Photo: Drying out on the streets of Khorat.

Introduction

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Nakhon Ratchasima, better known as Khorat, is a dynamic gateway to Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region. Some travellers view the provincial capital as nothing but an unfortunate stopover on the way to someplace else. Pack an open mind along with patience and a phrasebook, and you might find that Khorat sneaks up on you as a destination in its own right.


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Covering 20,494 square kilometres and bridging Central Thailand to Isaan, Nakhon Ratchasima province edges out Chiang Mai as the largest in Thailand. The pull of wealthy Bangkok is easy to sense when exploring the province’s far southern reaches, around Khao Yai National Park, while the northern Phimai area is endowed with the countryside charm, sweeping rice paddies and Lao dialect that are typical of Isaan.

Khorat, or Nakhon Ratchasima, is a dynamic gateway to Isaan. Photo taken in or around Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand by David Luekens.

Khorat, or Nakhon Ratchasima, is a dynamic gateway to Isaan. Photo: David Luekens

At the centre of these geographical and cultural forces sprawls the provincial capital city, home to more than 500,000 people who possess a strong sense of regional identity. Many locals differentiate themselves culturally from the rest of Isaan while not quite throwing their hats into the ring of Bangkok. The mix is evident in som tam Khorat, in which Lao/Isaan-style fermented fish is dashed into an otherwise Central Thai version of this ubiquitous green papaya salad.

Since around the 16th century Khorat has been an important administrative centre for Thai kingdoms, a role that continues today. Previously the area was part of the Khmer empire, as evidenced by the impressive 1,000-year-old ruins of Prasat Hin Phanom Wan. While neighbouring Buriram province retains much of its Khmer heritage, Isaan- and Chinese-Thais now make up most of Khorat’s demographic. Quite a few Sikh Indian-Thais and Japanese expats also call the ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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