What to See and Do in Isaan
Northeastern Thailand, otherwise known as Isaan, is, to tourists at least, the country’s great unknown. The giant drought-prone area is the poorest part of Thailand and banner attractions are fewer here than in other regions. Nevertheless, its fascinating cultural makeup (it has more in common with Laos than other parts of Thailand), fiery cuisine, superb national parks, and entrancing Mekong River scenery make it well worth investigating.
Chiang Khan District, Loei 42110, Thailand
Of all the Mekong River towns in Thailand, Chiang Khan is probably the most appealing to visitors. Nestled right on the mighty river, the small town possesses low-key but enjoyable attractions such as the quaint wooden shophouses of its Walking Street and a riverside esplanade ideal for taking in the breeze and the wonderful views across the river to the mountains of Laos.
Like the more famous Buddha Park just over the Mekong River near Vientiane, this sculpture park is both weird and wonderful. Built over a period of 20 years by Luang Pu, a mystic, the part features an array of gigantic sculptures ablaze with Buddhist imagery. Also compelling is the central shrine building where Luang Pu’s body lies under a glass dome ringed by flashing lights.
One of Thailand’s least visited national parks, Pha Taem deserves much more exposure. Not only does it boast some awesome scenery -- the views over the Mekong River to Laos from the top of the cliff that dominates the park are incredible -- it also has prehistoric rock painting dating back to at least 1000BC. Other highlights include waterfalls and unique rock formations.