Along the Mekong River, there lies the northeastern region of Thailand bordering Laos and Cambodia is Isaan. This lesser discovered region of Thailand does not lag in terms of beauty and adventure and has beautiful places to visit in Isaan. Isaan has some fantastic highlights which fetch the tourists, no wonder getting popular with ex-pats too.
Isaan has whimsical ceramic, handcraft, and silk weaving units in its village; the creations leaves one speechless. The centuries-old rough-textured pottery made from fired clay in a small village on the banks of River Mun has kept the art alive. The awe-stimulating archaeological sites are the place of curiosity for those who love discovering ruins. Isaan stands witness to the 11th century Khmer empire, which is an ardent example of Thailand‘s glorious past.
Home to some of the famous National Parks, hidden waterfalls, varied wildlife, forested mountains, UNESCO heritage sites, beauty laden Mekong River banks Isaan is a heartland of Thailand. Isaan is credited to produce world fame Muay Thai boxers.
The delectable cuisine, a distinct culture having Lao blend, white elephant, ruins, and landscape beauty of Mekong River, is less to describe Isaan. Below is enlisted some of the best places to visit in Isaan, Thailand.
Top 10 Places to visit in Isaan, Thailand
Go hiking at KhaoYai National Park
KhaoYai National Park is a UNESCO recognized World Heritage site situated in the NakhoNayek district of 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 as wild elephants, monkeys, bears, snakes, gibbons, tigers, to name few. The birdwatching, campsites, wildlife seeing, safari, and hiking are all lined up for the adventure here.
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 as out of many trails, only 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, and SaiSorn Reservoir, wildlife watching trail. The HaewSuat and HaewNarok waterfalls are not to be missed while on a visit to this National park.
Check out SalaKaew Ku Sculpture Garden (NongKhai)
A Lao national by the name Lao Bun Luang PuLeuaSurirat had built this weird yet majestical garden, in a span of twenty years. It is quite proximal to the Thai Lao border and Mekong River. It is indeed among 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 displaying the sanctity of Buddhism and Hinduism are the major attraction for tourists here.
The wheel of life, carved in tarot-like characters, would be difficult to deduce the hidden message therein. The park is the epitome of the majestical journey from the shaman’s thinking. The skills and ideas employed in carving are admirable and adored by Buddhist people.
Sculptures of Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha, and other animal hybrid are seen here. A cacti garden and a lake in the-premises are also to be strolled.
Join the UbonRatchathani Candle Festival
It is the biggest, most loved candle festival celebrated in UbonRatchathani 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; once a simple ceremony, it has now become entertaining.
During this festival, Thai people abstain 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 among the festivities
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 bike trip from NongBuaLompu to KhonKaen is full of adventure; the tour will include visits to Loei, Songkhom, Nongkhai, UdonThani also.
Driving scooter 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 bliss.
Explore SalaKaew Ku Also known as Wat Khaek
Also called aswatKhaek, 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, and the 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.
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 deep in the 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, and the 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.
Visit WatPhu 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 the serene of forests. Below the rock, in a garden, lie relics of monk Ajahn Juan where 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; these stairs are also called as ” stairway to heaven.” While scaling the PhuTok Mountain, 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 covered with 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 sentiments
PhanomRung Historical Park and Muang Tam (Buriram)
Built-in 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, which is very finely defined, and 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 very beautiful 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 of wildlife, mainly 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, celebrated with zest and fervor.
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.
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 and is also 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. The beautiful carvings of Lord Vishnu and various symbols of Hinduism are encrusted on walls and entrance of the temple. In a nearby Nang Rong village, one can stay during a visit to Phanom Rung. The unique architecture makes it one of the places to visit in Isaan and a major tourist attraction