Photo: A Khon Kaen storefront.

Introduction

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The proud city of Khon Kaen sprawls on the east side of the same-named province and serves as a major hub of education, transport and commerce for the Isaan region. Most foreigners who pass through are either here on business or to catch a bus, but travellers looking to practice their Thai while getting a feel for a big, non-touristy Thai city will find enough to do for a couple of days. What Khon Kaen lacks in charm, it makes up for in energy.


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Often dubbed the heart of Isaan, Khon Kaen has a population between 200,000 and 400,000 (depending on the source), making it one of Thailand’s largest cities. With an enrolment of over 25,000, Khon Kaen University is the biggest in the Northeast. Laos and Vietnam both have consulates here issuing visas in advance — a necessity for travel to Vietnam and required if you want to catch one of the international buses to Vientiane.

Enjoy the views. Photo taken in or around Khon Kaen, Thailand by David Luekens.

Enjoy the views. Photo: David Luekens

Modernity is the way in Khon Kaen today. A handful of buildings reaching up to 30 storeys have joined modern shopping malls, major international chain hotels and sprawling suburbs. While the city lacks the charm of Chiang Mai or Ubon Ratchathani, a few neighbourhoods to the north of town are still graced by old wooden houses, and the tree-lined Bueng Kaen Nakhon Lake provides a scenic stretch for relaxation in the city’s southern reaches.

Khon Kaen was named after Phra That Kham Kaen, an old chedi built over a tamarind tree that supposedly grew miraculously after a relic of the Buddha was placed in a dead stump. It’s located 20 kilometres northeast of the provincial capital, which was founded in the late 1700s by an officer from Vientiane who switched sides after Siam conquered Laos.

Phu Wiang vistas. Photo taken in or around Khon Kaen, Thailand by David Luekens.

Phu Wiang vistas. Photo: David Luekens

Jumping back 65-145 million years to the Cretaceous Period, dinosaurs of many shapes and sizes roamed the land that now encompasses Khon Kaen province. Beginning in the early 1980s, archaeologists at several sites that are now part of Phu Wiang National Park unearthed many fossils and skeletons, including a previously unknown ancestor of the T Rex. Dinosaurs now feature in signs and statuary all over the ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Khon Kaen.
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 Read up on where to eat on Khon Kaen.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Khon Kaen.
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