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Most foreign tourists don't visit
area in the Northeast of Thailand. It is a pity because
there are many things to do and visit.
First this area has a double cultural heritage :
Khmer and Laotian. In the
south of Isan area, many Khmer temples can be visited. The most
famous are "PRASAT PHIMAI", "PRASAT HIN KHAO PHANOM RUNG",
"PRASAT HIN MEUANG TAM", "KHAO PHRA WIHAN" just beyond
the Kampuchea border.
Many people of Khmer ethnicity live in the south part
of "ISAN" area.
There are also significant groups of Chinese and Vietnamese migrants in
"ISAN" area. It is frequent to see Vietnamese graves around Nongkhai
In other sites of Isan region, many Buddhist temples with
Laotian characteristics can be seen. One of the most famous
is "WAT THAT PHRA PHANOM" in That Phanom. Tourists like to
visit the "WAT PHRA THAT PHANOM" (วัดพระธาตุพนม)
and the market in order to eat Isan food and to enjoy its calm. For big
festivals, even Laotian people cross the border and visit this Buddhist temple.
In Isan region, many Buddhist temples can be found such as famous forest
temples ("WAT PA" - วัดป่า).
Some monks decided to live in the forest in order to be far
away from human beings. They seek for peace, tranquillity in order to
study Dhamma and meditation. The forest way is a way of life coming
from the Isan area. The monks living in
the forest are called "PHRA THUDONG"
History has a deep impact on Isan area. In
Udon Thani area, a park "PHU PHRA BAT" with old paintings,
drawn before Buddhist era, can be visited.
Inside this park, there are strange rocks used by prehistoric people
and then by Buddhist monks during the 10th century.
The natural border with Laos is the famous
Mekong river ("MAE NAM KHONG" - แม่น้ำโขง).
The Mekong river is the border between Laos
and Thailand in Isan area. Tourists like to enjoy the sunset with a view over Laos,
have a boat trip or cross the river to visit Laos in two actual
check-points in Isan : NongKhai and near Ubon Rachathani.
Isan region is also well known for its arts and
crafts skills. The famous triangular cushions
("MOON KHIT KO KWAI" - หมอน) come from
Isan and the most beautiful come from
Roi-Et. The famous silk "MATMEE" come also from Isan and the
most beautiful come from Khon Kaen and Nong Khai. Typical
souvenirs are the reed organ
("KAEN" - แคน) used in "MOLAM"
orchestra and the small baskets ("KRATIT KHAO" - กระติกข้าว) to keep hot the sticky rice
("KHAO NIO" - ข้าวเหนียว).
Some cultural differences with other areas of
One well-known dance is the bamboo dance in which dancers shall avoid bamboo
Some ceremonies like "PHITI BAI SRI SU KWAN"
are typical from "ISAN" area and North of Thailand.
This ceremony is held before a long trip, after a
long trip, during marriage or during monk ordination.
The aim is to fix the "KWAN" (kind of soul in Thai language)
to the human body. It can be done to welcome visitors also.
Two persons may decide to enter into a special relationship with a
"PHUK SIAO" ceremony. In this ceremony they become more than friends,
becoming blood sisters or brothers, witnessed by the whole community, the
elders and the sacred powers.
"BUN BANG FAI" and "PHI TA KHON" festivals happen only in Isan area.
"MOLAM" (หมอลำ) is the typical Isan music.
Some famous dishes include the spicy salad
("SOMTAM" - ส้มตำ), the grilled
chicken ("KAI YANG" - ไก่ย่าง),
the sticky rice ("KHAO NIO" - ข้าวเหนียว).
Dishes are often more spicy than in other areas.
Lao language is as important as Thai language in Isan area.