Thais are often surprised when foreigners voice their like of the northeast -- predominantly flat and dusty, with rather less-than-charming prefab and featureless towns, this isn't a region that leaps out at the visitor. But take a closer look and you may find just what you're looking for. National parks, ancient Khmer ruins, lovely Mekong river vistas and the wonderful Isaan food -- we hope you like it spicey!
Not everyone has the luxury of a month to explore northeast Thailand, so here's a short trip you could cover in as little as a few days. You'll get to see national parks, Khmer ruins and finish off with some sleepy Mekong River scenery.
Pay attention to the weather! There's few things as miserable as two weeks awash in jungle floods. More climate information can be found here: Travelfish interactive weather map.
The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is two weeks, though three to four weeks is far more comfortable.
1) Bangkok -> Ayutthaya (historic centre, ruins)
2) Ayutthaya -> Khorat and do a side trip to Phanom Rung ruins
3) Khorat -> Phimai (Khmer ruins)
4) Phimai -> Udon Thani (singing orchids, museum)
5) Udon Thani -> Nong Khai (top spot, temple, river scenery)
One day: skip Udon Thani
Two days: From Nong Khai strike west to Sangkhom.
Three days: From Khorat, head east to Buriram and Si Saket to see more ruins.
View One week in northeast Thailand in a larger map
To help you work out how you'll get around, we've listed the trip durations for the various forms of transport available. Note that with the exception of flight times, these are average trip times, so no hate mail if you take the slow train.
|THAILAND: Isaan taster - just a sample of the northeast of Thailand|
|Udon Thani||Nong Khai||-||1:00||1:00||-|
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.