How to Travel Around Isaan Thailand

Some travelers like to explore underrated and undervalued region. What may seem dull on the outside, can be quite rich when you dwell into it a little deeper. This is the case of the Isaan region of Thailand.

This part of Thailand is often overlooked by tourists and travelers because it seems to not possess any attractive qualities. It is a simple farmland with people living their day-to-day lives.

If you want to visit a new place which isn’t that crowded to find some peace and quiet, then Isaan is definitely the place for you.

What about Isaan?


Isaan (also written as Isan, Isarn, Issan, Issan etc.) lies in the northeastern region of Thailand.

It consists of 20 provinces. The term “Isaan” is derived from the word “Isanapura” which is the capital of the Chenla Kingdom. The main language spoken is Isan and it is a dialect of the Lao language. This language is written using the Thai alphabet.

The culture is very rich with folk music, boxing, cockfighting and more.

The cuisine is quite interesting as well. Isaan food is very similar with that of the Laos but differs because they consume sticky rice with almost every meal rather than non-sticky rice. Chilli peppers are also a prominent aspect of Isaan’s cuisine. The traditional dress code which belongs to Isaan’s culture is the sarong.

Isaan is well known for its production of silk.

Breathtaking monuments and buildings are also a part of this unexplored part of Thailand. The Buddhist temple is the major attraction of most villages. The locals used the temples not only for religious purposes and ceremonies, but also for different festivals throughout the year.

An interesting fact about Isaan’s culture:

Women do not have relationships with men until they meet the man they are supposed to marry. Younger fiancés will be chaperoned by a female friend, brother or sister in the company of the husband-to-be.

What is really unusual in these parts is that women rarely remain unmarried for a long period of time. Tradition requires the youngest or only daughter to live at home and take care of her parents.

Where is Isaan?

Isaan is half the size of Germany with 160000 km2.

It borders with Laos and Cambodia, and it is coterminous with the Khorat Plateau.

This plateau is divided into two plains:

The southern Khorat and the northern Sakon Nakhon.

The Phu Phan Mountains separate these two planes. Isaan has many rivers such as Mun, Chi, Loei, and Songkhram. The soil is mostly sandy and the average temperature in Isaan can range from 30 °C to 19.6 °C. The highest temperature ever recorded was 43.9 °C, which proves that Isaan has a fairly warm climate.

Traveling by bus

Bus to Isaan

There were many ways to travel around Isaan.

One of the possibilities is taking the bus. In Isaan, busses provide the transport of many people throughout the region. Many bus routes connect all of Isaan’s provincial cities with Bangkok.

You can catch a bus day or night to go in and out of Bangkok. Other parts such as towns and villages offer different frequent services for transportation. These include songthaew services, which are truck-style buses.

Traveling by train

Khorat Train

If you want to travel using the railroad, Isaan has two main lines which connect the region to Bangkok. One of them runs east from Khorat while the other north through Khon Kaen.

Traveling by car

Isaan Highway

Using a car to drive inside and outside the region of Isaan can be a little challenging, but a good car-ride always makes a great traveling experience.

The highway is 15,000km long. The United States built this highway in the 60s and 70s to supply its military bases. You will have a good conditions for driving due to well-paved roads.

If you want to visit some of the poorer districts, you can face minor roads with large potholes and unpaved roads. The main highway has rest and refueling stations. You won’t have to worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Traveling by plane

Bangkok International Airport

Catching a flight to Isaan?

Traveling between Bangkok and other parts of the region is well developed. They are considered cheap and the airports have many daily flights. The original Bangkok international Airport, Don Muang, deals with most flights to and from Bangkok.

Traveling by boat

Mekong River

To get to the region of Isaan, you would probably catch a boat along the Mekong River. Rapids and variable flow make the trip difficult, so there are limited boats. You can rarely find bridges in Isaan as they are very expensive to build due to wide rivers.

What to See in Isaan

Although Isaan is a quiet country in which you can relax, you can find many attractions to explore.

  • The surreal statues of Sala Kaew Ku, Nong Khai –

Statues of Sala Kaew Ku Nong Khai

This is a park in which you can see amazing concrete sculptures inspired by Buddhism. Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat began the construction of this park in 1978, and the sculptures reflect his personal vision. Some of these sculptures are as high as 25 meters. You can visit this unique park from 8 am to 6 pm.


  • The temple inside the mountain at Chiang Khan –

Wat Mahathat

The oldest temple, Wat Mahathat, is in the center of the town Chiang Khan. First constructed in 1654, it now has a new roof.


  • The temple of beer bottles in Si Saket –

Wat Pa Maha Chedi

The Buddhist temple of Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew is also known by an interesting name:

The Temple of a Million Bottles.

It is in the Khum Han district of the Sisaket province in Thailand. This unique temple is made up of over 1.5 million empty Heineken bottles and Chang beer bottles. The gathering of the bottles began in 1984.


  • The Khemer temples in the Phanom Rung –

Prasat Hin Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung (with the full name Prasat Hin Phanom Rung) is a Khemer temple complex.

It is located on the rim of a now extinct volcano and situated at 402 meters elevation in Buriram Province in Isaan. It was built using sandstone and laterite in the 10th and 13th centuries. This historical temple was submitted to UNESCO in 2005 for consideration as a future World Heritage Site.

A bit hard to reach, Isaan still remains a part of Thailand often overlooked by tourists. Visitors and backpackers look at Isaan as irrelevant or just pass by it to get to other parts of Thailand.

However, this part of Thailand remains rich in spirit and calmness as the crowds turn away. A perfect place to relax or explore in peace with no necessary dynamic or pressure. Because of the different transport opportunities, it would be wise to purchase travel insurance just in case something happens. Medical emergencies can happen at any time.

If you have travel insurance, they will be able to cover hospital expenses or pay for your trip back home if something is serious. Check out our interactive travel insurance portal for a quotation.