THAILAND: Isaan explorer - get to know the northeast of Thailand

Just some suggestions

Introduction

You could spend months in northeastern Thailand and not experience all it has to offer, but in two to three weeks you could cover many of the region's highlights.

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!

The northeast of Thailand gets far fewer visitors than the north as there's no hilltribes to gawk at -- but the lack of tourists is a boon for many, and chances are you'll find yourself on the receiving end of Thai hospitality at its best.

This trip works best if you slow down your travels to the pace of life in Isaan, lose a couple of weeks or more, and slowly make your way around the rim of region -- start with ruins and finish with national parks -- just remember to eat loads of that spicey Isaan food along the way.

Weather

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.

Suggest trip length

The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is two weeks, though three to four weeks is far more comfortable.

Sample plan

1) Bangkok -> Ayutthaya (historic centre, ruins)
2) Ayutthaya -> Khorat and do a side trip to Phimai (Khmer ruins, museum)
3) Khorat -> Buriram (launching point for a day trip to Phanom Rung)
4) Buriram -> Surin (home of the elephant roundup -- check your dates!)
5) Surin -> Si Saket (launching point for a day trip to Preah Vihaer)
6) Si Saket -> Ubon Ratchathani (museum, temples, giant candle, side trip to Pha Thaem and National Park)
7) Ubon Ratchathani -> Mukdahan (national park, river scenery)
8) Mukdahan -> That Phanom (top spot, temple, river scenery)
9) That Phanom -> Nong Khai (top spot, temple, river scenery)
10) Nong Khai -> Sangkhom (top spot, river scenery)
11) Sangkhom -> Chiang Khan (top spot, river scenery)
12) Chiang Khan -> Loei (national parks)
13) Loei -> Phitsanulok (temples, national parks)

Save some time

One day: skip Surin if you're there at the wrong time of year for the festival
One day: skip Mukdahan
Three or four days: Head back to Bangkok from Nong Khai

Combine trip plans

If you want to see the north of Thailand as well, combine this with the Thailand: Northern Explorer, joining it at Phitsanulok. For an island combination, take a look at Jungles and Islands.

Map


View Two weeks in Northeast Thailand in a larger map

Sample Trip Times (in hours)

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 explorer - get to know the northeast of Thailand
FromToAirBusTrainBoat
Bangkok Ayutthaya - 1:30 1:45 -
Ayutthaya Khorat - 3:00 3:00 -
Khorat Phimai - 1:30 - -
Khorat Buriram - 2:00 1:30 -
Buriram Surin - 0:45 0:30 -
Surin Si Saket - 1:30 1:30 -
Si Saket Ubon Ratchathani - 1:00 0:45 -
Ubon Ratchathani Mukdahan - 2:00 - -
Mukdahan That Phanom - 2:00 - -
That Phanom Nong Khai - 3:00-7:00 depending on route - -
Nong Khai Sangkhom - 3:00 - -
Sangkhom Chiang Khan - 2:00 - -
Chiang Khan Loei - 2:00 - -
Loei Phitsanulok - 3:30 - -


Planning advice by topic

Other suggested itineraries

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