is known globally asa major tourist destinationattracting millions of visitorseach year, where the vastmajority of visitors follow well-trodden circuits to a limitednumber of city, resortand beach destinations. Yetthe nation's northeast (knownlocally as
) to this dayremains well off thebeaten path. This, despite thefact that Isan accounts foralmost a third of the land massof Thailand (making the regionaround four times the size of Switzerland), and is thebirthplace of the majority of Thailand's inhabitants. For those seeking a more authenticexperience of Thailand, a week or more in Isan will be a fascinating eye opener.
Isan - A General Background
Isan is the area to the north and eastof the teeming capital Bangkok,stretching over to the Lao andCambodian borders on the Mekongriver. Beyond borders, Isan shares itsculture, food and dialects withLaos andCambodia, itsformer overlords. The gateway to Isan is via Nakorn Ratchasima,often referred to as Korat, and its major cities include Khon Kaen,Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani. The plains of Isan are patchworkedwith rice paddies and typical villages focussed on agriculture.Fascinating remnants of the ancient Khmer civilization are scatteredthroughout the region and comprise some of the least well known yetbest preserved and visually breathtaking ruins in Southeast Asia,including important Bronze Age sites, and the sites at Phimai andPhanom Rung.
Isan - The People
The inhabitants of Isan are renownedfor their easy-going nature, sparklinghospitality, warmth, and graciousness.Whilst foreigners outnumber Thais inthe tourist resorts elsewhere in thecountry, foreign visitors are an unusualsight off the beaten path inIsan villages, where intrepid visitorswill be greeted with open armsand inquisitiveness.