Tourists flock to Nong Khai as sacred stupa emerges from Mekong River
The rare sight of an ancient Buddhist stupa emerging from the Mekong River has sent tourists flocking to the northern province of Nong Khai.
Phra That Klang Nam is believed to have been constructed around 700 years ago on what was then the banks of the river. However, it toppled into the Mekong in 1847 and was submerged completely as the river changed course over the years.
On Sunday, crowds of tourists arrived to get a rare glimpse of the stupa, which was exposed to view after the river level receded sharply in recent days.
According to the Urangkhathat (Phrathat Phanom) Chronicle, the stupa enshrines nine foot-bone relics of the Buddha.
Tourists gathered on the riverside promenade in Nong Khai to view the stupa while others took boats for an up-close look. The receding river level revealed the ongoing erosion of the ancient structure by the currents of the Mekong, which are stripping its outer stonework.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, an underwater survey by the Regional Fine Arts Unit revealed that the square stupa with indented corners was broken into three parts. It is believed to have been built in the 15th century of the Common Era, based on its similarity to other temples and structures dating back to that time.
The depth of the Mekong River has fallen to less than one metre in places due to drought, according to the Department of Water Resources on Sunday.
Boats have been warned to be extra cautious while navigating around the partially exposed stupa.
Local boat navigator Rapin Butsen confirmed that a large number of tourists were visiting Nong Khai at weekends to pay respect to the stupa.
He said there were plenty of boats available to hire for a reasonable price to ferry pilgrims and tourists out to the ancient monument.