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Thailand Isan Tour

A selection of photos from a recent, short but very sweet, 1-week tour of northeastern Thailand

Our Thailand Isan Tour, taking you overland from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani in the far east of the country, can be booked as a stand-alone tour – perhaps followed by a few days on an island making it up to a 12-day trip for those with less time available. Alternatively, this northeastern Thailand section forms the first half of our 2-week Emerald Triangle itinerary which continues from Ubon on into southern Laos and the 4,000 Islands before following the course of the Mekong south to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

The iconic roots and Buddha head at Ayutthaya Ancient City
The iconic roots and Buddha head at Ayutthaya Ancient City

We’ve recently revamped this section and a recent March Isan tour was the first opportunity we’d had to lead the tour personally. And, if we do say so ourselves, a thoroughly excellent and highly varied tour it was too.

As usual in Thailand, the food was awesome; from the pavement pad Thai in the Surin night market to a great cook-your-own lunch experience in Buriram and the fantastic eatery in Pak Chong where the group honoured the chef with a round of applause.

Pad Thai lunch in Ayutthaya
Pad Thai lunch in Ayutthaya

Accommodation was varied but cosy and comfortable throughout from the more classic hotel style of Bangkok to Mekong-side chalets in Khong Jiam and the friendly and delightfully decorated Wood boutique hotel in Surin.

Thailand Isan Tour
The Wood Surin

Leaving Bangkok our first stop was a boat tour of the World Heritage ancient city of Ayutthaya. Our boat completed a circular tour of the historic site by river and canal with stops at riverside temples on route before heading east in the afternoon to Pak Chong town, gateway to Khao Yai National Park.

The following day was a 4WD safari and hike in the also UNESCO-listed park where our expert local guide ensured a host of wildlife sightings. A wild elephant, different deer species, a giant squirrel, pig-tailed macaques and gibbons were some of the mammals seen while birdlife included 3 species of hornbill, broadbills and 2 varieties of trogon.

Green-tailed broadbill, Khao Yai National Park
Yes it is real! Green-tailed broadbill, Khao Yai National Park
Thailand Isan Tour
Dubious jungle fashion choices, (we saw about 2 leeches in the entire day!)

After a day in the jungle, the next part of the programme provided a complete contrast with visits to some of the spectacular Angkor-era temples in adjacent Buriram Province. These included the UNESCO tentative list sites of Prasat Phanom Rung – atop an extinct volcano – and the well-preserved Prasat Muang Tham sanctuary. Walks around the ancient sites were broken up with a visit to a village community-based tourism scheme where the very welcoming family taught our group how to cook a local-style lunch.

Thailand Isan Tour
Not sure what it was – despite 30 years in Thaland we’d never come across this dish before. (Some kind of elaborate shrimp scrambled egg!

After a fun evening in Surin involving a street food tour of the night market and cold beers on a well-situated terrace, we headed east to the small town of Khong Jiam. The town is located at the confluence of the Mekong and Mun – one of its largest tributaries – with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic located on the opposite bank of the river.

Mun River, Ubon Ratchathani Sunset boat cruise on the Mun River[/caption]

The following day was again something completely with a hike in nearby Pha Taem National Park to see the prehistoric petroglyphs as well as views across the river and the forests and mountains of Lao. A picturesque sunset boat cruise up the Mun River completed the day. After an excellent farewell dinner at our riverside resort the following day was a transfer to Ubon Airport where some of our group headed down for a few days of beach time on Koh Chang and the less lucky ones flew back to Bangkok.

Curious rock paintings at Pha Taem National Park
Curious rock paintings at Pha Taem National Park

As we said, the Thailand Isan Tour, was fun, scenic and highly varied and we hope the group enjoyed it as much as we did. (They certainly seemed to!)