THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 2 – DRIVING THAILAND
Driving Thailand is the second Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now complete. But before I publish it as my second FREE e-book I have decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book.
NORTH EAST (ISAAN)
‘I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something”. Mitch Hedberg American comedian (1968 – 2005)
In Bangkok pick up Route 1 or 9 North then join Route 2 East bound to Saraburi and then carry on East to Nakhon Ratchasima commonly known as Korat (140kms). The first section to Saraburi is, for the most part, not a pleasant drive but from thereon the scenery changes. If you take Route 24 to Ubon Ratchathani you go across country and miss all the towns but the old road 226 takes you through Korat (140kms), Buriram (280kms), Surin (350kms) to Ubon Ratchatani (500kms). South from Surin on the 214 takes you across the border just past Kap Cherng into Cambodia while the 217 road a little further east from Ubon Ratchathani takes you across the border into Laos at Chong Mek.
The main town Nakhon Ratchisima (Korat as it is generally known) has a population of 170,000 and sits on the western edge of the Korat plateau, the main rice farming area of Thailand, very hot in the monsoon season; dry and much cooler at night in December and January. Isaan is recognised as the poorest area of Thailand and it shows in its towns. Like all Isaan towns Korat is dull in terms of architecture and modernity.
Small farming towns like Lam Plai Mat (near Buriram), where I lived, create an impression of a Hollywood Western Movie set; but I saw no sign of Clint Eastwood! The Korat Plateau is a large expanse of land given over primarily to rice farming and is flat and largely uninteresting.
There are National Parks dotted around the edge of the plateau like Khao Yai National Park, between Korat and Saraburi, where the areas are hilly and forested. Khao Yai is very beautiful and there are reputed to be some tigers living there.
Being a mixture of Laos, Khmer (Cambodian) and Thai the dialect is distinct from other areas. The people are generally very rural and living conditions tend to be more primitive than in other parts of Thailand.
Buffalo are still used extensively throughout the area on the farms and are considered a part of the household along with cattle. Despite the fact that many people eat dogs, rats, birds, lizards and snakes in Isaan plus the entrails of pigs, every single part of a chicken and the most nauseating fermented rotting fish (common in rural Thailand) called ‘pla ra’, the cuisine that ‘Farangs’ could readily identify as food is amongst the best in Asia. I lived here for three years and enjoyed the food immensely. There is a smattering of ex-pats spread all over Isaan, particularly Americans in the northern towns of Udon Thani, Nong Khai and Khon Kaen which were used as American air bases during the Vietnam War.