The Northeast of Thailand, well known referred to as I-san (pronounce as E-San), is made up of nineteen provinces : Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Nakhon Phanom, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Yasothon. The word I-san denote vastness, which is relatively considering that the Northeast covers a total area of more than 170,000 sq.kms., or estimated one- third of the entire country. It is a border with Laos and Cambodia. I-san is noted for being the premium of age-old civilization and customs dating back to pre-historic time and to the period when the Khmer people held sway in the region. Relics and monuments still stand; affirm to the splendors and majesty of the ancient era. The Phra That Phanom in Nakhon Phanom, the Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung in Burl Ram and the Prasat Hin Phimai in Khorat are some of the most important and interesting structures in the area.
The remains of prehistoric skeletons and tools have been discovered, serves as a most concrete evidence of a Bronze Age civilization 5,000 to 7,000 years ago The Ban Chiang village in U-don Thani, where, the Northeast’s ancient traditions and customs are still notice in fairs and festivals found nowhere else in the country. These include the colorful Bun Bang Fai (rocket festival), the Candle Procession, and the Wax Castle Festival.
Folk performances of the region are both pleasant and symbolic, including the Pong Lang, Khaen, Soeng Kratip, Rabam Fat Khao, for example. Because the many of the land is sandy which rapidly absorbs water, no less than eight dams have been constructed to regulate water flow. The high level of salinity of the soil in certain areas is such that salt can be removed for commercial purposes. The major river of I-san is the Mun comparable in importance to the Chao Phraya of the Central Plain and the Tapi of the South. However the most famous local products of the Northeast are the world-well known Matmee silk manufactured in most provinces, wicker ware, earthenware, and edible items such as sausages, MU Yong and Mu Phaen.
Must visit in Northeast Thailand:
The mainland of one of the most populated provinces in the northeast, Buriram is an always soundscape of urban Isaan life, where the constant din of motorbike engines and chattering students masks the quiet decay of the surrounding Khmer-era ruins. Buriram supply as a regional transportation center for northeastern Thailand, but also sports an active nightlife at the same time by the large university in the city. Buriram is also a home to a large number of Western expats. Buriram’s most famous quality is its proximity to one of the most visually stunning Khmer sites in all of Thailand: Phanom Rung Historical Park. An annual festival makes March or April in Buriram a fine time to visit.
Mekong River north of Loei and west of Nong Khai, Chiang Khan is not to be missed. It gives the same beautiful scenery and slow afternoons as other border towns, but steps it up with relative secrecy and spectacular guesthouses. Life always fairly slow and seclude here along the great Mekong. With a calm atmosphere and few sights to give you, you’re free to chill out, enjoy the cultural enrichment, and revitalize.
Khao Yai National Park
Visitors hoping to save their lungs from the pollution of Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park’s 40km of hiking and biking trails offer haven. A World Heritage Site, Khao Yai displays truly amazing selections of flaura and fauna; all set in one of the world’s biggest monsoon rain forests. Only 160km from Bangkok, Khao Yai opened in 1962 and is Thailand’s first national park. Its 2168 sq. km range from stark prairies to thick pines. The park is home by roaming wild elephants, tigers, and bears (oh my!), though you’ll more likely be swatting insects and peeling off leeches than coming face to face with a leopard or Asiatic black bear. You’ll also love get a brief look of one of the more than 300 species of birds; consist of the great hornbill, which calls the park their habitant. Khao Yai is most conveniently reached via Pak Chong.
Contradictory other Isaan cities, Khon Kaen feels like a main urban center, grateful to its notable, albeit small, skyline, and its huge and well-planned grid system of roadways. The existence of Isaan’s largest university, with its thousands of energetic students, also sets the city apart from its neighbors. Like other northeastern cities, Khon Kaen lacks a big tourist sites and is often overlooked. However, its festive nightlife, open-air markets, and effective transportation system give tourist the means to enjoy themselves. It also serves as a handy base for trips to the silk village of Chonabot and Phu Wiang National Park. Khon Kaen is 450km from Bangkok and is available by plane, bus, or train.
Spectacular mountains, national parks and welcoming towns make it a must on any traveler’s itinerary going to Loei provinces. At the end of June, the three-day rain-making Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dan Sai alter the western district into a shamanistic orgy of shining colored costumes and masks, parading spirits, and dancing fuelled by shots of lao khao (“white spirit”), celebrating in a final day of Buddhist sermons at the wat. Absent from most visitors itineraries, Loei city, the capital of Loei province, is a hidden gem relatively untouched by visitors. This city is the most convenient locale from which to venture into the cloud-frosted mountains in search of hermit caves, or to Thailand’s version of the vineyards of southern France—the Chateau de Loei Vineyards. Loei’s silent, fountain-filled streets and friendly residents also make it the perfect place to unwind after a day spent exploring the countryside and national parks.
Situated between the Phang Hoei and Luan Prabang mountains, Lom Sak serves as a transportation point between Khon Kaen and Phitsanulok. This little town is also a conveniently base for exploring Nam Nao National Park, which gives a stark verdant contrast to Lom Sak’s dusty streets and crumbling facades.
A small town at heart, Mukdahan supply international flair thanks to its main location along a river stemming from the far-away Himalayan Mountains. The demarcation of the Mekong River on 1893 as an international border politically separated Mukdahan from Savannakhet, Laos, but the region remains unified by its culture, food, and lifestyle. French-Lao golden baguettes are sold by street vendors and in shops. Yearly boat races in October are enjoyed by all from both sides of the river. In 2007, Mukdhan declared itself the “Gateway to Indo-China” as the important bridge across the river to Laos was opened. Now, the latest and modern Mudkahan Tower provides impressive sites of the place. However there isn’t too much to keep visitors occupied in Mukdahan itself, it serves as a calm place to rest after a trip through Laos, and a good base for the nearby pleasant Mukdahan National Park.
Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat)
Locally known as “Khorat” for the plain which it rests, Nakhon Ratchasima straddles the main street to all other destinations in Isaan. Having a population of about three million, Khorat is one of Thailand’s biggest cities and has the crowd and air pollution to prove it. Construct by French engineers for Ayutthayan King Narai, it was once build by a wall and surrounded by a moat, the remains of which are still visible. Now, a new world is replacing the old as sprawling malls and sleazy nightclubs multiply. Also occupy by this northeastern city is Khorat’s very own breed of cats the Khorat cats, that can be worth up to 2,000฿. Beyond shopping and a few interesting temples, Khorat is also a convenient base from which to visit the silk weavers of Pak Thong Chai, the pottery manufacturers of Dan Kwian, and the ruins of Phimai and Phanom Rung. If you happen to be visiting from late March to early April, you maybe have a chance of getting the Thao Suranari Festival, a series of parades through the city center to honor local heroine Thao Suranari.
A town that knows how to multi-task is Nong Khai. As a portal town, it performs the daily ebb and flow of Laotian shoppers, expats on visa runs, and travelers on Indochine border crossings that give this small city an international flavor. Nong Khai boasts the most wats population in all of Thailand, but also knows how to put on a show; thousands of tourist and visitors make their way here every year for a number of amazing festivals, including the unexplainable Mekong fireballs that mysteriously seen at the end of the Buddhist rains retreat. When your visa has been stamped, the temples have been toured, and the fire balls have disappeared high into the sky, you’ll know it’s time to leave.
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