Wat Phra That Phanom

Top choice buddhist temple in That Phanom

This temple is a potent and beautiful place – even if you're feeling templed out, you'll likely be impressed. At its hub is a stupa (tâht), more impressive than any in present-day Laos and highly revered by Buddhists from both countries. It's 53.6m high, and a 16kg real-gold umbrella laden with precious gems adds 4m more to the top. The stupa is lit up spectacularly at night, and a visit in the evening is extra-special, with prayer chants and gongs reverberating around the complex.

The local legend tells that the Lord Buddha travelled to Thailand and directed that one of his breast-bone relics be enshrined in a chedi to be built on this very site; and so it was in 535 BC, eight years after his death. Historians, on the other hand, assume the first construction was around the 9th century AD, and modifications have been routine since then. In 1690 it was raised to 47m and the current design went up in 1941, but it toppled during heavy rains in 1975 and was rebuilt in 1978. There's a replica of how the original, short stupa may have looked in a pond in front of the temple. And you'll find replicas of both the present and the previous designs all over Isan.

Behind the surrounding cloister is a shady little park with more statuary and a museum. To the north is what was once the largest gong in Thailand, and to the south is a market with food and handicrafts for all the Thai tourists visiting.

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