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Get off the tourist trail with an overland adventure through Thailand’s Isaan province. Travel from Bangkok to Sukhothai, and all places in between. Marvel at prehistoric wall paintings, come face-to-face with Asian elephants, see awe-inspiring temples and be enchanted by the rich culture of the Isaan people.
Spend a night with a local family, join blessing ceremonies and share meals for a better understanding of Isaan culture.
Travel along a quiet stretch of the Mekong River, see Phu Rua National Park’s pristine mountains and be enchanted by Moon Lake.
See Pha Taem’s prehistoric paintings, explore Angkorian-era temples and visit Ho Chi Minh’s former house and glimpse into Isaan’s past.
Isaan Insight - 10 Days / 9 Nights
Depart Bangkok by car, driving north to Ayutthaya to visit the highlights of the historical parks of this once-glorious capital city. Lunch is enjoyed at a local restaurant before continuing the journey to Korat in the afternoon. A visit is paid to Prasat Hin Phimai en route, the largest sandstone Khmer temple complex in Thailand dating back to the Angkorian period when the Khmer empire stretched across the kingdom. The sanctuary has been magnificently restored, and the renovated ruins have been preserved as a National Historical Park. Proceed to the hotel for check-in.
This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant, where and try the famous local version of pad Thai “pad mee Korat”, papaya salad and barbecued chicken.
Overnight in Korat.
After breakfast, the day starts with a visit to Dan Kwian Pottery Village before venturing east to Buriram. En route, stop at Wat Khao Angkan, an ancient lesser-known temple and site of an extinct volcano. Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, visit Phnom Rung Historical Park, one of the most impressive of all Khmer monuments in Thailand. Following this, visit the nearby Prasat Muang Tam, an older Khmer temple built by King Jayavarman V.
Overnight in Buriram.
Breakfast at the hotel, check out and depart for Surin, approximately a one-hour drive.
Upon arrival in Surin, drive to Silver Khwaosinarin Village, where “Pa Kuen Krub Ban”, traditional Thai silverware, is meticulously crafted with beautiful lines. In addition to being able to witness how this beautiful and unique artform is done, also have a chance to purchase some beautiful silverware, -this is the only place where one can find this particular style -so it’s an amazing souvenir.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, visit Ban Tha Sawang in Surin Province. Here, take a look at the ancient style of silk weaving process that locals use to weave beautiful silk products. This weaving project is supported and promoted by the Bureau of the Royal Household and Her Majesty the Queen's Foundation, and is well-known for being an outstanding form of cultural preservation.
Overnight in Surin.
After breakfast at the hotel, check out and drive to Tha Tum Elephant Village. Here, visit the “Surin Project”, a project which aims to create a world-class elephant sanctuary to provide better living conditions for rehabilitated elephants. Visiting here is an opportunity to learn much about elephants and their conservation.
After a few hours at the Elephant Village, head to Ubon Ratchathani. Along the way, a stop is made at Sikhoraphum Sanctuary to see a Khmer temple and the only Apsara sculptures found in Thailand. Lunch will be at a local restaurant.
The drive continues to Ubon Ratchathani providing the opportunity to visit the local temples in town, including Wat Thung Sri Muang, built in a very unusual mixture of Thai, Lao and Burmese styles. Later in the afternoon, venture to the easternmost town of the Siamese border – Khong Jiam District, located on the Mekong and the Mun Rivers.
Overnight in Khong Jiam.
Today’s adventures begin with a journey to Pha Taem National Park, where a number of prehistoric paintings can be seen. Although these paintings are between 5,000-7,000 years old, most of the figures of fish and animals can be clearly seen. The Fine Arts Department has some interesting theories, but not much is known about the origins of these paintings or the people who drew them. In addition to the fascinating cave paintings, the park also features unusual sandstone rock formations which can be visited with a moderate hike.
(Note: Appropriate clothing and footgear needs to be worn for the hike on the partially rocky surface.)
Lunch at a local restaurant.
The drive then heads down to a village on the Mekong River, just below the cliffs, where there is a beautiful Lao-style temple. Here, board a local boat and proceed along a narrow and interesting part of the Mekong River to Khong Jiam. Upon arrival, a car awaits to drive to Kaeng Tana, the biggest cataract in the middle of the Moon River. The cataract itself is a big stone platform lying across the Moon River, causing the water flowing through Kaeng Tana to take the form of beautiful waterfalls.
(Note: Kaeng Tana is best seen during dry season)
Return to the resort for dinner.
Overnight in Khong Jiam.
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast at the hotel, before driving north through beautiful Mekong mountain scenery following the river to Mukdahan. Stop en route for lunch at a local restaurant near Indochina Market, overlooking the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River. Visit a traditional Lao-Isaan village on the Korat Plateau, where age-old customs and crafts are still very much a part of everyday’s life. The villagers are more than happy for visitors to sit and try their hand at any of the steps of the process. Lastly, make a stop at Phra That Phanom, a highly revered sacred monument for both the Thai and Laotian people for centuries.
Dinner and overnight in Nakhon Phanom.
In the morning, the first visit is to the House of Ho Chi Minh at Najok Village in Nakhon Phanom, a Thai community of people who are of Vietnamese origin. The place is of great historical importance because President Ho Chi Minh stayed here for seven years (1924-1931), when he was the leader of the resistance movement against the French. Lunch on the way to Udon Thani.
Continuing to Udon Thani, visit Ban Chiang Archaeological Site. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992, the village is best known for the beautiful pottery that villagers made during ancient times. There are many other artefacts to be found in the area as well. In the late afternoon, head to Wang Nam Mok Homestay –an award winning village geared towards preserving natural resources and developing occupations for local people. Upon arrival, be greeted warmly by villagers and check in to the homestay house. A relaxing afternoon is spent walking around the village amongst rice paddies. Throughout the day, there are plenty of opportunities for interactions with local people, whether chatting with them or taking part in their activities - even helping with the preparation of the dinner.
Tonight, the villagers perform the impressive traditional Baci Ceremony, blessing visitors for safe travels, health and good luck. The ceremony is followed by dinner together, dining on delicious local specialties.
Overnight at the Wang Nam Mok Homestay.
Today begins with an early start, joining the homestay host for alms-giving in the morning. During this traditional daily ritual, Buddhists donate food and other daily commodities to monks as a good deed, and as a means of earning good karma. Afterwards, return to the house for a typical local breakfast. After breakfast, visit the cultural route at some local temples and a famous Buddha image, “Phra Chao Lan Thong”, followed by a visit to the Nam Mok local village experience. Lunch at the village before saying goodbye to the host family. Then, continue driving to Loei Province. Along the way, stop to take a boat trip along the Mekong River at Chiang Khan and visit the charming riverside town characterized by rows of teak wood shop houses.
Continue to Dan Sai District in Loei for overnight.
Dinner and overnight in Dan Sai.
After breakfast at the hotel, the first item of the day is a visit to Phra That Sri Song Rak, located on the banks of the Mun River. This large Lao-style pagoda, similar to that of Phra That Phanom, houses relics of the Lord Buddha. Although it’s a great place to see throughout the year, it really comes to life during the Phi Ta Khon Celebration held annually in May or June. After, a visit is made to the Dansai Folk Museum with an excellent display on the history, culture and costumes of the Phi Ta Khon Festival as well as the old tradition of Dansai District. Getting hands-on experience with mask painting is an exciting way to learn more and also provides a memorable handmade souvenir to take home.
A short stop is taken at Wat Neramitt Vipatsana to see its beautiful hall and pagoda, both constructed of laterite (red soil). This temple also has a good selection of products created by the monks and novices, which make for great souvenirs.
Driving to Phu Rua High Altitude Agricultural Research Station offers some superb views. Phu Rua's summit is a large plain at 1,365 metres above sea level. Stop at Chateau de Loei and Vineyard, one of the first and most widely acclaimed vineyards in Thailand which has succeeded in cultivating Old World grapes to produce surprisingly complex wine. Visitors can sample the grapes, try the passion fruit juice and nibble on fresh vegetables from the orchard and farm – and of course there’s wine tasting! (Chateau de Loei is open daily from 08:00 – 17:00)
Dinner and overnight in Dan Sai.
The day of departure begins with breakfast at the hotel, followed by a drive through spectacular mountain scenery to Phitsanulok. Visit Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, commonly known by the inhabitants as "Wat Yai", which is the most important monastery of Phitsanulok, and also the home of the famous Phra Phuttha Chinnarat. The monastery was built in the reign of Phra Maha Thamma Racha I (Phraya Lithai) in 1357 A.D. It houses Phra Phuttha Chinnarat, regarded as the most beautiful Buddha image in Thailand.
Continue to Sukhothai Airport for a flight to Bangkok.
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