The best way to see Thailand – Excerpt (6)

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)

The drive

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.

Korat Plateau

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.

Lam Plai Mat (farming town) - Isaan
Lam Plai Mat (farming town) – Isaan

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.

A great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) flying in ...
A great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) flying in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Haeo Suwat waterfall in Khao Yai National Park...
Haeo Suwat waterfall in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Working buffalo
Working buffalo

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.

THE BEST WAY TO SEE THAILAND – EXCERPT 5

THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 1 – 15 WEEKS

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8 thoughts on “The best way to see Thailand – Excerpt (6)”

  1. Your time spent in Isaan was never wasted, despite some of the disappointments you may have endured. All experiences lead the way to better decision making later on in life. Enjoy the ride, and keep those pictorials coming along, Cheers, Dennis.

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  2. Yes, I just wonder how long the primitive lifestyles will endure. In today’s world of modern technology, and educational standards on the up and up, the old customs of Isaan will eventually dissolve. Hence the land values will rise, as more and more people will treat Korat as a nearby suburb of Bangkok. If Thailand builds a fast train, similar to Malaysia, then we will be able to see more and more hobby farm type people commuting between those centres. The stigma of Isaan people is still very evident with Bangkok city people. It’s a form of racism evolved from the original Laos people (Isaan) being allowed to stay on their native landplots after they shifted the Thai borders northwards centuries ago. Despite what is sometimes said about Isaan people, I have always enjoyed their company, and mingled in with their lifestyles quite comfortably. It’s interesting that you spent three years there. I’m sure the experience will linger forever.

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    1. Hi Dennis. I love it when someone comments by adding interest to a post. Things always become clearer if one takes the time to delve back in time a little. Isaan people are a mixed bunch and, of course, much of Isaan was part of the Khymer empire. My Isaan experience was my first of living in Thailand and was unfortunately not a happy one. At that time I had little knowledge of Thailand and its people so it was difficult. I think if I was to live there now it would be a lot easier. Thanks for your comment. James

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      1. Thank you James for your latest issue on Khao Yai National Park. It’s always been my concern that many Asians don’t truly respect National Parks and of course the animal kingdom. The sale of products from animal slaughter has been an horrific enterprise by Asian people for centuries, resulting in Chinese medicine being the be all, end all. Of course we know differently, and over time I feel that proper education to these greedy constituents will eventually disappear.

        It has been so refreshing to see the Thai Governement, and of course it’s people embellish the necessity of having National Parks and protection of beautiful creatures. This is one such location that seems to flourish in its efforts to maintain proper care and responsibility for the sake of many generations to come.

        Your article has inspired us all to be better informed, and of course make the effort to indulge in visiting and appreciating what’s there.
        Keep up the good work, and yes we are still following you.

        Regards, Dennis ?

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