Guide Book to Darkest ……. erm!….. Isan?… Issan? ….. Isarn, Isaan, Esan, Esarn, Eesarn? ….. whatever!

When I set out to explore Isan I looked for a guide book, but found none. The few mainstream ones had a remarkably short section on the place, missing out half the provinces and barely covering the others. It was as if they were acknowledging that it wasn’t a place for tourists. After a month here I’m convinced of that too, it’s a place for people that want to visit Thailand.

Part 1 – Templed out in Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima)
Part 2 – Khorat to Phimai
Part 3 – Buriram to Nang Rong and Phanom Rung
Part 4 – Around Phanom Rung
Part 5 – Kalasin to Roi Et
Part 6 – Mukdahan
Part 7 – The Ban Song Khan Catholic Massacre Monument
Part 8 – Nakhon Phanom (City of Mountains)
Part 9 – Ho Chi Mihn’s House in Thailand
Part 10 – Buddha Park and Nong Khai
Part 11 – Nong Khai to Udon Thani & Ban Chiang
Part 12 – Chaiyaphum in my Tardis

I called my travels Darkest Isan, where decent Thai’s fear to tread, rather jokingly for the Thai stereotype of this Lao speaking region is as a rundown backwater populated by peasants completely unThai. In reality the traditional Thailand these stereotypers are talking about no-longer exists and hasn’t for a decade. After a month in Lao the previous year, my favourite place on earth, where I travelled to the unspoilt east, I embarked on my trip the Isan half hoping the stereotype was true and I would recapture the Lao experience. What I discovered should have disappointed but didn’t, Isan is like in the stereotype not unThai backwater but rather the lost old Thailand instead. Isan has become not so much what Thailand used to be, but what it could have become if it had gone another direction. What would Chiang Mai or Phuket could be like had not one tourist set foot there, and not an undeveloped backwater, but a place that has retained its identity and is designed for locals.

Never having really taken to the north and south of Thailand, I’ve always been an east, centre and west sort of person. What my Isan trip did was make me an Isan or Nakhon Nowhere as many ex-pats like to call it, sort of person. In fact in April 2011 I moved here. I’m not sure whether anyone has used the term before but from now on when I talk of the people and place it’s, we Isanites.

3 responses to “Guide Book to Darkest ……. erm!….. Isan?… Issan? ….. Isarn, Isaan, Esan, Esarn, Eesarn? ….. whatever!

  1. the red arrows on your diagram are somewhat similar to the route i would take.but would also include a side trip to sukhothai,and maybe chiang khong,mae rim as well.none the less,always an interesting read.

  2. Paul Wilding

    I actually went in with no plan at all other than to start at Phimai and end at Loei. It didn’t work out too well as Loei was flooded.

    Also I missed out much of the SE of Isan and am planning a visit to around there, the more I study the place the more interesting it looks.

  3. Yeah sure thing ,isan rules .
    I.m planning to buy a house near prakon chai next year .
    I.m living in BKK ,mos.t of the year , but I.m always very happy to go isan for a couple of week.s .
    I work in europe ,and its nice to stay in P CH , and just relax .
    I think its just a metter of time , before the tourist will discover isan , specialy for back packers , it might be intresting .