advertisement

Getting There

The nearest airport is in Udon Thani, but Nong Khai is the terminus of the Northeast train line from Bangkok and is an enjoyable, if rocky, overnight journey. Regular buses connect with points throughout the region, too.

Goodness Gracious! Great Balls of . . . Fire?

In October, when the moon is full, heralding the end of the Buddhist Lent, a ghostly phenomenon occurs that is, as yet, unexplained. From the waters of the Mekong rise glowing balls of red fire that ascend high into the night sky. This mystical event attracts thousands from all over Thailand. The explanation? Some say it is the rising Naga, or river dragon, coming to greet Lord Buddha. On the other hand, scientists claim it is bubbles of gas originating from rotting organic matter in the riverbed being released into the air. Whether believer or nonbeliever, superstitious Thais love to flock to the venue, and hotels are usually full this time of year. Be warned, however, that the spectacle is not guaranteed; when I visited, there were no fireballs to be seen. Note: There is little or no public transport available on these nights, so you'll need your own transport, and be prepared for traffic jams along the riverside road.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.