Vorsprung Durch Technik – A Trip to the Day Market at Phon Phisai

phon-pisai-thailandIf you have never heard of Phon Phisai then perhaps you should think again. Phon Phisai (sometimes spelt Phon Pisai) is a rural Thai town on the banks of the Mekong River with a breathtaking view of neighbouring Laos. The town is in Nong Khai Province in north-east Thailand and has stretched many journalist’s imagination and steadied a multitude of photographers’ hands. Phon Phisai is the home of Thailand’s legendary Naga Fireball Festival. Now you remember it, don’t you?

Phon Phisai comes alive once a year for its much-publicized Naga Festival. Thousands of Thais descend on this time-honoured town hoping to see its fabled fire-breathing dragon shoot fireballs into the night sky. For the rest of the year, barring Thai festivals, life in Phon Phisai passes by in a very agreeable and no-nonsense manner, aside from its twice-weekly riverfront day market.

Phon Phisai Day Market


Phon Phisai is a run-of-the-mill Thai rural town apart from its exceptional waterfront view overlooking Laos. The town will never face allegations of overkill about its ‘appliance of Science’. Its mediocrity borders on extraordinary, and its blandness out-of-this-world, and you get the feel Phon Phisai’s ‘Wheel of Evolution’ will never stick on ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’. Nevertheless, its day market is an impressive affair.


A large portion of the market bustles under an arched tin roof. Raw seafood, meat and mountains of fruit and vegetables mix their aromas underneath to gel a smell that could coax a wry smile from a drain. The odour flares one’s nostrils. The pungent ‘poo-fume’ is akin to sucking hard on a live cattle prod. But, aren’t all Thai food markets like that?


The market sells all kinds of food from fresh fish to hot snacks, if you can eat it, then you’ll meet it at Phon Phisai’s market. Plus, a few things you won’t know what the hell they are. Some of the seafood and fish does look enticingly fresh.

Clothes and Wobbly-Table Restaurants


Clothing and their accessories are piled high and racked long at the market in every conceivable colour and a few that’d make a hippie squint. The styles are more beach hut than House of Fraser, but wide-ranging enough to dress the most bizarrely shaped family.


The market has a couple of plastic-chair-wobbly-table restaurants, but luckily we westerners think those quirks add character. A fish meal like that above with a large bottle of beer will only pick your pocket for around 300 baht (US$10). That’s excellent value.

Phon Phisai’s day market is held on Tuesday and Saturday each week, and the market’s drains start smiling from 6 am until mid-afternoon.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

6 Responses

  1. tom says:

    Great town in a wonderful scenic province thanks

  2. Martyn says:

    Tom – I’ve been to Phon Pisai market many times before and rate it as a good way to wile away a couple of hours. The bonus is it’s only a 30 minute ride from our village house. Off to Nong Khai’s Thasadet market today. That’s about a one hour trip.

  3. How says:

    Seeking the ultimate “poo-fume” experience with another market trip to Thasadet ?

  4. Martyn says:

    How – Thasadet market doesn’t have a ‘poo-fume’ hanging in the air. What fresh food there is, and that’s little, is out in the open under shade. The market is mainly clothes, souvenirs, kitchenware etc. No ‘poo-fume’.

  5. Warwick says:

    Hi martin, This is our local town and I have to agree the market is fantastic. Even if we dont think we need anything we go just for a look and a feed. Although we always manage to buy something!!
    We have bought some very good and cheap orchids here as well.
    There is a new hotel opened in the heart of Phon Phisai and it is excellant and cheap. A good base for enjoying the Naga fireball festival

  6. Martyn says:

    Warwick – Thanks for dropping by. I’ve visited Phon Pisai’s market on numerous occasions and bought a few things there myself. It’s a 30 minute drive from our village house and is always a pleasant trip out. I’ve got to make the Naga Festival one year but I’ve never been in Thailand for it yet.

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