Khmer Temple in the Phanom Rung Historical Park

Life amidst the Rice Paddies

Come journey with me to the relatively undiscovered jewel of North East Thailand, where it’s possible to escape time and a place almost forgotten with a tradition that’s almost vanished.

This region of Thailand is largely untouched by tourism, making it the ideal destination should you wish for an adventure with a flirtatious difference in historical, cultural and scenic beauty.

But first things first. Whether you’re out shopping, taking a tour or booking a hotel reservation, the most common question we are always asked by Thai people around the country is: Where come from? It might not be quite the same way as a tourist would say from a more politically correct form of English. Nevertheless, no matter where we or they come from, we fully understand.

Thai people living in the cities can speak some basic English words and phrases, but they are also akin to shortening some of the sentences. Not only is this delightful, but amusing at times. Many Thai people have an incredible innocent aura about them, which allows them to get away from having to speak like a westerner.

And why should they speak like westerners? After all, they are what they are, Thai, and we need to respect their customs and etiquette. You won’t find much English spoken in the northeast.

Local Farm Workers having a Smoke Break

Now when you have spent any length of time in Thailand or Asia for that matter, you should really get to enjoy these somewhat lighter conversations. It can be a lot of fun too. But please remember that in speaking to Thai people, there’s a great need to speak a lot slower. Before you become aware of it, you too, are more likely to shorten your sentences as well. To put it in a nutshell, it’s simply referred to as the Thai way.

The reason I’m telling you this is, that once you travel around the northeast provinces you’ll come across many Thai’s who will only understand you if you try things their way, including speaking as they do. After a short time, you may even get to love your newfound experiences. Well, okay enough of that for now, let’s get back to what northeastern Thailand is all about.

Isaan Territory

Northeast Thailand is home to Isaan territory. Although I am not exactly sure where Isaan or Isan as it’s sometimes spelt, begins or ends, much of Thailand’s population, so I am told, seem to have been raised in this part of the country. Once children reach a reasonable age, many leave in search of more lucrative careers in the bigger cities.

Who in their right mind would want to spend their entire life on the rice paddies anyway! It’s incredibly hard labour, and I am sure it can be quite back breaking at times, but I suppose someone has to do the dirty work. Unbelievable as it may sound, most Thai’s I have spoken to tell me they come from Isaan.

Isaan or Isan refers to a region in the northeast of Thailand, where many of the countries poorest originate from. This is also where many newborn babies are taken care of whilst their mothers are away from home working in the cities.

Whatever the reason, if you have got the time, rent a car or take a tour to the far corners of this remarkable land. For it is here where you will uncover the Khmer Legacy and the ruins that are amongst the most impressive in Thailand.

Ancient Khmer Temple Ruins


A great attraction in the northeastern part of the country is the Elephant Extravaganza or Elephant Round-Up as the local Thai’s call it. The event is held during the month of November every year. This spectacular event is celebrated in the town of Surin some 450 kilometres (270 miles) from Bangkok.

Elephant Round-Up in Surin

Nong Khai and Khon Kaen

Thailand has an international reputation for its prized textile-producing industry where some of the world’s finest cotton and silk garments can be found. A stopover in Nong Khai and Khon Kaen are two such towns set in the heart of northeast Thailand that are particularly renowned for their superb cotton and silk weaving production. As well as finding some excellent bargains, demonstrations in the fine art of silk making can be enjoyed in many parts of the country.

Rice Planting in North East Thailand

Nakhon Ratchasima

Many of the most important Khmer historical sites can be found in the town at Nakhon Ratchasima which is situated in the northeastern province of Khorat. This province is steeped in history with many of the Khmer ruins found here, dating back to the 12th century.

Some sites have been lovingly restored to their former splendour. The area is also splendidly rich in nature with one of Thailand’s largest forested national parks filled with waterfalls, reservoirs and wildlife.

Rice Paddy Fields on the Isaan Plateau