A Unique Thailand Holiday in “Isan”

Crunchy Insects, Ant Eggs & Infectious Smiles!

Enjoy a Thailand Villa Holiday & Discover Isan – the Rural Heart of the Kingdom Off the Beaten Path

Thailand is known globally as a major tourist destination attracting millions of visitors each year, where the vast majority of visitors follow welltrodden circuits to a limited number of city, resort and beach destinations. Yet the nation's northeast (known locally as Isan) to this day remains well off the beaten path. This, despite the fact that Isan accounts for almost a third of the land mass of Thailand (making the region around four times the size of Switzerland), and is the birthplace of the majority of Thailand's inhabitants. For those seeking a more authentic experience 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 east of the teeming capital Bangkok, stretching over to the Lao and Cambodian borders on the Mekong river. Beyond borders, Isan shares its culture, food and dialects with Laos and Cambodia, its former 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 patchworked with rice paddies and typical villages focussed on agriculture. Fascinating remnants of the ancient Khmer civilization are scattered throughout the region and comprise some of the least well known yet best preserved and visually breathtaking ruins in Southeast Asia, including important Bronze Age sites, and the sites at Phimai and Phanom Rung.

Isan - The People
The inhabitants of Isan are renowned for their easy-going nature, sparkling hospitality, warmth, and graciousness. Whilst foreigners outnumber Thais in the tourist resorts elsewhere in the country, foreign visitors are an unusual sight off the beaten path in Isan villages, where intrepid visitors will be greeted with open arms and inquisitiveness.

Isan and Economic Migration
Isan is rooted in agricultural smallholdings involved in rice farming, cassava, sugarcane and, increasingly, rubber plantations. Apart from arduous work in the fields, employment opportunities are limited, and millions of Isan natives are obliged to migrate to other provinces or even overseas to seek work. The chances are high that your taxi driver in Bangkok, room maid in Phuket, construction worker in Samui and welder in Kuwait or Libya is from Isan.

Isan - Getting There
Ironically, as many Isan natives work out of the region, the area is easy to access. Main road arteries lead up to Nong Khai on the Lao border from Bangkok, and across to Ubon from the capital. Trains serve the major cities, again from Bangkok. There are also numerous flights from the capital to the major cities, serviced by the national carrier Thai Airways and by the inexpensive domestic airlines www.nokair.com and www.airasia.com

Isan - Where to Stay
The major cities and towns of Isan offer numerous places to stay, with most properties being geared to domestic travelers. Inexpensive rooms can easily be found, whilst the larger cities will also have four star business type hotels. Yet to experience Isan and to meet its people in their heartlands, you will need to get out into the small farming villages and more remote rural areas, where accommodation is generally either very limited or non-existent. There are, however, certain exceptions. The Thailand holiday rental Gecko Villa was one of the first properties in Thailand to establish the concept of a fully catered, private pool villa offering guests the chance to explore Thailand off the beaten track. Welcomed by a Thai family living a couple of kilometers from this tranquil rural getaway, among the rice paddies and plantations of Udon Thani province, guests enjoy fully catered holidays with specially prepared Thai dishes. Experiencing the local ways of life is easy and encouraged, and activities may include visits to the local lotus lake, helping out with a rice harvest, learning to drive a tuk-tuk, negotiating local wet markets or giving alms to monks from rural temples, discovering how silk is woven on oldfashioned wooden looms, and visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site at Ban Chiang with its striking pottery. Of course, you may also choose to simply lie back by the private pool with a long cool drink before indulging in a traditional Thai massage. With a focus on responsible tourism, guests contribute directly to the well-being of the local Thai villagers and families involved in this project.

The magical Thai vacation rental Rice Paddy Villa is a stunning property nestled in the countryside. With a seductive private swimming pool that looks out over the lush green rice paddies, this Thai style house enjoys complete tranquility, and successfully blends traditional Thai architecture with modern equipment and facilities. With a curved and sloping roof of hand made terracotta tiles, its old wooden pillars form a sheltered cloister, and with its antique doors, hardwood floors and extensive wooden deck, the villa seems rooted in the past. It is fully airconditioned, has a modern, fully-equipped Western kitchen, and facilities that are hard to find in such rural locations, such as an internet connection and private swimming pool. Another Thailand holiday villa, Green Gecko, is an impressive Thai house centered around a high wooden deck and a very private swimming pool, surrounded by trees and plantations. Offering the ultimate in privacy, this rural property reflects traditional Thai architecture and offers full board holidays with tongue-tinglingly yummy Thai food, and the chance to experience life in the Thai countryside.

Isan - the Cuisine
Isan food is renowned for its spiciness and complex depth of flavour. Blending the spicy, sour, sweet and salty is a local tradition. Dishes include Larb - a spicy beef salad with fresh herbs, Som Tam - a zingy and crunchy green papaya salad, and sticky rice - the staple accompaniment to an Isan meal. For those used to central Thai cuisine with curry pastes and coconut milk, Isan cuisine is an entirely different experience, yet is easy to learn and its own reward. For the more adventurous, there are local specialties including a golden array of crunchy, deep fried insects...or the kick of red ant eggs. During your next Thailand vacation, get away from the crowds and head to the Northeast of the country for an unusual and authentic experience of a still undiscovered region. Pack a Lao phrasebook (more useful than a Thai one in this region), a smile and a healthy appetite, and prepare to make a lot of new friends!

With thanks to Thailand Holiday Rental Villas

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