An Insider Guide to Nang Rong (Buriram)

An Insider Guide to Nang Rong (Buriram)
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Lonely Planet describes Nang Rong as a ‘workaday city even more forgettable than the capital city, 45km to the north, but it’s the most convenient base for visiting Phanom Rung’, which I feel is unfair. Nang Rong is not a city (it’s a town), it is closer to fifty kilometres from Buriram in the northeast (not north), otherwise, they’re fairly spot on. There are few reasons for tourists to be in Nang Rong other than using it as a base for travel to Phanom Rung, however, there are many more lesser-known off-the-beaten-path tourist attractions in nearby Buriram Province (our Buriram Guide here) including Wat Khao Angkhan, and Buriram city itself. And I can easily find enough to excite any tourist passing through or even staying for a while… although I do hope you like food.

The Insider’s Guide to Nang Rong

I’ve now been to Nang Rong seemingly countless times, partly because I live in a nearby village for half the year, and I find myself travelling the 2-km into town every other day to grab groceries at the main supermarkets (Tesco/Lotus and Hokee) as well as snacks from my favourite night markets and street food. Otherwise, Nang Rong is not the most exciting destination for sightseeing (if that’s your thing) and so much of the focus here is instead on local experiences, rural living, and the cultural quirks found in these far-flung Isaan regions. Although it’s really mostly about food… as is life in rural Thailand.

The Gateway to Phanomrung

I will start with Phanomrung, as there’s a good chance any visitor to Nang Rong is en route to the temples of Phanom Rung and Muang Tham, following the ancient Khmer Highway out to the Cambodian borders. To reach these temples, Nang Rong is by far the best option for travel in the region, with day trips arranged at local hotels, and various guesthouses offering motorbike rental for the more intrepid of explorers. It’s also possible to barter with local taxis at the central bus station. To date, I’ve been to the Phanomrung Historical Park roughly 4 or 5 times, driving it myself on 3 occasions, and it’s honestly not the most challenging of drives. Otherwise, I have a comprehensive post on visiting the Phanomrung Historical Park including the Annual Phanomrung Festival which is easily one of the most spectacular events I’ve come across in Thailand.

Things to do in Nang Rong Town (Buriram)

This is more to give a lay of the land in Nang Rong, sharing the main focal points of the town, and how to navigate the main areas. Nang Rong is also simple to cover on foot, with most places of interest found on the southern side of the main road/motorway, while the larger hotels are almost all found on the opposite side of the main road. The main road itself is fairly long, starting with the bus station when arriving from Bangkok to Nang Rong, following up until Wat Khun Kong at the opposite end. This is roughly 2.4km in itself, and there’s not a whole lot of tourist interest in between.

1. Nong Dta Mu Lake

The main area for recreation is Nang Rong lake (Nong Dta Mu), a rather big lake with a running track circling the perimeter and other recreational facilities dotted around. The area would be busiest in the mornings and evenings when the eager beavers of Nang Rong are out walking/jogging/running/cycling the perimeter, along with all sorts of activities going on including outdoor gym areas. It’s a good place for people watching. The better hours would be in the evenings when surrounding bars and restaurants come to life, and the street food stalls set up along the town-side perimeter of the lake. The lake is also central to many of the seasonal events and celebrations in Nang Rong including Songkran and the Loy Krathong celebrations.

2. Nang Rong Central Market

The central market area of Nang Rong is found behind the ‘Lotus Fresh’ convenience store around about the middle of the main road. Primarily it is a fresh/wet market selling lots of fresh meats/veg/ingredients, but there are also street food and cooked food vendors around the perimeter for some midday snacking. Surrounding the markets area are then shophouses selling all sorts of nicknacks, bric-a-brac, and thingamabobs. I dunno, but it’s probably more interesting than the generic tourist tack found at the usual tourist market in Thailand. This makes it perfect for those seeking ‘authentic’ ‘local’ ‘experiences’ in Nang Rong if you can handle the smell (know what Pla Ra is?) There are other fresh markets in-and-around town, but this is the most central market in Nang Rong, and it’s consistent and daily, unlike the night markets which only run on certain days of the week.

3. Wat Klang Nang Rong

Found along the main road/motorway through Nang Rong, Wat Klang would be the most central temple in Nang Rong, and it was once home to the very first/only Pokémon Gym in Nang Rong. So every morning I would wake early to cycle 2km along the main road to Wat Klang so I could claim my 50 Pokécoins. Now there are at least 5 new Pokégyms dotted around Nang Rong and so I don’t visit so much. Otherwise Wat Klang Temple is relatively textbook as far as temples go, and it makes a nice wee oasis away from the hubbub and guffaw of the busy motorway next door. Try feeding the hungry catfish, and then watching them slap about fighting each other, in the pond beneath the towering facade of the temple’s ordination hall.

4. Wat Khun Kong

Or Wat ‘King Kong’ as I would say to remember it. Located at the far end of the main road in Nang Rong town, Wat Khun Kong is found just before the Kai Yang chicken stands on the road leaving Nang Rong towards Buriram (they have some great chicken here). It is also one of the more scenic temples in Nang Rong, set next to a passing canal, and (more recently) connecting to a ‘memorial of love’ which has a small riverside garden.

5. Nang Rong Walking Street (Thurs/Fri/Sat)

Known officially as “Thommead Thommo Walking Street” (although no one ever uses it) the Nang Rong Walking Street is a night market covering the main stretch of Narong Damri Street including the connecting alleys along the way. As with pretty much all night markets in Thailand, the focus is on food, and food, and more food, with the occasional clothes or accessories shop along the way. Originally this was like an overspill area from the irregular events that take place on the massive Nang Rong athletics field (Google สนามกีฬาอำเภอนางรอง) only it has now become a weekly event and regional tourist attraction of its own. However, it only opens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

6. Nang Rong Sunday Night Market

The Sunday night market in Nang Rong is a rather massive market that unsurprisingly takes place every Sunday at night (from late afternoon tbf). It was also central to weekends in the Nang Rong district, with massive crowds travelling in from surrounding rice fields, and existed long before the more regular Walking Street. Like most night markets, it centres around a seemingly endless labyrinth of food and more food, including intriguing drinks/eats like freshly fried cricket and insects (salty crunchy and full of protein), potent ‘yaa dong’ infused rice whisky, and just all sorts of everything in between. The Nang Rong Sunday Night Market is found just opposite the bus station area. Roughly a 2-minute walk.

7. Let’s Find Some Buffalo!

‘Kwai Hai!’ The great thing about Nang Rong is that you have all the necessities for a convenient/modern lifestyle, yet take a wrong turn and you’re smack in the middle of endless rice fields. Just walk 5-minutes in any direction from the main road, and you’re pretty much there. At the same time, I do recommend loaning a bike if you can, and maybe grabbing a small bottle of Lao Khao rice whisky to immerse in the locale, and then just follow the most rural looking roads until you’re surrounded by nothing but rice fields. Now let’s go find some buffalo (Kwai).

What to Eat in Nang Rong Town (Buriram)

As a responsible author, I should point out that there is no problem finding food for the less adventurous of travellers or tourists in Nang Rong. Handy Apps, like Grab Food and Food Panda, also operate locally, so western food can be brought directly to your door. These days Nang Rong does have the same conveniences as Bangkok and the bigger cities of Thailand. Anyway, there’s KFC, Pizza Company, burgers and kebabs etc. But the local Isaan food is just infinitely better. The street food, the day markets, the night markets, I could spend a week just eating in Nang Rong (our guide to Thai street food here). Although I could do similar at almost any destination in Asia. Anyway, here are some of the must-eat dishes in Nang Rong. The foods that Nang Rong is famous for.

1. Moo Krata (Pork Skillet Barbecue)

Communal eating is what rural life is all about, and in Nang Rong there’s no beating a proper ‘Moo Krata’ pork skillet barbecue, where everyone gets involved in barbecuing marinated meats and simmering veg and noodles etc. in a soup stock on the side (I pour the beers). Then eaten with an awesome/spicy ‘Nam Jim Moo Krata’ chilli sauce. In Nang Rong, Moo Krata barbecues are found at specific outdoor restaurants with barbecues built into the tables. There are at least 4-5 restaurants in Nang Rong that I know of, but one of the more scenic spots is along the street parallel to Nong Dta Mu lake. Alternatively, at these restaurants, they also offer Isaan ‘Jim Jum’ hot pots for those who prefer soup over a barbecue (weird).

2. Kaa Moo Nang Rong (Stewed Pork Leg)

Nang Rong is foremost famous for ‘Kaa Moo Nang Rong’, a pork leg stewed in Thai five-spice, served with pickled cabbage and a chilli dip. It is a fairly well-known dish throughout Thailand, found served with rice in food courts (Khao Kaa Moo), but it is obviously found best in Nang Rong where it is a staple at every prestigious feast or banquet or event in the region. For us, it has even become our go-to Christmas meal (you’d be hard-pressed to find Turkey or even an oven in these parts) and it is kind of Christmassy with the ham, the festive spices, the cabbage… Anyway, probably the best place to find Kha Moo stewed Pork Leg is at ‘Jingnum Khamoo’ shophouse restaurant next to Baan Nangrong School which literally uses Kha Moo as a school logo.

3. Chew Betel Nut

In these far-flung parts of Isaan, not far from the Cambodian borders, the rural grannies are big into chewing their betel nut. In-and-around Nang Rong you’ll always spot these sweet old ladies with stained red lips and no teeth. They’ll likely be wearing a Thai silk blouse, with a small towel draped over one shoulder, and a betel chewing kit/bag held in the other hand. There are 3 ingredients in chewing betel, there’s the betel leaf (bai plu), the areca nut (maak), and then limestone paste. all smashed together in a small mortar and pestle before chewing (our guide to Betel Chewing here). All ingredients are commonly sold together at the central market and I’m sure the sweet old grannies will happily pound you a taste together if you ask.

4. Isaan Food

This seems a bit obvious, but if you‘re new to Isaan food, then what’s going on? Isaan food is easily one of the best things about Thailand, and there’s nothing better than tracking them to their source in Isaan/Northeastern Thailand. As with everywhere in the region, Nang Rong has loads of Isaan restaurants which can be easily identified by flaming barbecue grills, and of course signage and menus with Isaan food on them. Many of these restaurants are found along the main road through Nang Rong (although they are everywhere), and some of the recommended must-eat dishes include ‘laab’ salads (namtok I’d go with), grilled pork neck (kor moo yang), som tam papaya salads, and, just check out our Isaan food guide.

Where is Nang Rong (Buriram)?

Nang Rong town is located roughly 330km east/northeast of Bangkok in Buriram Province (4-5 hours by road) where Nang Rong is the central town of the wider Nang Rong district. The town is a relatively significant wayfare in the region marking the split of the main motorway (Route 24) through Isaan at the Thanon Hak junction for those travelling to either Buriram (Route 218) or Surin (Route 24).

How to Get to Nang Rong from Bangkok?

By far, the best option for travel from Bangkok to Nang Rong is by bus, with regular buses leaving the Mor Chit Bus Terminal which serves both Northern Thailand and Northeastern Thailand (Isaan). However, it is a bit hit-and-miss with options/buses/routes and some are better than others, and while it is possible to just jump on any bus to Surin or Buriram, there is no guarantee it will stop at Nang Rong. Plus some are just really uncomfortable and grimy for the 5-7 hour journey. Times do vary as well depending on stops along the way and whether you are fed on board rather than taking a half-hour pitstop along the way.

1. Bangkok to Nang Rong by Bus (Nakhonchai Air)

For travel from Bangkok to Nang Rong, the fastest/most comfortable option is by bus with Nakhonchai Air en route to Buriram (let them know your destination when boarding). This direct bus takes roughly 5-hours and has onboard comforts such as massage chairs, in-flight screens, and it’s own bus terminal so you’re not getting lost in the maze at Mor Chit bus terminal. Prices are not so different as well (300-400 Baht 1-way). Online Booking Here.

The drop-off point in Nang Rong is at the Nang Rong hospital bus stop, which is fairly central on the main road, rather than at Nang Rong Bus Station at the start of town. There should be motorbike taxis nearby for onward travel, although there’s always Grab (Thailand’s Uber) for something more comfortable. Oherwise it’s only a short walk to find the more central hotels in Nang Rong (i.e. SS and So Cool). Again, be sure to tell the bus attendant your destination to be safe.

2. Bangkok to Nang Rong by Train

This isn’t a realistic option, or it’s at least not smart, given trains in Thailand are generally slower than busses. If travelling by train to Nang Rong, the best option would be to disembark at either Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) or Buriram before taking a bus to Nang Rong (1-hour from Buriram and 2-hours from Korat). Either way, you’re going to end up on a bus. Actually, there is also the minivan option on these routes, which may be slightly faster, but also ridiculously cramped, and, busses are better. Just take the bus.

3. Bangkok to Nang Rong by Plane

Flying from Bangkok to Nang Rong is another far fetched option for travel given the closest airport is outside the city of Buriram. From there it will likely be another bus to Buriram city centre, and then another bus or minivan to reach Nang Rong. Add this 1 hour 30 mins (at least) to the flight time, and the time navigating airports, and it would likely be quicker/less complicated/much cheaper/more comfortable by just taking the bus. Nakhonchai Air from Bangkok to Nang Rong. It’s simple. Just take the bus.

Getting Around in Nang Rong (Buriram)

Local transport in Nang Rong is relatively expensive, which is likely due to the lack of demand locally, so expect to pay Bangkok prices (at least) to get around. Options were also relatively limited until the whole car share economy (Grab) came about with only a few local motorbike taxis and, more recently, (non-metered) Bangkok style taxis. Otherwise, it is easy enough to get around on foot in central Nang Rong.

1. Taxis in Nang Rong (Buriram)

Taxis can only really be found at the main Nang Rong Bus Station where they are normally parked in the car park by the entrance. They’re hard to miss, with the usual blue and yellow Bangkok-style taxi design, only they have no meter. Don’t expect them to be cheaper than in the cities.

2. Motorbike Taxis in Nang Rong (Buriram)

Motorbike Taxis are again easily found around the main Nang Rong Bus Station as well as at the various bus stops and transit points in Nang Rong. Just look for fellas lounging around on scooters while wearing orange (or similar) bibs.

3. Taxi Apps in Nang Rong (Buriram)

Grab (the Uber of Southeast Asia) is the safest option for travel in Nang Rong but you do obviously need a phone to book them. As with Uber, pickup can be organised easily from anywhere, and prices are agreed upon before confirming the booking. Expect prices similar to Bangkok.

Where to Stay in Nang Rong?

To date, I have stayed in 4 of the local Nang Rong hotels during (home renovations/making space for family/social distancing) and can recommend them all, but all for different reasons. As it all depends on budget/purpose etc. The most recent was last week at So Cool (below, it’s still Christmassy), then there was Suan Mak Resort, Akelada Hotel, and Phanomrungpuri Hotel. Anyway, here’s a list of the more tourist-focused hotels in Nang Rong.

1. Stopover/Slumming it in Nang Rong Town

For a quick overnight/stopover in Nang Rong, cheap accommodation is found on the corner of the main road near Nang Rong bus station, next door to Luckrez massage. Accommodation is about as basic as it gets, maybe a tad seedy, but I’m near sure it’s the cheapest you’ll find in Nang Rong. To upgrade, try the Honey Inn, or L Hotel, or something, just opposite on the main road.

2. Resort Hotels in Nang Rong Town

There are 3 main hotels (4*) with gyms, pools, breakfasts etc. and we’ve stayed at each of them for different reasons. All around similar in price.

Phanomrungpuri Hotel Nang Rong: The most established resort hotel in Nang Rong, a tourist-focused, Khmer-style boutique hotel, but it is a fair walk (1.5km) from the centre of Nang Rong along a relatively busy road. Probably the best option for traveller’s solely travelling to Phanomrung. Phanomrungpuri Hotel Booking Here.

Akelada Hotel Nang Rong: This is more of a business hotel, simple style, and located on the road out towards Buriram/Surin. It’s not as far from the centre as Phanomrung Puri is, but it is still a fair stretch from town (1km) along the main motorway road. Akelada Hotel Booking Here.

SoCool Grand Hotel Nang Rong: I felt weird staying here (because I’m not cool) but it is the most central of these 3 resort hotels and I really want to be cool. Running on a road parallel to the main motorway through Nang Rong it is only a 300m walk to the central ‘attractions’. SoCool Grand Hotel Booking Here. Alternatively, there is the more affordable SS Hotel next door.

3. Alternative Hotels in Nang Rong Town

All the above hotels are located in busy/central areas of Nang Rong, next to major roads and noise. For a more relaxed rural setting, I’d therefore look to the opposite side of Nang Rong, where Suan Mak Resort offers a more scenic stay yet is only around 1-2km outside of the centre in surrounding rice fields. Suan Mak Hotel Booking Here.

Events and Festivals in Nang Rong

I once spent an entire year documenting the culture, customs, events, and celebrations in the Nang Rong area, from personal ceremonies, like weddings and funerals, to more in-depth cultural/religious ceremonies like temple consecrations, and mass monk ordinations. Then there are all the spectacular celebrations like Songkran and Loy Krathong along the way. I literally wrote a book on them (A Potato in a Rice Field) over there on the sidebar. And our YouTube video below.

Note, Thailand follows the lunar calendar (unlike us Gregorian folk), so the dates of celebrations in Thailand will often change year after year depending on the full moon etc. Generally, they’re not far apart, a week or so during the same month each year, so it’s best to check the exact dates of celebrations and festivals in Nang Rong before travelling.

1. Temple Festivals (Year Round)

There’s almost always something going on at the local temples, with near-weekly monk days, regular ordinations (mostly during holidays), and just lesser-known Buddhist celebrations like Wan Khao Phansa and Wan Ok Phansa (Buddhist Lent). In general, if you hear loud chanting or music in the background, I suggest following along. Ordination parades are always fun.

2. Songkran Water Festival (April 13th)

The Thai New Year, aka Songkran, is a long holiday in Thailand with celebrations and mass water fights generally lasting around 3-4 days or longer (12th-16th April). Central to Songkran in Nang Rong is again Nong Dta Mu lake which hosts an annual boat race (pictured above) and various more intimate Songkran celebrations such as ‘Song Nam Pra’ where a Buddhist statue is taken from a local temple to be paraded through town before local officials etc. take turn to cleanse the statue with water. Etc. We share all about a traditional Songkran here.

3. Wan Khao Phansa (Late-July)

Wan Khao Phansa marks the start of Buddhist Lent in Thailand when the monks will retreat to their temples for the coming 3-months and many Buddhists will follow suit in some kind of abstinence. It is also a big deal throughout Isaan and in Nang Rong, where there’s a huge parade of giant candles through the town centre to celebrate. For months beforehand these candles had been meticulously carved and moulded at the various village temples through the surrounding Nang Rong district, and prizes are awarded for best candles, processions, and I’ve written all about it here.

4. Loy Krathong Festival (Late-November)

Aka the floating lantern festival. On the run-up to Loy Krathong, the local villages and communities in Nang Rong district each build their own rather massive lanterns which they will float on the full moon festival night. These boats are then paraded through town on Loy Krathong day to eventually reach their final destination at Nong Dta Mu lake where the lanterns are then lit and the Krathong boats are set free on the water. Everyone can join in to float their own krathongs, either built at home or bought from the makeshift vendors surrounding the lake.


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