NONG KHAI – The rare sight of an ancient Buddhist stupa emerging from the Mekong River has sent tourists flocking to the north-eastern province of Nong Khai in Thailand.
The Phra That Klang Nam stupa is believed to have been constructed around 700 years ago on what was then a bank 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 in the province for a rare glimpse of the stupa, which was exposed to view after the river level receded sharply in recent days.
According to the traditional Buddhist chronicle Urangkhathat (Phrathat Phanom), the stupa enshrines the bone relics of the Buddha.
Tourists gathered on the riverside promenade in Nong Khai to view the stupa, while others took boat rides on the river for a close-up look.
The receding water level revealed the erosion of the ancient structure by the currents of the Mekong, which are stripping away 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, 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 1m in places because of drought, according to the Department of Water Resources on Sunday.
Boats have been warned to be extra-cautious when navigating around the partially exposed stupa.
Local boat navigator Rapin Butsen confirmed that a large number of tourists were visiting Nong Khai to see the stupa.
He said there were plenty of boats available for hire at a reasonable price to ferry pilgrims and tourists to the ancient monument. THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK