Buddha: " Whenever you see things, just see. Whenever you listen, just listen. Whenever you know, just know."
Thailand - North-East Region
- Amnat Charoen - Amnacharoen Province
Amnat Charoen Province - Amnacharoen is an area little known by tourists and visitors. The province shares a border with Laos.
Backpacking the Amnat Charoen province in Thailand
Amnat Charoen is a liberating leave from backpackers Bangkok, it is one of the Northeastern provinces little traversed by tourists and popular amongst independent travelers.
Sacred caves cloistered within weather carved mountains, river islands, precious silks and religious, sanguine people are some of the treasures to be found in this unusual and wondrous province.
The undulating tropical forests and cobalt blue skies provide a melodious backdrop to the traditional Thai buildings and monumental golden Buddhas that pepper this region.
Located in the Mekong valley, if you’re visiting Amnat Charoen in the dry season (February to May) the river water descends and appearing from the beds depths are little islands. One of the most famous elusive islands is Kaeng Tanglang at Si Sombun village.
What to see while you’re here:
Phu Sa Dok Bua National Park spans across several different provinces but can be best accessed from Amnat Charoen. The park is blanketed by dwarf dry dipterocarp forest, a type of rainforest fauna with unmistakable thick and verdant plant leaves. There is a soaring 423 metre high mountain planted in the very centre of the park. On top of this gargantuan mountain there are 11 small stone pools.
Strangely, each pool is scattered with a different species of colorful lotus. Shining and iridescent in the warm sun, the pools seem esoteric. Legend has it that the lotus plants just grew spontaneously and therefore the park is named ‘Phu Sa Dok Bua’ which means ‘the mountain of lotus pools’.
Near the pools there is an expansive cave and terracotta coloured rock terraces. Pink dappled sunsets which blush across the darkening skies are even more impressive when seen from the 386 metre high Phu Pha Hom.
Buddha Utthayan and Phra Mongkhon Mueang is a shaded park with a towering northern Indian style Buddha image;
this image is now the provinces logo and is known throughout Thailand.
Wat Tham Saeng Phet is a cave temple, set in an immense sandstone plain and featuring a viharn, pagoda and mammoth supine Buddha. Within the cavernous interior the walls glitter as if made from the glinting sides of a diamond. The name of the cave pays homage to this sparkling rock.
Mo Lam Village is a magnetic attraction for people in the area. Mo Lam is a famous traditional performance of Northeastern Thailand and the theatrics should not be missed. Featuring dance and traditional music the atmosphere is alive with the spirit of the performers and their energy is infective.
Ban Chang Tho Royal Arts and Craft Training Centre offers courses on local crafts such as gem cutting and weaving. So to learn an exceptional skill or watch talented artists produce world-class cut gems come to this centre.
There are numerous festivals throughout the region as the people of Amnat Charoen pride themselves on local traditions and celebrations. Festivals to note are the Buddhist Lent, Rocket Festival, Loy Krathong, Songkran and the Boat Race. Before you travel, plan ahead to check if there will be a festival during your visit and aim to attend one of these prodigious events, where the towns are electric with excitement.
If you’re yearning for a slice of traditional Thai life that is stretches away from the party beaches and madness of Bangkok this region is ideal. The totemic gold Buddha and verdant forests are untouched and beautiful. The veins of local traditions carry the life and soul of the province making it a rewarding place to see and packed full of cultural interest.
By Natalie Laurence
Natalie Laurence, writer for Insure and Away, a freelance journalist and writer based in Brighton with a love for travelling.