Sand beach in Mekong River reopens, brings local economy to life

A boat leaves the Mekong River bank, taking visitors to sand beach, Had Hae (top right), in the Mekong River, in tambon Nam Kam of That Phanom district, Nakhon Phanom province. The popular island reopened to visitors last week, with strict Covid-19 controls. (Photo: Pattanapong Sripiachai)

NAKHON PHANOM: A popular sandy beach on an island in the Mekong River has been reopened to visitors, to the delight of local businesses, after being closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

The reopening last week of Had Hae beach, in tambon Nam Kam, has rejuvenated the local economy.

People from all provinces except Samut Sakhon and Pathum Thani can enter this  northeastern river province without 14-day quarantine.

However, strict Covid-19 controls are being enforced. 

Health officials and volunteers man road checkpoints in all 12 districts of the province, screening the health of travellers. Strict screening is also in place at tourist venues, and this includes visits to Had Hae.

The beach normally opens whenever the river level falls, exposing the island, usually from October to May. It is one the province's "unseen Thailand" attractions.

Local residents and business operators cheered its reopening. 

More than 100 stalls selling food and other goods were quickly set up on the beach, and visitors began pouring in, and spending money. Some stall owners said they were taking in more than 10,000 baht a day from selling food and drinks.

Khimhan Lamlong, 35, owner of Had Hae restaurant, said he and other local residents were delighted with the reopening of the beach after it had been closed since last year.

He said all visitors were required to register their names, wear a face mask and have their body temperature checked. (continues below)

A woman's temperature is checked before she is allowed to board a boat to Had Hae sand beach in the Mekong River, in That Phanom district, Nakhon Phanom province. (Photo: Pattanapong Sripiachai)

"We are very happy with the reopening of Had Hae. Local people, and especially those who became jobless during the Covid-19 pandemic, can now earn a living,'' said Mr Khimhan.

Wiriya Hemnon, 43, of Nam Kam village, said Had Hae was a popular tourist venue and source of income for local residents when the river level falls.

Since Covid-19 struck early last year, they had suffered badly. From the New Year to the Songkran festival they could normally take in  20,000-30,000 baht a day.

He and other residents had pinned their hopes on the beach being reopened in time for the Songkran festival in April.