Thailand’s Isarn region occupies the northeast of the country, and has a particularly strong character which is deeply woven into Thailand’s culture. This vast often impoverished and drought stricken area is hemmed in by the Mekong River bordering Laos and is less of a tourist attraction and more of the ‘real Thailand’.
Many of Bangkok’s migrant workers are from Isarn, bringing with them the region’s culture, and if you want to truly experience the peasant past of the country you should head for Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Ubon and other heartland centres. You’ll be surprised to discover dozens of Khmer-influenced ancient sites, a prehistoric excavation at Baan Chiang, as well as the relaxing riverside town of Nong Khai en-route to Vientiane.
A nice stopover point if you’re planning on heading into Laos, or exploring the area following the Mekhong River, it’s as comfortable as it gets in these parts…more
The cultured centre of Isarn, with its nicely developed town centre and hospitality facilities, and is a good central base if you’re touring around the northeastern region…more
Northeast Thailand guide – rural Isarn province towards Laos
Isarn has also left its mark on Thailand. Even though most people speak a dialect more similar to Laos, their hot spicy food is much loved by many and their luuk thung music is popular on radio stations across the land.
Wherever you go you’ll come across Isarn folk driving taxis, manning machinery, giving massages, cleaning your hotel and many more essential but thankless tasks.
As the most populous area in Thailand, the region has also traditionally played an important role in elections, as the large peasant electorate have helped propel parties to power with their unified vote. Often it’s a vast contrast to the modern country you see in Bangkok.
Although most are inclined to ignore Isarn, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the sights and general character of the region. It includes Phanom Rung Historical Park in Buri Ram, Prasat Hin Phimai in Khorat, the Baan Chiang prehistoric site near Udon Thani and Prasat Khao Phra Wihan, a hilltop temple on the Cambodian border. There is also the lovely mountainous Loei area which contrasts with Isarn’s hot dusty image.