Isan

Travel Guide Asia Thailand Isan

edit

Introduction

Isan consists of 20 provinces in the northeastern region of Thailand. Isan is Thailand's largest region, located on the Khorat Plateau, bordered by the Mekong River (along the border with Laos) to the north and east, by Cambodia to the southeast and the Sankamphaeng Range south of Nakhon Ratchasima. To the west it is separated from northern and central Thailand by the Phetchabun Mountains.

Isan has been transformed from one of the poorest regions into Thailand's fastest growing economy. The Industry Ministry has supported industrial zones in Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. private sector's plans to invest in setting up industrial estates in provinces has shown major progress.

Prominent aspects of Isan culture include mor lam, an indigenous folk music, muay Thai boxing, cock fighting, and celebratory processions. Isan food, in which glutinous rice and chili peppers are prominent, is distinct from central Thai cuisine, though it is now found throughout the kingdom. Sticky rice is a staple of northeastern cuisine and it accompanies most meals.

Top

edit

Geography

Isan covers 160,000 km2 making it about half the size of Germany, and just under twice the size of the US state of Maine. It is roughly coterminous with the Khorat Plateau, which tilts from the Phetchabun Mountains in the west of the region (the location of several national parks) down toward the Mekong. The plateau consists of two plains: the southern Khorat plain is drained by the Mun and Chi rivers, while the northern Sakon Nakhon plain is drained by the Loei and Songkhram rivers. The two plains are separated by the Phu Phan Mountains. The soil is mostly sandy, with substantial salt deposits.

The Mekong forms most of the border between Thailand and Laos to the north and east of Isan, while the south of the region borders on Cambodia. The Mekong's main Thai tributary is the Mun River, which rises in the Khao Yai National Park near Nakhon Ratchasima Province and runs east, joining the Mekong in Ubon Ratchathani Province. The other main river in Isan is the Chi River, which flows through central Isan before turning south to meet the Mun in Sisaket Province. The smaller Loei and Songkhram rivers are also tributaries of the Mekong, the former flowing north through Loei Province and the latter flowing east through Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, and Nong Khai Provinces.

Top

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park is located several hours northeast of the capital Bangkok. It is a very attractive park with lush green forests, some wildlife and a very relaxed atmosphere and good places to stay. You can go on guided walks or rent bikes. It is best to rent a car or motorbike into the park or try and get a lift. The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Phanom Rung Historical Park - beautiful Khmer temples and one of the top attractions in Isaan
  • Phimai Historical Park - some of the most important Khmer architecture in Thailand

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

Songkran

Songkran (Thai New Year) is the biggest party of the year, held during the hot month of April. In the past, people would throw water among themselves in a nice way to bless each other. These days, the festival has evolved into an all-out water fight. The place to be in Thailand to fully experience Songkran is Chiang Mai, where the entire city swells with people looking to drench each other in the sweltering April heat. The streets are lined with people and it's often faster to walk around the city than drive due to the massive crowds. Be prepared to be soaked. Leave your camera at home and don't wear white clothing! Also, take the whole thing in good fun. Everyone's enjoying themselves and it's only water after all. So grab your bucket or water pistol and hit the streets!

Buddhist Lent Beginning

Traditionally, Buddhist monks retreated into their temples during the middle of the rainy season in order to avoid harming any of the field, especially rice fields, which were damaged by stepping on the young rice plant springing out of the ground during this time. Nowadays you will see big posters in Thai in the bigger cities encouraging people not to drink alcohol during the Buddhist Lent.

In Ubon Ratchatanee, every year, there would be a contest of sculptures parade/show. The idea for these is that formerly, large candles were presented to temples at this time so that they would last through to the end of lent .

Loi Kratong (Candles Festival)

Chiang Mai Lichtfestival

Chiang Mai Lichtfestival

© sandrita8

Thai people respect water as "mother" who gives lives. The main purpose of this festival is to pay respect to the water. A lady in the ancient Sukothai time, named Nang Noppamas, was the one who originated this festival. She created a container traditionally made from banana leaves and carrying offerings of flowers, incense, candle (the whole thing called "kratong") to ask the river to forgive people for the improper things including dirts they made to water during the previous time.

This festival takes place every year on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month when the water level is high and the climate is cooler. In these individualism days, the idea has been evaded, participants normally ask water spirits to sail away their troubles in their kratongs. Kratongs aren't the only things brought out for this holiday. Fireworks are plentiful and the Thai's often set aloft fire lanterns to send their blessings and wishes to the heavens as well. Some Thais have been known to engage in fireworks fights so you do have to be careful sometimes. With a little caution though this holiday can be a blast!

Top

edit

Weather

The average temperature range is from 30.2 °C to 19.6 °C. The highest temperature recorded was 43.9 °C in Udon Thani, the lowest -1.4 °C at Sakhon Nakhon Agro Station.

Rainfall is unpredictable, but is concentrated in the rainy season from May to October. Average annual precipitation varies from 2,000 mm in some areas to 1,270 mm in the southwestern provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Maha Sarakham, Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum. The rainy season begins with occasional short but heavy showers, eventually raining very heavily for longer periods almost every day, usually in the late afternoon or at night, until it ends abruptly at the onset of the cool season.

The other seasons are the cool season from October to February, when the people sit outside around fires in the evenings, and the hot season from February to May with its sudden peak of high temperatures in April.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

There are airports at Khorat (at the present time no scheduled services due to its proximity to Bangkok making air service difficult to justify financially), Khon Kaen (domestic), Ubon Ratchathani (domestic), Udon Thani (international), Nakhon Phanom (domestic, scheduled services), Sakon Nakhon (domestic, scheduled services), Roi Et (domestic, scheduled services), Buriram (domestic, scheduled services) and Loei (domestic, scheduled services).

By Train

The State Railway of Thailand has two main lines in Isan, both connecting the region to Bangkok. One runs east from Khorat, through Surin to Ubon; the other runs north through Khon Kaen and Udon to Nong Khai. In early 2009, a newly completed rail link from Nong Khai came into operation. It crosses the Friendship road bridge into Laos territory to a terminus a few kilometres north of the land border crossing. It remains unclear whether this line will be extended the remaining 20 kilometres to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

By Car

A road bridge (the Saphan Mitraphap or Friendship Bridge) jointly built by the Australian, Lao, and Thai governments forms the border crossing over the Mekong River on the outskirts of Nong Khai to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, about 25 kilometres away.

The Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, spanning the Mekong between the cities of Mukdahan (Thailand) and Savannakhet (Laos), was completed and officially opened for traffic on 20 December 2006.

By Bus

Buses provide the mass transport throughout the region. All provincial cities are connected to Bangkok by daily and nightly, direct, air-conditioned bus routes. All district amphoe towns operate at least one similar nightly route to and from Bangkok.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Train

The train system is also a good way to get around, however the number of locations served is limited.

By Bus

All towns and villages are interconnected with frequent services of songthaew a covered truck-style bus or covered pick-up trucks with bench seats in the cargo bed.

Taxi transport is not well developed, even in the very large cities, where samlor, three-wheeled motorcycle taxis similar to the Bangkok tuk-tuk, provide the mainstay of urban transport. The large cities do have some pick-up trucks operating on regular inner-city and suburban routes. Airports are served by collective vans, which tend to be expensive for the local population, and samlors for private hire.

By Boat

In this region, rapids and variable flow make navigation difficult on the Mekong River, so large boat traffic is limited in connection with downriver areas. Bridges are rare because of the high cost of spanning the wide river; numerous passenger and vehicle ferries link its two sides.

Top

edit

Eat

Isaan cuisine borrows heavily from Laos and is distinctly different from central Thai cooking, although there has been a considerable amount of cross-pollination. Perhaps the best-known Isaan dish is som tam (or tam mak hung in Lao/Isaan), a spicy salad prepared from unripe papayas. While Thais prepare this with dried shrimp, in Isaan the preferred style is with preserved crab (puu) or mudfish, an acquired taste. Other characteristic dishes include roast chicken (kai yaang), sticky rice (khao niaw) and a wide variety of cold meat, mint and lemon juice "salads" known as larb.

A word of warning: Isaan food is known, even among Thais, for being fiery hot.

Top

edit

Drink

The main drink in Isaan is a wonderful concoction which combines orange juice with chilli peppers and rum. It is a must-try for all visitors. However most Isaan people drink beer with ice, Lao Kao, a strong clear spirit distilled from rice, or a home made fermented rice drink called lao tho or sa tho, which is now illegal to make. Another popular drink is Hong Tong, a spirit probably distilled from sugar and drunk with ice and soda.

Top

edit

Sleep

There is a wide range of accommodation options in all major cities and towns, as well as popular natural places like Khao Yai National Park.

Top

Isan Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Isan

This is version 4. Last edited at 12:32 on Aug 12, 16 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License