Top 10 Places to Visit in Isaan, Thailand

If you want to visit something unique and different, check out these top places to visit in Isaan and find out what there are to explore.

Located on the North-Eastern side of Thailand which is a popular place for food, culture, and tradition even for the locals, Isaan is a perfect place in the country to explore undiscovered places. Below is the list of places to visit in Isaan.

Top 10 Places to visit in Isaan, Thailand

Khao Yai National
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via Wikimedia Commons|BerryJ

Go hiking at KhaoYai National Park

It is situated in the NakhoNayek district. KhaoYai National Park is a UNESCO recognized World Heritage site in Northeastern Thailand.

When on a visit to this excellent place, hiking becomes a must to embrace the beauty within. The park is plush and dense forested with home to varied flora and fauna, home to wild elephants, monkeys, bear, snakes, gibbons, tigers, to name few.

The birdwatching, campsites, wildlife seeing, safari, and hiking are all lined up for the adventure. Hiking here is the loved sport due to challenging, well-defined trails. It is advised to have guides while on trek due to dense wildlife in the forest. Out of many trails, 5 can be trek alone.

The trails are The Kong Kaew waterfall nature trail, trails connecting HaewSuwat and Pa Kluai Mai waterfall, NongPhak chi Observation tower, SaiSorn Reservoir, wildlife watching trail. The HaewSuat and HaewNarok waterfalls are not to be missed while on hiking.

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Sala Kaew Ku Nong Khai Nakhon Ratchasima
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via Wikimedia Commons| Jpatokal

Check out SalaKaew Ku Sculpture Garden (NongKhai)

A Lao national, Lao Bun Luang PuLeuaSurirat had built this weird yet majestical garden, in twenty years. It is quite proximal to the Thai Lao border and Mekong River. It would also be one of the places to visit in Isaan.

The iconic sculpture of meditating Buddha on the body of the seven-headed snake is here. The concrete sculptures are the major attraction for tourists here.

The sculptures display the sanctity of Buddhism and Hinduism. The wheel of life, carved in tarot-like characters, would be difficult to deduce. The park is the epitome of the majestical journey from the shaman’s thinking. The skills and ideas employed in carving are admirable.

A cacti garden and a lake on-premises are also to be strolled. Sculptures of Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha, and other animal hybrid are seen here.

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Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
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via Wikimedia Commons| Warmbloodydew

Join the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

It is the biggest, most loved candle festival celebrated in Ubon Ratchathani of Northeast Thailand. The festival marks the two biggest events of Buddhism, AsahinaBucha( Lord Buddha delivered its first sermon) and KhaoPhansa(Three months phansa rain retreat period). In the festival, monks are being presented with wax candles for merit. The simple ceremony has now become entertaining.

The festival abstains Thai people from alcohol and extravagant eating. Young people often following customs for three months and imitate monks bringing merit to their families.

The wax carved statue of Lord Buddha, and the various teachings, forms, and the life cycle are taken to temples for monks. The parade is organized towards the temple with traditional dancing and music, where local folks participate. The best sculpture is chosen and displayed at the temple courtyard. Though feasting in the festival does not lag.

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Rent a scooter and drive around

Isaan is comprised of 20 provinces, known for rich Thai culture. To explore Northeast Thailand, Isaan would be a choice. The Isaan borders with Laos, Cambodia, and is located on Khorat Plateau.

There is a banana pancake trail which is quite famous. An exotic trip routing NongBuaLompu – Loei – Sangkhom – Nongkhai – UdonThani – KhonKaen is full of adventure.

Driving along the Mekong river surpassing rice paddy crops, mountains, valleys, Thai Lao border, relishing local street food would be divine. To explore Isaan in total, driving and getting fully soaked in mesmerizing views would be a bliss.

There is a lake in Loei where bathing would be fun, Sanghkom viewpoint for magical sunset, rum distillery of Isaan and rum tasting, watching famous Buddha image at SalaKaeoku, dinner on the banks of Mekong, would be an intrepid occurrence.

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Explore SalaKaew Ku Also known as Wat Khaek

It is Thailand’s most puzzled yet loved tourist destination. It is a park having cemented and concrete sculptures of Lord Buddha and some prominent Hindu deities and other symbols of Southeast Asian mythology.

An ardent lover of Buddha from Laos has built this park after buying the area. The park embarks his conscious thoughts of spirituality, mortality, and karmic cycle. The mortal remains of Sulilat are kept in glass pavement.

A hermit named Kaew Ku has inspired the spiritual journey of Sullilat, and he got a park constructed on the Lao side of the Mekong river, but he left his country and made the same park here. There is a famous friendship bridge along the Mekong river connecting these two parks.

The famous seated Buddha guarded by seven nagas is an art piece. Wheel of life referenced from Theravada Buddhism is also iconic. There are around 100 sculptures placed in it, with the highest being up to 25 meters.

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Check out Than This waterfall

A three-tier Than This waterfall is an abandoned and highest waterfall in NongKhai province. About 200m high waterfall is located in dense forests.

There are rocks in the basin where one must chill and enjoy the caress of swift ever-flowing water. One can also go hiking up to two trails of the waterfall and admire the fauna. Imagine being in a secluded forest with sounds of flowing water in the background is just wow.

The stream in which water is flowing from the Than This meets with the Great Mekong River. The forest is very fertile due to the high rainfall in the region. Colorful butterfly hovering the nearby area is worth watching. During the rainy season, the waterfall is at its peak of beauty and Nature’s bliss.

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Visit Wat Phu Tok
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via Wikimedia Commons|Carly 64 [

Visit Wat Phu Tok

It is located in Bueng Khan Province, at the northeastern end of Thailand. The temple is placed in deep forest, symbolizing the meditating monks in serene of forests.

Below the rock, in a garden, lies relics of monk Ajahn Juan. A monastery and chedi is also built-in his memorial. The temple is at the seventh level of the mountain, can be climbed with wooden stairs. Also called as ” stairway to heaven.”

While scaling the PhuTokmountain, at every level, unique Buddhist sentiments are encountered as the seven stairs symbolize seven symbols of Buddhist enlightenment.

It is considered as one of the wonders in Thailand. The dreadful paths of the staircase take one to the top of mountain cliffs spread by many small huts of monks. The scenery of the countryside and monks and maachee meditating would be magical to watch from the top of the cliff. WatPhuTok temple is very important for Buddhist people.

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Muang Tam
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via Wikimedia Commons|Ddalbiez

PhanomRung Historical Park and Muang Tam (Buriram)

Built-in the 11th century, The Muang Tam is located at the border of Cambodia in North-East Thailand. The temples sit on an extinct volcano in the mountains.

Muang Tam is a Khmer style architecture. Very finely defined, Khmer architecture can be seen here. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva of Hindu mythology. Inside the temple, there is a pond covered with white lilies.

The Phanom Rung, also called a ‘big Mountain temple’ sitting on an extinct volcano, is just next to MuangTam( Lower city temple). It is a magnificent temple with decorated entrances.

Muang Tam has a walkaway adorned with flowers, anaga bridge depicting the human world, and God’s world.
Phanom Rung Historical Park has a lot to see as a white elephant. The entrance gates are decorated with carvings of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Phanom Festivals can also be attended on April 13th every year.

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Som Tum
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via Flickr| Alpha

Taste the local cuisine

The Thai cuisine itself is second to none, just to be refined in nomenclature; local Isaan foods ought to be authentic and have influenced of Lao dishes. Isaan food highlights chili pepper, lime, shrimps, and glutinous rice usage. Isaan food has much influence on the whole of Thai cuisines.

Some of the cuisines like Somtum(raw papaya salad), Larb ( Thai minced meat with sticky rice ), Koi (raw meat salad), Om (Isaan curry cooked in coconut cream), Bamboo shoot soup (a distinct northeast dish), Khao Gee ( winter delicacy of rice), famous Isaan sausages, Jaew (steamed dip), Gai Yang (simple grilled Isaan style chicken) are to be named. Khao Tom, rice soup is a very popular breakfast option.

Laab is a traditional Isaan dish not to be missed when on a visit to Isaan’s adventure. Bplah rah sauce is the signature element of Isaan cuisine. When on an adventure to Isaan, the local cuisines mentioned must be given a try.

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PhanomRung Historical Park
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via Wikimedia Commons|Ddalbiez

Visit Phanom Rung

It is the 13th century Khmer temple in Buriram Province in the Isaan region. The temple of sandstone is placed atop of the mountain. The temple is a World Heritage site.

The sunset viewed is magical, the orange of the sunset cast on temple complex works magic. The temple is surrounded by ponds. An extinct volcano lies below the temple complex.

The beautiful carvings of Lord Vishnu and various symbols of Hinduism are encrusted on walls and entrance. In a nearby Nang Rong village, one can stay during a visit to Phanom Rung. The unique architecture is what attracts tourists here. It is also one of the places to visit in Isaan.

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