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Isaan Travel Information

The Isaan are located in the arid tropics of northeast Thailand. Soil quality is poor and population density is high. Reforestation programs bulldoze many acres of forest which was formerly public. This land is planted with eucalyptus trees in order to get quick profit, which makes it useless for most other things. This limits the land available, as well as wood. The result is destroyed forests.

General Description
The Isaan are a hard working, good natured people of Laotian decent. They are in the process of acculturation to the predominate Central Thai culture, but they continue to form a distinct cultural group as evidenced by their own language, eating habits and their distinct social class.

The Isaan farmers have often fought with the Thai government. In the past these farmers would get punished for such fighting, but more recently the government has shown more toleration. In any case, governmental concessions seem far away.

Products / Crafts
The production of silk weaving and baskets involves a deep set division of the sexes. Traditionally, men have done the basket weaving, and women have made the clothes. The introduction of industrialized clothing has changed the demand for traditional methods, and women have shifted to growing lucrative cash crops. Yet they continue to weave with new time saving methods of production. This gives them the satisfaction of providing things for the family as well as selling at the market. Plastics have been introduced, but have bamboo continues to be used both because it is plentiful, and because it has a traditional appeal.

Celebrations / Recreation
The Thai new year, called "Songkran, " is the most notable festival. It occurs during the hot season. In the Lao tradition, it is supposed to be a time to visit elders and bless them with a sprinkling, but for young people, the three day celebration has become a time to douse others with buckets of water and then smear talcum on their faces. Another celebration is "Bun Bang Fai," which combines elements of animism and Buddhism. The two day festival involves merrymaking and firing off rockets into the sky in order to bring rain.

Art Forms
"Maw Lom" music is indigenous to Lao/Isaan culture. It is traditional music which uses a bamboo instrument, the "kaen," and incorporates Isaan forms. This music has been modernized and made into an electrical, fast-paced version called "Maw Lom Sing." It is considered the ultimate in popular Isaan music.

Khon Kaen
Khon Kaen lies in the geographical heart of Thailand's sprawling northeast plateau, an are known among Thai as I-San. Khon Kaen was established in 1783 and is a major regional development center and university city. The provincial capital is 449 kilometers northeast of Bangkok. The province covers an area of 10,886 square kilometers, parts of which contain national and forest parks.

Festivals & Events
Dok Khoon Siang Khaen Flower Festival
April 12-15 Bueng Kaen Nakhon, Khon Kaen
This festival coincides with Songkran (the traditional Thai New Year) and is staged at Bung Kaen Nakhon. Featuring colorful floral processions, major festival activities include religious rites and merit-making and I-San folk music. Dancing and entertainment.

Silk Festival
November 29-December 10, Khon Kaen City Hall, Khon Kaen
Staged annually in front of Government Houses, this promotes silk weaving and silk worm culture. Pook Sieo, an I-San tradition promoting close friendship between people of similar ages, is also celebrated during this occasion.

Natural Beauty

Bung Kaen Nakorn
This popular lakeside recreation center in the southern part of the city is well-known for its many footstalls selling popular local specialties, particularly som tam (spicy raw papaya salad) and kai yang (barbecued domestic chicken).

Ubolrat Dam
Some 50 kilometres. northwest of the provincial capital, this scenic dam is the largest multi-purpose dam in I-San, generating electricity for eight neighboring provinces. A reservoir-side restaurant and opportunities for boat trips make the dam a popular weekend destination.

Historical Sites

Khon Kaen National Museum
The museum contains a large collection of artifact, particularly from the Northeast, including those discovered at major archaeological sites such as Ban Chiang, where the world's first Bronze Age civilization was believed to have flourished more than 5,000 years ago. 

Non Muang
This ancient Chumpae site,85 kilometres from the Khon Kaen, is believed to have been inhabited from prehistoric times until at least the 10th century AD. Human skeletons and 3,000-year-old bronze tools have been discovered in the area.

Phra That Kham Kaen
This is a 19-metre high at Wat Jediyaphum about 30 kilometres northeast of Khon Kaen town. The legend has it that two revered monks on their way to Nakhon Phanom provice spent the night at the site of present temple where they observed the dead tamarund tree. They told the villagers to build a Chedi over the 'Kham Kaen' (hardwood log). The province derives its name form this chedi

Koo Puay Noi
This Khmer complex, 76 kilometres from the provincial in Puay Noi district, is the largest Khmer complex in Khon Kaen. Three brick pagodas, a laterite palace and beautifully carved doors are of particular interest.

Wat Udom Khonkha Kiri Khet
is an elegant hill-top temple in Mancha Khiri district. It is know for its ornate gold coloured roof and beautifully decorated doors. The temple is 67 kilometres from town on Highway 2149, has a display of the belongings of Luang Poo Pharng ,a monk revered by I-San people.

Adventure

Phu Kao-Phu Phan Kham National Park
The 320 square-kilometre area covers part of Ubonrat district and extends into the neighbouring province of Udon Thani. Deciduous and evergreen forests offer ample trekking opportunities. The park may be reached by following the route from Khon Kaen to Ubolrat Dam to Non Sang. 

Pha Nok Khao
This impressive outcropping of strangely shaped rocks is 125 kilometres west of the provincial capital along Highway 201 in a mountainous area extending into Loei province. The Nam Pong River and Loei's Phu Kradung, a scenic national park, can be seen from this vantage point.

Phu Wieng Park
This area, some 60 kilometres northwest of the provincial capital, along Route 2038, contains a number of important archaeological sites with evidence of I-San's earliest inhabitants seen from prehistoric rock painting. Fossil remains of a herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaur may be seen at park headquarters at Hua Phu Chon Reservoir.

Tham Pha Puang Forest Park
Some 120 kilometres from the provincial capital on the Khon Kaen-Chumpae highway, a large and interesting cave can be reached by walking up the hill from the parking area. Lush forests grace the area.

Surin
Surin is a province located in the south of the Isan region, roughly 450 km from Bangkok. It is a major silk weaving area, but is also famous for its annual elephant roundup. The residents are a cultural mixture of Lao, Central Thai, Khmer and Suay peoples, resulting in an interesting blend of dialects and customs. The famous elephant roundup occurs in the third week of November and is performed by the local Suay people. The Suay have for centuries been experts in this field, since the days that domesticated elephants were very much in demand. The show highlights the work carried out by these massive beasts and includes tricks performed by the elephant and his mahout. As is usual in the northeastern region, there are plenty of ruins from the Khmer period of the 11th and 12th centuries to be found scattered around the province.

Attractions

Basketry Village
Ban Buthom Located 14 kilometers from the province on the Highway 226 (Surin-Sikhorapum route), the village produces rattan baskets of various types. Basketry shops line both sides of the road.

Prasat Sikhoraphum
Located at Amphoe Sikhoraphum about 35 kilometers from Surin. It is composed of five prang (pagoda, with the principal structure) measuring 32 meters high. Beautiful designs are engraved onto the columns. It is believed that the site had been renovated once during the
Ayutthaya Period.

Silverware Villages
Ban Khwao Sinarin and Ban Chok Located on Highway 214 (Surin-Chom Phra Route) with a 4 kilometers right turn between Km.14-15, the villages produce and put on sale assorted silver ornaments such as belts, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and watches. A large number of silverware shops line both sides of the road.

Prasat Hin Chom Phra
A small stone castle in Amphoe Chom Phra about 28 kilometers from Surin town, probably used to be an idol temple built by the Khmer. Today a large Buddha image is enshrined in front of the structure.

Elephant Village
Many elephants can be found at Ban Ta Klang, Tambon Krapho, Amphoe Tha Tum. The villagers here earn their living by farming and weaving, they also keep elephants as pets. The elephants here are treated like family and have been trained well by their mahouts.

Prasat Hin Ban Phluang
Situated at Amphoe Prasat, is a little over thirty kilometers from Surin proper. Although comparatively small in size, it is nevertheless beautiful and recently renovated.

Surin Elephant Show
Held in the third weekend of November. Internationally famous, this annual event brings crowds of visitors to the provincial capital of Surin, where over 100 trained elephants are assembled. Among the spectacular features are wild elephant hunts, tugs of war, demonstrations of log hauling skills, and a parade of elephants oufitted for medieval

Sisaket
The province of Si Sa Ket is located in the south of the Isan region, bordering with Cambodia. It wa once an integral part of the Khmer Empire that once ruled over the region: which can be noted in the vast number of ruins of Khmer style temples that can be found scattered around the province.
Si Sa Ket became a city in 1759, during the Ayutthaya period. Although there is little of significance in Si Sa Ket, it is one of the best places for travelling to the many Khmer ruins scattered around the southern Isan region.

Princess Mother's Park
The park is situated about 1 km from the centre of town, along Kasikam Rd. It is located in the grounds of Si Saket Agricultural College. It was built to honour the Princess' Mother on her 80th birthday.

Prasat Hin Wat Sa Kampang Yai
This sandstone temple was built on a slope at the edge of Ban Sa Kampang, about 2 km from the centre. The structure was believed to have been built around the 10th century when the area was under control of the Khmers, under King Suriyaworaram. The main entrance gate in inscribed with Khmer lettering, while the walls have many carved scenes.

Further east past Sisaket stands Preah Vihear possibly the most beautiful and the least accessible major Khmer temple. It is legally in Cambodia yet accessible only from Thailand. For unknown reasons the Franco-Siamese treaty of 1907 left the temple on the Cambodian side of the boarder. The ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over ownership was officially settled at the International Court of justice in the Hague in 1962. The verdict favoured Cambodia, and many Thais still feel that this decision is unjust.

Its strategic position has given it military importance in recent history and has intermittently been used as a Cambodian military post. Its difficult access made it the last place in the country to fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Lon Noi troops and the families held on here for days after the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975. Ironically its brief recapture in 1998 was the last victory by the residual Khmer Rouge.

Preah Vihear has no equal in its natural site. Its builders were able take full advantage of this when recreating the microcosm of the Hindu universe, to enter the temple is to experience the decent from mount Meru. A trip the Khmer temples in the Northeast allow visitor to see the remains of the great empire without having to cross the boarder into Cambodia.

How to go to the Isaan

By Air
Don Muang Domestic Airport is the center of planes to Northeast. 
6 San Luang Road, Bangkok 10100 tel: (662) 280-0060. 
The northeastern provinces that can be reached by plane are Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram [closest to Surin], Sakon Nakhon, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.

By Bus
Air conditioned coaches and non-air conditioned buses regularly leave from Bangkok's Northeastern Bus Terminal on Kamphaeng Phet Road throughout the day. Telephone (02) 271-0101-5 (non-air-cond) or (02) 279-4484-7(air-cond) for further details.

By Rail
The northeastern provinces that can be reached by train are Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Surin, Si Saket, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchathani.
Trains leave Bangkok's Hualampong Railway Station throughout the day.
Tel. (02) 224-7788, 223-3762 or 225-0300 for ticket.

 
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