Northeast (Issan) Thailand - Life Along the Mekong

Issan - Northeastern Thailand

Morlam - Northeastern Thailand Music Isarn may be the least visited by tourists and yet may be the most culturally rewarding area to tour. The regions history is heavily flavored by the Lao and Khmer cultures. Issan has numerous national parks for forest trekking and nature studies.

Recent archaeological finds have included a bronze age settlement east of Udorn Thani, dinosaur fossils west of Khon Kaen and petroglyphs near Ubon Ratchathani.

Khmer style ruins near Buriram and Pimai (north of Korat) are not as spectacular as Siam Reap, but can provide a relaxing day trip without incurring the expense and time of a trip to Cambodia.

One prime attraction for the traveler is the price of accommodations in Issan. Nakorn Phanom has a 3-4 star hotel that overlooks the Mekong with a rack rate of Bt 850. Good guest houses in Nong Khai for Bt 250. Tourist class hotels in Mukduhan for Bt 600. Issan is a travel bargain.

Issan Food

Northeastern food is famous throughout Thailand. Roast chicken, papaya salad, sticky rice, and Issan sausages top the list; but that only scratches the culinary surface of the Northeast. Hope that you are lucky and sweet mangoes are in season when you visit. Sliced and served with sweet coconut cream ... yum!

Issan Highlights

Ban Chiang

" Considered the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in southeast Asia, Ban Chiang was the center of a remarkable phenomenon of human cultural, social and technological evolution. The site presents the earliest evidence of farming in the region and of the manufacture and use of metals." source: UNESCO.

Khon Kaen

Ubolrat Dam is about 50 km northwest of the city. It was near the dam where a geological team looking for uranium found dinosaurs instead. Phu Wiang National Park has the largest and best preserved fossils.


Historical Park in Phimai town in Nakorn Ratchasima, also called Korat, is considered an important ruin from the Khmer period. It is built of sandstone and dates to the 16th Buddhist century [current is the 25th].

Phanom Rung

Stretched across the top of a mountain in Buriram, this Hindu shrine to Shiva dates to Thailand's Lop Buri period. Experts believe that Buddhists added to the site. Excellently preserved columns, doorways, and lintels tell a story of Hindu gods.

Ubon Ratchathani

Ubon Province has even more natural attractions. Cliff drawings near the Mekong river are 3000 years old, cave drawings, mushroom shaped rock formations and beautiful waterfalls in expansive national parks.