Nakhon Phanom and the Two-Tone River

Nakhon Phanom is a city with wide roads and a lot of through traffic. Until you get to the boulevard along the Mekong. A newly built shrine beneath gargoyle Nagas attracts many Thai tourists. A little further is Wat Okat, an ornate temple where two sacred gold-lined wooden Buddha statues have found their place.

The Mekong is also its own attractions. About twenty kilometers north of Nakhon Phanom, the greenish Songkhram River enters the Mekong and creates big eddies like stirred cappuccino.

The pilgrim city of That Phanom

That Phanom is a frequently visited place. By Thai tourists. Or rather pilgrims, because the visit has a religious touch despite the fact that more time is spent on selfies than on praying. The impressive 53-meter-high tower topped by a four-meter-high umbrella of 16 kilos of gold covered with precious stones.


Mukdahan is one of the cities on the Mekong where trade between Thailand, Laos and especially Vietnam came together. The Laotian city of Savannaket opposite it was an important trading city in French colonial times. There is not much else to see and do, but it is a springboard for a further journey to the Mekong or to Laos

Khong Jiam

This small town is situated on a at the confluence of the chocolate-brown Mekong and the deep blue Mun rivers, known locally as the Mae Nam Song Si or Two-Colour River. From Khong Jiam you can visit the Pha Taem national park that is centered on a large cliff above the Mekong River. Below the cliffs are ancient rock paintings.

More info

De Isaan langs de Mekong