10 Highlights of East and North-East Thailand
10 Highlights of East and North-East Thailand
The east and north-east of Thailand offers up a diverse mix of attractions ranging from famous beach resorts to little-known riverside towns. On the east coast, Pattaya and Ko Chang attract visitors from around the world. In between these two established destinations, Rayong and Chanthaburi have traditionally been popular with Thai visitors and are an excellent alternative to the mainstream tourist resorts. And heading further inland to the agricultural heartland of north-east Thailand, adventurous travellers will find delightful riverside towns, ancient Khmer temples, and some amazing natural attractions.
1) Island Hopping in the Ko Chang Archipelago
Located close to the Thailand-Cambodia border, lovely Ko Chang is the main attraction in a string of dozens of islands that collectively make up the Ko Chang archipelago. Many of the islands are uninhabited with the main tourist facilities to be found on Ko Chang. Accommodation is also available on the quieter nearby islands of Ko Kut (also known as Ko Kood), Ko Muk and Ko Wai.
2) Beyond the Nightlife in Pattaya
Pattaya is one of Thailand’s most visited seaside resorts, but it’s also one that probably divides opinion more than any other. Although the brash nightlife isn’t to everybody’s taste, there is more to Pattaya than the neon lights and bars. Located just a few hours drive south of Bangkok and with a host of family-friendly attractions including water-parks and tropical gardens, Pattaya can be an attractive proposition for families.
3) Go Local
Learn more about the traditional way of life in Thailand with a visit to a local community and gently relax into the easy-going Thai lifestyle with an overnight homestay. There are a number of wonderful Community Based Tourism initiatives in this region where you can see first-hand the local wisdom and skills that have been handed down over the generations. Examples of places to visit include the award-winning Ban Nam Chiao Community in Trat province and Baan Sa Som village in Ubon Ratchathani.
4) Elephant Watching in Khao Yai
Thailand’s oldest National Park, Khao Yai, is located a few hours to the north-east of Bangkok. The massive park is a haven for wildlife and one of the few locations in Thailand where you can still see elephants in the wild. Visit as part of a day trip from Bangkok or stay a few nights in one of the luxury resorts close to the park’s main entrance.
5) Celebrate Unique Local Festivals in Isaan
The north-east Isaan region has its own unique culture and identity that make it a joy to visit. This area is off the main tourist trail and a warm Isaan welcome awaits travellers who do come here. To get a sense of what Isaan is all about, try to take in one of the local festivals that are celebrated in effervescent fashion. Take your pick from the Loei Ghost Festival, the Yasothon Rocket Festival or the Ubon Candle Festival to name just three.
6) Explore Ancient Khmer Ruins
Between the 9th to 15th centuries, the mighty Khmer Empire extended from Cambodia into what is now north-east Thailand. The impressive remains of ancient Khmer temples can be found at various locations around the north-east with outstanding examples located at Phanom Rung in Buriram and Phimai near Nakhon Ratchasima.
7) Discover the Charms of Chanthaburi
Most overseas tourists tend to bypass Chanthaburi in the rush to reach Ko Chang. That’s a shame because those who do spend time here will find a quiet province which features serene beaches, a charming riverside town and some fascinating historical sites.
8) Enjoy the Sporting Life
Sports enthusiasts will find ample opportunity to indulge their passion in this part of Thailand. Pattaya and the surrounding area is home to some world-class golf courses and football fans visiting the north-east should check the fixture schedules to try and catch a match involving Thailand’s most successful and biggest supported team, Buriram FC. And staying in Buriram, the city is also home to an international racing circuit with regular motor sport events throughout the year. Elsewhere in the region, there is white-water rafting in Nakhon Nayok and a number of scenic kayaking trips available around Ko Chang.
9) Relax by the Mekong River
The magnificent Mekong River hugs Thailand’s north-east provinces forming a natural border with neighbouring Laos. Along its course there are some delightful riverside towns to enjoy the views with Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom worthy of special mention.
10) Visit Amazing Natural Attractions
Thailand is blessed with so many natural attractions and the east and north-east region has more than its fair share. From the breathtaking beauty of the Red Lotus Lake in Udon Thani to the quirky rock formations of Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Chaiyaphum province, this area is full of geological marvels.