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Published: December 26th 2009
Journey into Isaan - Northeast Thailand
Monday 21st - Thursday 23rd December
I started out early on my first trip to central Isaan, the Northeast of Thailand. I was heading for Khon Kaen which is a large city 449 km from Bangkok and 190km from Korat, I had a shock when I was in the village visiting the Thai family when the rear bonnet of my hire car had fallen on my head leaving a large bump which still hurt a fair bit the day after. Besides having a bad cold, allergic reactions and some other ailments I was not in the best shape but determined to forge ahead and enjoy my tour of central Isaan.
Fist stop in Khon Kaen was the Kaen Nakorn Lake and then to the nearby and very impressive nine story high Wat Nongwang. I climbed the stairs to the top and enjoyed the view over the very flat landscape of Khon Kaen City. What I liked most about Khon Kaen was that I could find my way around the city very easily compared to other cities and towns in Thailand. I then stopped at the Fairy Plaza for lunch before driving out
past the huge Khon Kaen University where students were out front having their photos taken for graduation day. Everyone I interacted with in this city was very friendly from the school kids saying "hello" to the singing and smiling fruit vendor in the Big C shops. A short stop at the Tourist Authority of Thailand office to get some of their very good regional maps and I was on my way to Kalasin.
I wanted to get to Kalasin before dark and fortunately it is only 77km from Khon Kaen. All the places I would visit were a short drive which makes this area even more appealing. I arrived at the Rimpao Hotel in Kalasin about 4pm and headed to the Kutnamkin Public Park and lake for some exercise. A feature of most Thai cities and towns are the parks which often have a lake and walking track, very nice places especially near sunset. I spent 45 minutes finding the park only to realise later that it was just out the back road past the parking lot of my hotel.
Kalasin is a very clean city, not too big and the air was fresh, the weather perfect. It
is much cooler in the north-east of Thailand and the days were warm and the nights comfortable, not hot and not cold although there was a light dew on my car's windscreen in the mornings. Fortunately a local festival was in progress and I spent my two nights in Kalasin roaming the food stalls and listening to the amazing sounds of the local teenage music group consisting of 18 musicians playing the local Kalasin style of Isaan music. This is some of the best music that I have heard in Thailand and combined with the dancing it really was a treat to be able to watch and listen to the music and dancing all in traditional costume. This was a non smoking and no alcohol event and I don't think the locals were too fussed about either. On the second night there was a modern dance competition which was very entertaining.
The next morning I was heading to the world famous Sirindhorn Dinosaur Museum but my car had a flat battery. I rang my contact at the rental car firm in Korat and within an hour a local mechanic had checked out the car and a few more calls
from the Khon Kaen office of the rental firm and another vehicle was delivered from Khon Kaen to my hotel in Kalasin. Very good service and a very good reason to go with one of the big companies when you rent a car in Thailand. I managed to get to the museum which is 27km from Kalasin by midday so not too much time had been lost.
The museum is quite impressive with three levels of displays, some models and others real fossils found in the local area. The best part of the museum for me was the site where you can view an intact dinosaur skeleton still in the ground as it was found. There were hundreds of kids visiting the museum with school groups and many of them smiled and waved at me, said "hello" or "welcome", practicing their English language skills but it really made my day. I even came across a Thai university student who is on holiday from Adelaide, my home city, it really is a small world.
After the museum I visited the adjacent Wat Sakkawan where the dinosaur bones were originally found by the abbot. The surroundings here are very pleasant
View over Khon Kaen
and I climbed the 542 steps to the top of the mountain and then a tree house for a view of the local landscape. It was then back to Kalasin, a meal at a local street side restaurant and then to the music festival to finish off a very pleasant day in Kalasin. It would be so much better if I could speak the Thai language and communicate better here with the locals. There is not a lot to do in Kalasin City at night but sometimes that can be a good thing.
The next morning I stopped briefly at the ancient town Mueang Fae Daet Song Yang before heading to Roi Et, another fairly large city in Isaan country. The main feature of Roi Et is the Phalanchai Lake located in the centre of the city. I stopped there for two hours, the lake is full of large catfish and the surroundings are very pleasant with a huge standing Buddha image, a small waterfall and many other features to view in the park. There was not much else to recommend about Roi Et, just another large provincial city. I was just passing through and I was soon on
my way to Mahasarakham. I did not spend much time there as I was not feeling that well and after driving past the two huge local universities and a drive around most of the city I was soon on my way back to Korat for the night.
There is much more to see in this part of Isaan and am sure that I will return, probably in rainy season to view some waterfalls. I really liked Kalasin and want to head further north to see Nakhon Phanom and Udon Thani and also to the south, there is so much more to explore in this wonderful part of Thailand known as Isaan.
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