Referring to Thai tourism, visitors often think of bustling Bangkok with modern and eventful shopping malls, Chiang Mai with the peaceful atmosphere and natural beauty or pristine beaches of Phuket,…
But, why don’t we try coming to another less-known destination in this land of Golden Temples by traveling to Northeastern Thailand, Isaan, to have more interesting experience and new perspective, to make our trip is no more just a trip but always goes along with a precious lesson, a huge amount of knowledge!
Isaan (or Isan, Isarn, Issan, Esarn) is the northeastern part of Thailand, located on Khorat plateau, with the Mekong River flowing through the East and the North, and the South sharing the border with Cambodia. In the West, there are Phetchabun Mountains which separates Isaan from central Thailand.
Isaan is quite large, with 19 provinces, but the 10 highlights below are the most wonderful destinations for any tourist.
1. Wat Phu Tok, Udon Thani Province
Wat Phu Tok is the most famous tourist attraction in Udon Thani province. The meaning of the name Wat Phu Tok is the temple of the mountain, although the terrain here is more like a hill than a mountain.
It is not too high, so if you have fear of heights, don’t worry. The way up the mountain is a wooden path, there are seven steps representing the seven spiritual enlightenment of Buddhist philosophy.
Inside the cave, there is a wooden staircase for the monks in Isaan. Wat Phu Tok is a peaceful mountain, attracting thousands of Buddhists throughout Thailand to cross the road to participate in meditation.
2. Wat Pa Lak Roy, Nakhon Ratchasima Province
Completed in 1977, Wat Pa Lak Roy was dubbed the Hell Temple because of the terrifying scenes waiting for visitors inside.
As soon as you walk through the main gate, you will see statues reconstructing Thai life during the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
Most prominent and haunted zone here is the “Paradise and Hell”. With colorful statues depicting the most horrible punishments in hell: the scary beastly demon’s faces, the horror on the face of the guilty,… This place is built for the purpose of education, of giving people good direction and enlightenment in life.
3. Wat Lam Duan, Nong Khai Province
Nong Khai is home to many temples and pagodas. It is conjectured that this province has the sacred Mekong River flowing through and carrying along a lot of spirits, so, the pagoda here must be kept.
4. Wat Phra That Na Dun, Mahasarakham Province
Phra That Na Dun, otherwise known as the Isaan Buddhist Park, is an important historical and archaeological site of the region. These sculptures are the only surviving remnants of the Champa culture, proving the existence of the ancient city of Champa Si.
The most important work here is Chedi, which is believed to be the relic of the Buddha. Inside the Chedi is a myriad of gold, silver, and bronze coffins dating back to the Dvaravati period (8th-10th centuries).
5. Sala Kaew Ku Monument, Nong Khai Province
Sala Kaew Ku is a famous park with huge Buddhist and Hindu statues in Nong Khai province, near Thai-Lao border.
The park was built by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat and his followers in 1978. The sculptures here are mostly of Sulilat’s creations, highlighting their extraordinary appearance and enormous size.
So, those are the first 5 out of 10 must-come destinations when coming to Isaan, a spiritual and cultural land of Thailand, a place that you can find more than just a holiday trip!
To find out the other 5 sites of this cultural land, let’s follow me to the NEXT part!