Places to base yourself in IsaanKhon Kaen: Khon Kaen is a great base for exploring Isaan as it is located smack dab in the middle of the region. The cities claim to fame is geological, this being the place where the first dinosaur fossils were found in Thailand. If history gets you all jazzed up, spend an afternoon checking out the Phu Wiang Dinosaur Museum. In order to be close to a smattering of restaurants and bars, it’s best to stay on or around Srichan road. Search for accommodation in Khon Kaen here! Udon Thani: A comfortable metropolis this place is as modern as it gets out in the countryside. Udon Thani is a great place to stay for those seeking balance. It’s easy to find the Central Plaza mall, thriving nightlife, and international dining options. However, drive 20 minutes away and find yourself back in a land more populated by water buffalo than people. Stay around Prajaksilapakom road which is close to the main bus station, markets, and the mall. Click here for places to stay in Udon Thani! Khorat: Khorat (known officially as Nakhon Ratchasima) is a mere three hours from Bangkok and known as the gateway to Isaan. It is also the main entrance point to Khao Yai National Park. This park is one of the most impressive in all of Thailand and offers visitors the chance to stumble upon wild elephants, monkeys, snakes, and even jaguars (if an exorbitant amount of luck happens to be on your side)! Where to stay in Khorat? Click Here! That Phanom: Looking to really get away from it all? Explore this tiny town on the banks of the Mekong, which really picks up in February when the That Phanom festival takes place. Discreetly glimpse what life is like for local fishers while enjoying the popular dolly fish (you know it’s fresh) from one of the many floating restaurants. Click here for accommodation in That Phanom! Nakhon Phanom: Dubbed by our authors as “The Least-Westernised City in Thailand”, Nakhon Phanom offers visitors a different slice of Thai life. Read our Nakhon Phanom guide! Click here for accommodation in Nakhon Phanom!
Things to do in IsaanWhy not volunteer? Compared to the many other places in Thailand where the scene is set up perfectly for the backpacker, in Isaan, activities are limited, communication is choppy, and transportation can be slightly less reliable than in the rest of Thailand. In order to better their experience in this part of the country, many visitors opt to get involved in a volunteer project which exposes them to a side of Isaan that would be difficult to access on their own. Projects vary in length, so even if you only have a couple of days to give volunteering can still be a viable option. Check out the volunteering possibilities below. Volunteer Teaching English Check out The “Open Mind Project” which can set you up with both long term or short term teaching opportunities. The Open Mind Project has volunteer sites all over South East Asia, including the Isaan region. Choose from teaching English, computer skills, or eco-tourism and conservation. For more information read about an English teachers experience teaching for 5 months in the countryside of Nong Khai. Work on a farm Why not don a conical hat, feel the mud between your toes, and learn more about the art of rice farming? Volunteers can opt to go through an organization (such as WOOFING) or set up a private agreement (such as Workaway) with individual farmers. Both options help set up individual travellers with families or communities who have started organic farms. Volunteers help out for a set number of hours per day (depending on the family) in exchange for housing and meals. Each opportunity is a tad different so make sure to read through the details before signing on. Help construct a new learning and recycling centre Isara Charity Foundation is always looking for volunteers not afraid to get down and dirty in the construction field. The organization offers FREE volunteer opportunities in Thailand with a range of choices to choose from. Check out the website for access to an online chat community of past and current volunteers ready to spew their knowledge. Make sure you try Isaan food Isaan food is spicy and delicious – don’t miss out! Start with som tam, spicy papaya salad. Try gai yhang, Isaan grilled chicken, for dinner. Finish with kow neeow mamuang, mango with sticky rice, for dessert! Drink with the locals If you are invited out chances are you will be drinking cheap whisky (Sangsom) and coke. Order a bottle at any Thai bar and your glass will be conveniently refilled by staff as the night unfolds. Not finished by the end of the night? No problem most bars will hold your bottle for you until you return. Go skydiving Want to learn how to fly? What better place than over the rice paddies of Isaan at the Birds Paradise Resort, located in the province of Sakon Nakon. If falling out of planes makes you more nervous than excited check out the resorts many other activities including; pilot programs, jet skiing, obstacle courses, ATV rentals, and mountain biking. Bike One of the best ways to experience Isaan is to pedal through it. Travel here is far less about the destinations themselves and more about taking the time to appreciate the understated moments that define this region. And there are no hills to climb – it’s all flat! Get A Permaculture PDC Rak Tamachat Farm runs Permaculture Design Courses, along with Natural Building Courses. If you want to learn how to make the world (or, at least, your garden) a better place, this is for you!
Where to go next?Nong Khai: A bustling market town (by Isaan standards) on the banks of the Mekong, this town is the backpacking hub of the region and the gateway to Laos. For more information check out our Nong Khai destination page.
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