"Pak Isan - Almost A Best Kept Secret" Top 5 Page for this destination Northeastern Thailand by AlbuqRay

Northeastern Thailand Travel Guide: 859 reviews and 2,861 photos

Pak Isan - The Elephant's Ear

Thailand is said to be shaped like an elephant's head facing west with Bangkok located at the mouth. Pak Isan (as the locals call it) is the northeast, or the elephant's ear. It is a poorer part of Thailand and not many tourists go there. In northern Pak Isan are the Mekong/Mekhong/Mae Khong River and historical sites (see my Si Chiang Mai travelogue below). In southern Pak Isan you find the sites along the former Royal Khmer Road (see my Thailand travelogues for Phanom Rung and smaller Khmer sites, and my Phimai and Muang Tam travelogues here).

I already have quite a bit of information on Northeast Thailand in my Thailand tips and travelogues. I shall try to put more specific northeast information here but there will be some overlap. There are also specific destinations (like the mountain top national park with pine trees, Phu Kradung, and the fascinating Khmer temple, Preah Vihear, that is actually in Cambodia but most accessible from Pak Isan) with tips and travelogues.

Ancient Holy Sites

Many sites in Thailand have been holy sites for a long long time and honored by more than one culture. Unlike the Spanish did in South America, a structure from a previous religion in Thailand would not necessarily be destroyed and might even be treated with respect. This site at Prasat Si Khoraphum near Surin has a Khmer ruin, a Buddhist temple and a sacred Bodhi tree. The Khmer ruin is no doubt the oldest but the Bodhi tree may have watched the Buddhist temple being built.

Mae Khong/Mekhong/Mekong River

The northern and eastern borders of Pak Isan are defined by the Mekong River. Mostly Laos is across the river but in the southwest part, Cambodia too. The northern part of Pak Isan has the oldest historical sites in Thailand (e.g. Ban Chiang dates from 3600 BC).

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Friendly people; Thailand's ancient history; uncrowded sites; great value
  • Cons:Can be hot and dry; infrastructure a little limited
  • In a nutshell:Rural Thailand - All the benefits without the crowds
  • Last visit to Northeastern Thailand: Apr 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (29)

Comments (15)

  • BillNJ's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2009 at 7:16 PM

    Didn't know much previously about Northeastern Thailand. Very interesting page!

  • mim95's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2008 at 8:56 AM

    Thanks for sharing! I'll be doing a similar route like yours for my next trip.

  • iaint's Profile Photo
    Aug 30, 2007 at 11:29 AM

    interesting; stayed in Vong Thong many years ago but no escorts then; when I 1st went to Buriram, Khmer rouge would still pop over to grab hostages...

  • Myndo's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2006 at 2:58 PM

    I am thinking about visiting this part of Thailand next time I am there. Good page here, thanks for your tips!

  • Wann's Profile Photo
    Sep 9, 2005 at 10:20 AM

    Glad you had a good time in this region !!

  • Simon1944's Profile Photo
    Aug 1, 2005 at 10:21 AM

    VIP room is enormous but when I stayed it did not come "with an escort." I think AlbugRAy may be mistaken.

  • Apr 1, 2005 at 12:07 PM

    This is a VERY good page! Loved reading your tips. Excellent photos!

  • jerryonjay's Profile Photo
    Mar 26, 2005 at 2:10 PM

    Hi Ray . I recently got to vist my friend's family in Kutchum near Yasothon . the experience was very humbling as this is rice farming region . But truly the most friendly people you will ver meet and Isan food is a winner for me . Jay

  • vtveen's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2005 at 10:08 AM

    Hi Raymond, Nice to read a page about Isan. Need more time for all your tips and pics. Looking forward visiting Isan next year.

  • Waxbag's Profile Photo
    Dec 12, 2004 at 11:54 AM

    Great Information and photos on this region. Thanks.


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