Darkest Isan (where decent thais fear to tread), Part Four.
Once upon a time people came to Thailand because it was off the beaten track, later people came because it was on the beaten track, nowadays it’s so easy to travel Thailand makes the beaten track look in dire need of remodernisation just to keep up. Travelling Thailand is now easier than travelling Europe, your average Lonely Planet wielding student from the UK is going to have a less challenging time getting around than their parents on a two week package holiday in Spain. Even the remotest places are a walk in the park to get to, good roads, English signs, friendly and helpful locals, roadside restaurants every few kilometres, motorcycles for hire for under £5 per day and crime and dangers almost non existent (outside the south).
So this makes me wonder why so few bother to travel around Thailand. On the whole two types of tourists come to Thailand, package tourists and backpackers both seemingly content to be herded around the same few overpriced and under delivering sights, sleeping, eating and travelling as they’re told. I’ve always found seeing Thailand in this way akin to sucking sweets with the wrapper still on.
One thing I do in most Thai places I visit is hire a motorcycle, pick a direction and head out of town, often as much as 50-60 km, exploring all the turn offs, venturing along the dirt roads heading towards anything interesting in the distance, stumbling upon small villages and stunning views, chatting to locals in small shops or restaurants. If this sounds a bit bold and adventurous it’s a good thing to remember in Thailand, it’s not.
If your still a bit doubtful about a heading a random direction out of tourist free Chaiyaphum mapless, a good sheltered way to make your first off guide excursion is around Phanom Rung, apart from having stunningly beautiful scenery, safe roads, a good English map is available from the motorcycle hire shops and there are plenty of sights marked on the map to head for. It is quite common for tourists to do this trip so the locals will be used to coming to lost tourists aid.
For me driving around the countryside, looking at the scenery and visiting the minor ruins was the far better experience than Phanom Rung itself. It’s often said there is no beautiful scenery left in Thailand, this is very definitely not true, it’s just a little harder to find these days and the ruins in the middle of untended fields, surrounded by palm trees and farm houses not local parks, the rice farms and small villages, explore-able temples, hills and trails make this one of these places.