Another emerging destination to fulfill your requirements for an authentic Thai holiday experience.
By Percy Roxas
Forget the beach destinations for a while. There is so much in Thailand awaiting your discovery and exploration. In Northeastern Thailand alone, many hidden gems such as Khon Kaen – await to make your Thai holiday experience more meaningful. Established a little over two centuries ago, Khon Kaen sits on an area dating to prehistoric era, making a veritable goldmine of unique holiday experiences at every turn. Khon Kaen is located in the heart of the Korat Plateau, a former home to dinosaurs, experts say. Through the ages, people from various cultures occupied the plateau enriching it with their own varying heritages. It became part of the ancient Khmer Empire in the 12th century, which left its own stamp in the area. Today, the Khon Kaen that was established in 1783, is considered the commercial and political center of the Isan (Northeastern Thailand) region, a hub of education and technology, a leading producer of high quality Thai silk, and not the least – an emerging major educational tourism destination in its own right.
As in most places in Thailand, religious places of varying significance are scattered around Khon Kaen. One is the Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon (9-storey stupa) at Wat Nong Waeng, a royal temple on Klang Mueang Road that houses Lord Buddha’s relics and important Buddhist scriptures. Another is the Sim Isan (Wat Pa Saeng Arun). Sim Isan is a northeastern term for ordination hall or ubosot. Sim Isan’s outstanding features include its typical shape, style, and solidity, as well as the beautiful murals with mudmee patterns. Interested in art? Then, Wat Chai might be for you. The temple, located at Ban Sawathi, was declared a national ancient monument in 2001 and has an ordination hall with magnificent mural paintings, both inside and outside, created by folk artisans from Maha Sarakham. There is also a museum where rare Isan folk artifacts are collected. Archaeological buffs will find the Ku Prapha Chai (Ku Ban Na Kham Noi) most interesting too.
Thai Airways (Tel: 043-227-701) flies from Bangkok to Khon Kaen and back three times a day. The local airport number is 043-246-345.
Express trains leave Hua Lumphong Bangkok (Bangkok-Nong Khai line) at 8:20 a.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. for the eight-hour journey to the Khon Kaen Train Station daily.
Buses leave Bangkok’s Northern (Morchit) Bus Terminal every 15 minutes from early morning until late. There are also some private VIP bus service operators.