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Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Vancouver
Level Contributor
3,933 posts
20 reviews
Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

I am planning to spend a couple of weeks in late December, early January exploring various areas in the ISAAN Region, and would love to hear from anyone who has travelled there. (I have already posted in the Thailand forum).

I know it is a huge area, and I will probably only scratch the surface during my time there; I have done some research on the small towns along the Mekong River - I will be starting out from Chiang Mai, travelling solo, am older female. Ideas on special places to see, best mode of transport (buses, trains, etc.), or any advice and info appreciated.

I have also researched the Loei area a bit but would be very grateful for tips on what to see along the way - sights not to be missed, special little places to stay... I have read some JBRs from people who have travelled in various areas, and some good info there.

Bangkok, Thailand
Level Contributor
15,864 posts
1. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Around Loei:

National Parks: Phu Kradueng (the most well known) Phu Hin Rong Kla (huge and contains a former Communist rebel camp), Phu Rua, Phu Pha Man and Phu Suan Sai.

Helsingoer, Denmark
Level Contributor
19 posts
23 reviews
2. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

If you start out in Chiang Mai, you can enter the north part of Isaan through Khao Koh (just north of Phetchabun) and drive through the mountains to Khon Kaen. A beutiful drive. After Khon Kaen you can continue east and south east and explore Isaan. Isaan is big and has so many things to see. Depends on how much you want to travel and how much time you want to spend. Take a look at www.travelisaan.com, maybe that could give you some ideas.

Vancouver
Level Contributor
3,933 posts
20 reviews
3. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

thaichamp - you mention driving... I would very much like to rent a car and drive through this region rather than taking public transit... it is safe to drive in this area? I have heard that other areas - ie: south of bangkok, it is pretty nerve-wracking... I would really love to drive because then I can easily get from one place to another. Any thoughts on this? Also, I plan to cross over into Laos at Nong Khai - if I rented a car in Chiang Mai, would I have to pay a one-way drop off fee, and if so, how much?

Harbin, China
Destination Expert
for Kanchanaburi
Level Contributor
23,374 posts
42 reviews
4. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Hi Skeezix,

Somewhere along the way I would suggest a visit to Phimai where you can visit a Khmer Temple. The closest town to Phimai is Korat and the two are connected by bus.

Vancouver
Level Contributor
3,933 posts
20 reviews
5. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Thanks Andy, any thoughts about renting a car in Chiang Mai? I could make a big loop and bring it back to Chiang Mai - go out along Loei and the Mekong River towns and the come back through another route...?

I'm thinking that because it is such a big region, and not too many foreigners travel there, that maybe there isn't much trafffic and therefore easier to drive through the region. Is this the case?

Nong Khai, Thailand
Level Contributor
55 posts
1 review
6. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Hi...

I live in Nong Khai and can provide some tips for this Province if you wish. But here are a few very web sites with excellent information about this region.

www.mutmee.com - has an extensive website dealing with all things Isan

www.nongkhaiinformation.com - general information on Nong Khai

www.nongkhaitours.com - options of sightseeing in Nong Khai

For the car check out Thai car rent www.thairentacar.com as they offer one way rates and you can easily drop it in Udon Thani and cross the border in Nong Khai.

Driving in the Isan region is relatively easy and for the msot part the roads are well marked with the usual mileage markers. However if you can get your hands on a good driving map for the region (available most book stores) then you will be fine.

Love Chiang Khan, Sri Chiang Mai and Sangkhom. Beautiful river side towns.

Chiang Khan Guest House (chiang khan)

Buoy's Guest House (Sangkhom)

Not too sure on Sri Chiang Mai but there are several home stays and two little guest houses on the river side that are very nice.

Nong Khai, Thailand
Level Contributor
55 posts
1 review
7. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Sorry again some additional information....

Loei - there is a fantastic Winery in Loei as well, Chateau de Loei. Along with the above mentioned Phu Rua and Phu Kradung check out Phu Phra Bat Historical park in Udon Thani Province or Wat Phu Tok in Bueng Kan Province.

Ban Chiang in Udon Thani Province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a cool museum.

And of course if you make it to Nong Khai do not miss Sala Kaew Ku (sculpture park). It is almost worth a trip up here to see this one item.

www.virtualtourist.com

www.udonmap.com

Have additional information on this region as well.

Harbin, China
Destination Expert
for Kanchanaburi
Level Contributor
23,374 posts
42 reviews
8. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

Hi Skeezix,

I have never rented a car in Thailand only a motorbike so I can't comment but I'm sure others can. Good luck in planning your visit to Isaan, it's an interesting area to visit and next time I head that way I want to visit friends near Udon Thani. It doesn't attract the amount of foreign visitors like other parts of Thailand but quite a few foreign people live there.

Edited: 10 February 2012, 00:35
Bangkok, Thailand
Level Contributor
15,864 posts
9. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

I've driven in Isaan many times. The roads are mostly good and mostly safe, and quiet away from the few main highways (The Mittrapab Highway is worth avoiding). Get a recent map after you arrive. There are some very good dual language ones in large format but easy to use, which also have some city maps. You'll find people very friendly and helpful, but gas stations are spread wide apart so its worth keeping your tank topped up. Places like Loei and along the Mekong are going to be busier than places like Kalasin.

Helsingoer, Denmark
Level Contributor
19 posts
23 reviews
10. Re: Has anyone travelled in the ISAAN region?

This week i drove myself around Isaan, and also through the very route i described for you. It is safe, dont worry. You wont even get near a crowded area.

Your only challenge is that people in Isaan rarely speaks english. But if you have a good map and spend the night in one of the larger cities, you will be fine.

About you dropping off the car, you will have to check the rules of the specific car rental company.

If your tour ends in Ubon (which have directly flight to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket), you can contact these guys here for a delivery in Chiang Mai and drop of in Ubon: travelisaan.com/car-rent-ubon-ratchathani/