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BUENG KAN — If a ranking was made about Thailand’s soon-to-be hot destinations, Bueng Kan would definitely clinch top spot. Though largely underrated for being hard to access, the 4,000-sqm province has a lot to offer.
It is fair to say that since Bueng Kan’s establishment seven years ago, people have learned very little about this place along the Mekong river. Here are five interesting facts about Thailand’s youngest province, the emerging and potential future of Isan region.
1. Bueng Kan Was Once a Desert
Seventy-five million years ago, the province was a desert. Archaeological evidence from the Cretaceous period is now a unique tourist attraction. Phu Sing, a rock conserved through the millennia, bears testament to the fact the area land was once arid.
The sedimentary rocks in the area formed a mountain with the help of wind and water. Later, between 30 to 55 million years ago during the Eocene period, the sandstone mountains were lifted by plate tectonics and eroded by the Mekong river. It resulted in strangely-shaped rock formations that draw numerous visitors.
2. Quest to Become a Province’s Began in 1994
It was proposed by then-Nong-Khai-MP Sumet Phromphanhao. Though this was rejected by the interior ministry, it would overburden the state’s budget and human resources.
Another Nong Khai MP proposed it again in 2010. The poll indicated that nearly 99 percent of Nong Khai residents agreed with it, bringing the idea to fruition under Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government.
In the 2011 act, it explained that the shape of Nong Khai province made it difficult to travel from the city center to the far districts. By separating Bueng Kan and the other seven districts nearby, it would be more convenient for more than 400,000 local residents and for the government to oversee the long land border between Thailand and Laos.
3. Soon Home to Fifth Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge
The three-year construction is expected to begin in 2019. The 1.35-kilometer long bridge across the Mekong river will connect Bueng Kan City to Pakxan, the capital city of Bolikhamxay province in Laos.
The 3.6 billion baht project, a co-investment by Bangkok and Vientiane, will allow travellers to connect from Thailand to Laos and onto Vietnam in just one day. It is aimed to stimulate the economy in the region and to eventually facilitate commercial transport to the south of China.
4. Coming Soon: Direct Flights to the Province
There is perhaps consensus among locals and visitors that the newly established province takes a long time to access. Instead of taking a three-hour ride from Udon Thani Airport, we will soon be able to fly there directly.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has already begun a feasibility study and identified an area for the construction of an airport 25 kilometers away from the city center along the 212 Nong Khai – Bueng Kan highway. The airstrip will also become an options for those who wish to travel to provinces in the upper part of Isan region.
5. Grows the Most Rubber in Isaan
When speaking of rubber, most people usually think of southern Thailand, but this new province wants to change that. In the past few years, Bueng Kan has stepped up to become the biggest rubber producer in the northeastern region with 60,000 farmers producing 1.2 million rai worth of rubber plantations.
Among those farmers is Pinit Jarusombat, former deputy prime minister under Thaksin Shinawatra. Owning more than 2,000 rai of rubber trees, he is one of the main forces pushing Bueng Kan to be the center of the rubber industry.
The city has not stopped there. With the commitment to be less dependent on global rubber prices, they have thrived on using innovation to add value to their commodity. Today, the province owns the biggest factory of rubber pillows and mattress tops in Thailand.
Run by a cooperative of local farmers, Bueng Kan Rubber Group currently buys natural rubber from their 5,000 members and plans to increase production capacity in the future. The factory makes 5,000 to 8,000 pillows daily, mainly for export to China where rubber pillows are popular.