Set in Isan, Thailand’s northeast region, Khon Kaen is a university town surrounded by noteworthy temples, museums, cultural attractions and natural wonders. The town on the plateau is home to a plethora of colourful cultures, and was once home to gigantic dinosaurs as well. Wind down day trips to majestic pagodas, Khmer ruins and national parks with a food trip at the night markets. You’ll make new friends at every stop, guaranteed.
Best of Khon Kaen
1. Wat Nong Wang
Enter a state of calm as chimes tinkle in the wind at the nine-tier pagoda also known as Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon. The relics of the Buddha, the amazing city views from the top and the elegant architecture make the temple a must-see for every traveller to Khon Kaen.
2. Phu Wiang Dinosaur Museum
Amidst the woods of the Phu Wiang National Park is a modern museum where you can learn about the prehistoric creatures that once lived in the area. Through interactive displays and fossil exhibits, the first dinosaurs discovered in Thailand come alive – growling animatronics included.
3. Khon Kaen National Museum
The historian and culturati in you will be amazed by the museum’s amazing collection, including Ban Chiang and Dvaravati artefacts discovered around Isan, and exhibits on the daily life and religious practices of civilisations past.
4. Night markets
As daylight fades away, locals troop to the night markets for cheap eats and shopping— think silk, crafts, clothing and accessories. Come for the atmosphere and leave with your hands full and your belly satisfied.
5. Lake Bueng Kaen Nakhon
Spend an afternoon in the shade of lakeside trees, spot the sculptures along the way, cycle around the surrounding park, or take a paddleboat across the 603-hectare lake, a favourite hangout amongst sunset watchers.
6. Animal Villages
Cages are not in vogue in Khon Kaen, as you will see when you visit King Cobra Village, Tortoise Village and Buffalo Village. The bat cave at Phu Pha Man National Park will have you heeding the bat signal as millions of the nocturnal flyers file out of the limestone caves at sunset.
7. Prasat Pueai Noi
Traverse off the beaten track and marvel at the detailed carvings on the sandstone lintels at this Khmer temple dating from the 12th century. The ancient Hindu pagodas are among the remains of the grand Angkor Empire, which once stretched from Laos to Thailand.
8. Mat Mee Silk
Northeast Thailand’s pride ‘mat mee silk’, enjoys a revival with the support of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. See the tie-dyed silk threads woven into intricate patterns at the Sala Mai Thai silk museum or grab a few metres of fabric at reasonable prices in the Chonabot District.
9. Som Tam
Green papaya salad is known the world over for the sweet/sour/salty/spicy punch it delivers. The Isan version includes picked mud fish, adding an unusual flavour that may take some getting used to.
10. Gai Yahng
Free-range chicken butterflied on sticks, marinated overnight with soy sauce and fish sauce, and grilled slowly over charcoal, accompanied with spicy dipping sauce and balls of sticky rice. Isan’s grilled chicken is praised all over the country for the level of care and attention heaped on its creation.