Discover the Northeastern beauty of Isaan Thailand
Thailand’s northeast region is commonly referred to as Isaan. Its rustic charm is rough-around-the-edges with a warm and welcoming openness in every town. The northeast, made up primarily of farmers, is still deeply connected with their surroundings and have a deep respect for the land around them. Explore Isaan with us and leave the concrete jungle of Bangkok. While in the countryside, let’s relax and slow down.
Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is our first stop as we head into Isaan territory. Here, we will hike with local rangers on one of the many trails. Oftentimes, we spot Sambar deer roaming the park, where they usually graze in the open areas. As you cross the wooden suspension bridge, you will reach one of the many waterfalls: Haew Suwat is the most popular one and was featured in the movie “The Beach.” You can hang out at the top of the falls or take a dip in the base at the pool.
As the wildlife usually rests in the shade to get away from the afternoon heat, you might see wild dogs, Dhole, lounging around after your swim. Among the wide variety of flora and fauna in the park, the volcanic caves are home to thousands of bats that come out at dusk: it’s quite the sight as the sun sets. White-handed gibbons and wild elephants have also been spotted in Khao Yai.
After a full day hiking, you are also free to enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea at one of the nearby cafes before setting out to Khorat and Buriram.
In Khorat, there is a massive local-open-air market called Safe One. With hundreds of food stalls all around you, browse the huge marketplace and sample as many local delicacies as you can: try the Som Tam (Papaya Salad) or Tom Saap (a spicy pork bone soup). Isaan food is known for their bold flavors balancing hot, sour, sweet, and salty all at once.
In the early morning, wake up and enjoy the tranquility of Thailand’s largest and oldest Banyan Tree, named Sai Ngam. The 350-year-old tree is deeply cherished by locals with many people praying for good fortune there. You can also stop at the nearby village of Dan Kwian, known for their traditional pottery and beautiful-ceramics. The sculptors maintain their connection to the earth by still incorporating clay from the local riverbanks into their works of art.
Even before the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, artisans in the region were commissioned to construct grand temples in this area. There are Khmer temples in Buriram, Thailand dating as far back as the tenth century. Phanom Rung and Muang Tham were constructed from pink sandstone, set on the edge of an extinct volcano. At the end of the monsoon season, visitors can sometimes see the sunset through the 15 doors of the temple: locals consider this an auspicious sign of good fortune.
From Buriram, we will head further east towards Surin and Si Saket to the ancient city of Preah Vihear. The ownership of this ancient city was deeply contested by Thailand and Cambodia, due to the entrance of this site being in Thailand but the majority of the city is located in Cambodia. From the Thai side, Khao Phra Wihan national park has sites nearby with some spectacular views, such as Pha Mo E Daeng.
Wake up in the morning and overlook a sea of fog, then walk around the cliff and look at stone relief carvings that are over 1500 years old. Afterwards, we head northwest towards Udon Thani and have a chance to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ban Chiang, which houses the earliest evidence of farming in this region with tools from 5000 years ago. The museum houses artifacts that show how the ancient Thais lived and visitors can learn how the older ancient customs have influenced modern Thai living.
From the border town of Nong Khai on the Mekong River, we can cross into Lao capital, Vientiane. If you are interested in a multi-country trip, we can help you plan the perfect itinerary: whether you want to continue your journey in Laos or see other parts of Thailand, send us a message at [email protected].