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Nakhon Ratchasima

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In a nutshell

Once the capital of an autonomous kingdom, Nakhon Ratchasima has firmly accepted its modern role as the gateway to Isan. Many travellers never see beyond the bus station, but those who linger get a taste of a vibrant Thai city without a tourist in sight.

One of the biggest cities in the Kingdom, Nakhon Ratchasima, better known as Khorat, serves as the gateway to the Isan region. Attracting relatively little traveller attention, many view this city as an unfortunate stopover as they make their way further north or east.

On first glance this city does seem impenetrable -- virtually no English is spoken and tourists remain an anomaly -- but with a little patience and guidance, Khorat sneaks up on you as a destination in its own right. While its attractions may not merit a week's stay, you may just find yourself lingering that long as you eat your way through town and soak up the local culture.

Khorat is an amazing mix of old and new -- of tradition and innovation. In stark contrast to Bangkok's booming metropolis, Khorat is today much of what it was 50 years ago.

This slower paced city provides a glimpse into the architecture of authentic Thai life -- something lost elsewhere in the country as Thailand yields to the unending surge of tourist dollars.

While Khorat doesn't see many of those dollars, it certainly has reason to attract them.

Just three hours from Bangkok, Khorat is home to beautiful shrines, colourful markets, amazing food, and more recently, a broad range of lodging and dining options that cater to both Thai and western tastes while encompassing everything in between.

Alongside sparkling Buddhist temples and sidewalk restaurants with makeshift kitchens, hip eateries and boutique hotels are popping up. Where Khorat was once void of such choices, it's now possible to enjoy its cultural offerings without sacrificing comfort.

While far off the tourist track, Khorat has a lot to offer the traveller hoping to experience the real Thailand. A mix of tradition and westernisation, Khorat is teeming with the energies of both... and it works.

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The best way to approach Khorat is by simply allowing yourself to get lost in the narrow old streets and see what you might discover. Though tightly packed, the city isn't huge, and you can walk from one side to the other in a half-day.

While a dirt cheap yet remarkable hole-in-the-wall restaurant was never difficult to find, don't be surprised if a trendy air-conditioned cafe reminds you that this ancient city is gradually catching up with the times. Other subtle highlights include makeshift street markets, pad mee Khorat noodles, a temple with cave walls and a memorial to Khorat's courageous savior, Kunying Mo, where a constant stream of locals offer flower garlands and incense every day.

Further afield, enormous Nakhon Ratchasima province boasts one of Thailand's largest pottery villages at Dan Kwian, the haunting Khmer ruins at Phimai, the vineyards and farms of Pak Chong, and the untamed jungles of Khao Yai.

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Text and/or map last updated on 2nd December, 2014.

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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Check Nakhon Ratchasima tickets online

Nakhon Ratchasima, Dan Khun Thot - Bangkok, Morchit ฿236 – ฿268 3h 30m – 3h 40m
  •   Bus Express XL 13:05, 20:20
  •   Bus VIP 32 01:29, 09:30, 10:30, 11:30, 13:05, 13:30, 15:30, 18:30, 20:20, 21:30, 23:30
  •   Bus VIP24 24 01:04, 09:05, 10:05, 11:05, 12:05, 15:20
  •   Bus Express XL 23:00
  •   Bus VIP 32 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00, 20:00, 22:00, 23:00, 23:59
  •   Bus VIP24 24 07:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:15, 15:00, 18:00, 20:30
Nakhon Ratchasima - Krabi ฿1,028 – ฿1,342 13h 40m
  •   Bus VIP 32 16:50
  •   Bus VIP24 24 16:50
  •   Bus VIP 32 16:50
  •   Bus VIP24 24 16:50
Nakhon Ratchasima - Pattaya ฿395 6h
  •   Bus VIP24 24 10:00, 17:00, 22:30
  •   Bus VIP24 24 07:15, 10:00, 12:00, 19:40
Nakhon Ratchasima - Phetchaburi ฿358 5h 50m
  •   Bus Express XL 10:00, 14:00, 22:00
  •   Bus Express XL 09:00, 10:45, 21:45
Nakhon Ratchasima, Pak Chong - Phetchaburi ฿301 4h 40m
  •   Bus Express XL 11:10, 15:10, 23:10
  •   Bus Express XL 09:00, 10:45, 21:45
Nakhon Ratchasima - Saraburi ฿166 2h
  •   Bus Express XL 10:00, 14:00, 22:00
  •   Bus Express XL 02:00, 13:15, 15:00
Nakhon Ratchasima - Songkhla, Hat Yai ฿1,066 – ฿1,393 15h 55m
  •   Bus VIP 32 17:00
  •   Bus VIP24 24 17:00
  •   Bus VIP 32 16:30
  •   Bus VIP24 24 16:30

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