Wat Phra That Bang Phuan

Nong Khai Province

Boasting a beautiful chedi that locals believe holds 29 Buddha relics, Wat Phra That Bang Phuan is one of the region's most sacred temples. Nobody knows when the first stupa was erected here, but after moving his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1560, Lan Xang King Setthathirat commissioned grand temples to be built all around his kingdom, including a new stupa built here over an older one.

Rain caused it to lean precariously and in 1970 it toppled. It was rebuilt in 1977. The current one stands 34m high on a 17-sq-metre base and has many unsurfaced smaller chedi around it, as well as a naga pond, giving the temple an ancient atmosphere – and it's this, much more than the main stupa, that makes a trip here rewarding.

The temple is 22km from Nong Khai on Rte 211. Very few buses from Nong Khai (20B, one hour) pass by, so it's inconvenient to come by public transport.