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General travel information on Thailand northeastern provinces are available on a Gopher server at Khon Kaen University's gopher server. gopher://gopher.kku.ac.th The http://www.nectec.or.th/WWW-VL-Thailand.html consolidates all known references to information related to Thailand including the above gopher. Date: Fri, 28 Jan 1994 09:04:27 -0800 (PST) From: Putnam Barber <email@example.com> Northeast Thailand (Isan) The roads to northeast Thailand climb through spectacular scenery on their way to the plateau. Often the unusual geological features on these steep climbs have been the focus of temples and parks -- Wat Thep Pitak Punnaram on route 2 east of Saraburi is one example, the mountain with a hole through it at Khao Chagan on route 317 south of Sra Kaeo is another. Issan itself is largely flat, with an occasional isolated mountain rising through the plain. At Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung, southwest of Buriram off route 24, a spectacular 1000+ year old temple complex has been extensively restored on the top of one of these mountains, with views across the flat rice-growing plain in every direction for great distances. It's a spectacular, fascinating and beautiful place. Many Thai people visit Phanom Rung. There is a large parking lot with many vendors offering food and souvenirs near the entrance to the temple complex, which is managed by the Department of Fine Arts. There is also a hotel complex with nice looking units across the road from the entrance, but I have no information on how to book rooms or what the rates are. The Lonely Planet guide has a good introduction to the features of the temple and recommends buying "The Sanctuary Phanomrung" by Dr. Sorajet Woragamvijya from one of the vendors outside the gate (20 baht?). The museum 'shop' inside the complex has a disappointing selection of books about other Thai landmarks; there is very limited signage, almost none in English. This ancient and fascinating place is well worth the journey to its out-of-the way location. Northeast of Nakorn Ratchasima (Korat) is Prasat Hin Phi Mai, much more accessible than Phanom Rung but not on top of a mountain. The new museum nearby has good exhibits and informative labels that place the temple complex in the context of what is known about the history of Issan and the construction of these Khmer monuments. There is also a beautiful book of color photos (240 baht) available from the museum book counter; its text is in Thai but there are captions in English that are very helpful. Prasat Hin Phi Mai is an easy day-trip by public bus from Korat; the 'ordinary' bus leaves every half hour from the bus terminal -- it and the one to Bangkok are both labeled in English. It stops for a long time at a small market east of the north city gate -- just south of the city moat. It's certainly more efficient to catch it there than to make your way to the bus station only to be driven back to town to wait while vendors offer all sorts of goodies and the local people fill the rest of the seats. Korat has several fascinating (newer) temple complexes right in the city, plus the active Thao Suranari Memorial near the east city gate (which is actually near the center of the present-day town). Khun Ying Mo is seen as a patron by many Thais, especially women, and people with special requests bring them to her all day and well into the night. Plus, when these requests are successful, people hire groups of singers to perform near the statue as a token of appreciation, which makes for a lively scene for other on-lookers as well. They make several distinctive snack foods in this area that are not easily available (as far as I could tell) in Bangkok. One, Khao Deng ('red rice') is a tasty cracker-like food originally made from rice that stuck to the pan while making other dishes. It comes in a square celo bag about the size of a brick, is yellow-orange in color and quite delicious. Another is a flat cake of 'puffed' rice, sesame seeds, and sugar-syrup -- vaguely reminiscent of cracker-jacks but no-where near as overwhelmingly sweet. Both are sold, along with many other treats, by roadside vendors and small shops near the busstops and elsewhere.