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soc.culture.thai Travel FAQ
Section - T.8) Northeast/Isan

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General travel information on Thailand northeastern provinces are available
on a Gopher server at Khon Kaen University's gopher server.
The 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 <>

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.

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