2016 Isan Tour - 14 Days / 5,100km

Discussion in 'North-East Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by Goran Phuket, May 2, 2016.

  1. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Hi fellow GT Riders. First of all glad to see forum back and on much improved forum platform.

    My Isan Tour commenced on March 27th from Phuket. Yes I know, hot and humid but I don't mind....at least helps me to shed few kg of body fat o_O

    ROUTE:
    Phuket - Amphawa - Pathum Thani - Korat - Buriram - Surin - Sisaket - Ubon - Amnat Charoen - Roi Et - Mukdahan - Kalasin - Sakon Nakhon - Nakhon Phanom - Bueng Kan - Nong Khai - Udon - Khon Kaen - Chaiyaphum - Korat - Nakhon Nayok - Chachoengsao - Chonburi - Hua Hin - Phuket.


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    Last edited: May 3, 2016
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  3. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Following day, March 28th, arrived to Nakhon Ratchasima province (Korat). I was looking for Wat Khao Chan Ngam in Amphur Sikhiu, site well known for prehistoric paintings. However there were no usual blue signboards indicating tourist attraction and my GPS went haywire telling me to ride across some barbed wire fenced bumpy field. Got lost and decided to check this place again on my way back to Phuket some 10 days later. Just before entering provincial capital, spotted this fairly new place of worship, right next to National Hwy 2: Mahawiharn Temple. It is one of the most photographed temples in Thailand. It is much bigger than what appears on photos, I'd say size of European cathedral or even basilica.

    Coordinates: N14.87275, E101.73477

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    Rolled into Ratchasima city, here pictured ancient Chumphon Gate built during the King Narai’s reign in 1656.

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    Overnight at Korat Hotel as per recommendation by fellow GT-Rider Brian BKK. Decent hotel, recently renovated and main attraction being Soapy Massage joint just behind the property.

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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
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  4. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Following day on my way to hot and hazy Buriram, this province is spiritual, historic and archeological gem of Isan. Phanom Rung, Muang Tam, Wat Khao Angkhan...lots of places to see.

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    Bare, drought stricken, haze covered farm land of lower Isan...no rain for months, even trees are dying. Rode today through few hamlets in the region, no people, not even a stray dog to be seen. Life is hard here...

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    Small town of Nang Rong along the route 24, perfect spot to dig in and explore Buriram city up north and historical parks down south-east.
    Phanomrungpuri hotel, inexpensive and very nice overnight stop:
    14.64424, 102.7947 - โรงแรม บุรีรัมย์ โรงแรมพนมรุ้งปุรี บูติคโฮเทล อ.นางรอง จ.บุรีรัมย์

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    Quick stop to home of most successful Thai football club, Buriram FC and i-mobile Thunder Castle Stadium. Adjacent to it is Buriram Racing (Chang) International Circuit. The project is the mastermind of wealthy local politician and former cabinet minister Newin Chidchob. The aim was to build the rural city into a sporting destination in a bid to boost its profile and attract tourism to the north east of Thailand.


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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
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  5. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Turning back south towards historical temples and ruins.

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    But first this amazing temple, Wat Khao Angkhan - 14.53440, 102.83484
    Extraordinary place and story behind it....According to legend Lord Buddha's ashes have been placed here year 535 BC. Temple is located on the hill created 700,000 years ago by what is now extinct volcano. In 1977 well known Monk Phra Achan decided to build the temple and moved Buddha's ashes to store in the stupas. Surrounding the ubosoth are ancient sema stones from Dvaravati period made of basalt which can't be found anywhere else in Thailand.

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    Temple interior

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    Amazing Jataka murals, inside Wat Khao Angkhan, painted by Burmese artists

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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
  6. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Phanom Rung Temple - 14.53223, 102.94532

    The largest and best preserved Khmer temple in Thailand. Over 1000 years old and famed for spectacular sunrise shining straight through 15 perfectly aligned doorways thanks to brilliant architectural design. Locals believe if they see the sun shining through all 15 doors they are about to acquire power and good luck. The phenomena
    can be observed 4 times a year:

    Sunset 4 – 7 March
    Sunrise 2 – 5 April
    Sunrise 8 – 10 September
    Sunset 5 – 8 October

    I was here on March 29th :(

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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
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  7. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Very nice write up along with excellent photos.
    You are basically providing fellow riders with an excellent route to follow.
    Cheers
    Brian
     
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  8. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Quick stop at Prasat Muang Tam, not that far from Phanom Rung: 14.49612, 102.98148
    Built primarily in the Khleang and Baphuon styles, which dates it's primary phases of construction to the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The primary deity was Shiva, although Vishnu was also worshiped there.

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    Really hot around here, this lady came with refreshments just in time

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    Usual sight throughout my rides, folks keep asking for permission to take pic with my beloved Soljaboy GSA :p

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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
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  9. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Continuing my trip towards Sisaket. Route 24 is a straight, long and boring hwy across Korat Plateau. 3rd day in Isan and yet to see blue skies....haze caused by slash and burn blanketing the entire region.

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    Small town of Khun Han in Sisaket and it's main attraction: strange temple....built out of beer and red bull bottles, reportedly million of them hence temple name: WAT LAN KHUAT or MILLION BOTTLES TEMPLE: 14.61803, 104.41817

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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
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  10. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Next stop is Pha Mo I Daeng Cliff at Khao Phra Vihearn National Park. I thought it would be good idea to find overnight spot, offload my gear, refresh and shower first before proceeding towards the park. Heat is unbearable....

    So here I am at village called Ban Krachaeng near town of Kantharalak. Krachang Yai Guesthouse, THB 550 overnight with pool, free wi-fi, coffee, cable TV, park right in front of the room: 14.65886, 104.58330

    Property is even listed at Agoda, apparently Aussie owner but he wasn't around.

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  11. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    After short break and change of clothes on my way towards Pha Mo I Daeng.

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    End of the line, behind this gate is restricted zone and old access to Prea Vihearn Temple. I was hoping to visit the famous temple but seems relations between two countries and joint management of the area as stipulated by UN are still on hold.

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    It don't matter, I can still see the cliff and surrounding area.
    At Pha Mo I Daeng viewpoint; overlooking area where Thailand and Cambodia got involved in armed conflict regarding sovereignity over territory housing famous Preah Vihear Temple. Soldiers from both sides closely scrutinize all activities.

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  12. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

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    Following day to Ubon Ratchatani and Emerald Triangle: the point where Thailand, Cambodia and Laos meet. Restricted and dangerous area due to significant number of landmines still remain uncleared. Thai Army soldiers stationed nearby advised me to turn back.

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    Great disappointment, pleaded with soldier on duty to let me through but to no avail.

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    Oh well, hoping for better luck at my next stop, Huay Luang Waterfall in Phu Chong Nayoi National Park. Pic below collected from internet and placed into my GPS device. Can't wait to get there and dunk my head under those falls....

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    Last edited: May 3, 2016
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  13. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Phu Chong Nayoi National Park gate. I see signboard with inflated entry fees for foreigners but lady charges me local price. Hmmmm....what is going on?

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    About 10km to waterfall, very hot and dry

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    umm...this doesn't look good

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    Arrived at park rangers quarters and see this on display: month of April - no water!!!

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    Now I know why ticket sales lady looked at me that way, almost feeling sorry for me and charging me half price. Still, I can't believe there is such thing called waterfall with no water??? Never seen it before, seriously... Decided to proceed anyway and see for myself.

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    BLOODY HELL!!! There goes my precious waterfall....dry, non-existent! I am puffing and panting for nothing....Should have know better instead of waterfall hunting during worst drought in recent history.

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  14. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Haven't eaten whole day....not hungry due to intensive heat. I can feel pounds of weight shedding of my body....not complaining. But gotta eat something and on my way towards Chong Mek border market.

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    At the Thai / Lao border checkpoint

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    Food looks oily and not very appealing...who knows what kind of meat is that, especially in this part of the country. Quick coffee and water and look for food at 7-11 along the highway

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    On my way out of here, road looks like racing circuit, soljaboy tearing down the hwy at 200km/h

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    Next stop is Khong Chiam right at the banks of mighty Mekong river.
     
  15. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Khong Chiam, wow can't believe my luck...Burmese dude and roti egg pancakes, my favs!

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    Khong Chiam is very close to Thailand's easternmost point, hence this signboard:

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    And so called two-color river

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    After dinner took a stroll around Mekong riverbanks...very quiet at this time of the year. I was told this place is backpackers haven in high season

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  16. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Woke up 6am, can't wait to see Sam Phan Bok Canyon. Never been there before. Fresh morning air and scenic road thru tree tunnels got my attention.
    Stopped for a couple of minutes just to snap this shot.

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  17. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Sam Phan Bok (translated: 3000 holes), canyon by the Mekong River. This curious natural wonder located is just stone throw away from Laos.It is a natural phenomenon where hundreds and thousands of holes have been worn away in the ground’s surface by the water of the mighty Mekong River. It is best visited in the dry season when the water level of the river is at its lowest.

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  18. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    For today I planned overnight stop at the edge of Mukdahan province. First need to get out of Ubon Ratchathani, visit few points at Amnat Charoen, Yasothon and Roi Et before settling for the night at Mukdahan.

    Amnat Charoen became a province in its own right on 12 January 1993, when it was split off from Ubon Ratchathani. It is thus one of the three newest provinces of Thailand.

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    Clock tower in Amnat Charoen city

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    After thundering thru Roi Et which is frankly speaking one of the most backward and least developed provinces I ever seen, arrived to Yasothon, not much better than Roi Et in terms of development. However, St Michael's Wooden Church is quite something and worth a repeat visit.

    Located in Ban Song Yae, Amphoe Thai Charoen, the Catholic Church serves villagers of Ban Nong Song Yae, all of whom are Catholics.
    Initially, the church was a tiny hut and rebuilt many times. This is the fourth edition, built in 1947 by wood contribution from villagers. Built in Thai traditional style, the country’s biggest wooden church is 16 meters wide and 57 meters long. It is made of 80,000 wooden roofs, 360 wooden piles in different sizes, floor made from huge pieces of Malabar ironwood and jamba timber and wooden benches which can accommodate over a thousand people. The 260 wooden piles in the middle row are the biggest, with over 10 meters long.

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    Last edited: Oct 30, 2016
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  19. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    As I said previously, along Roi Et, Yasothon is quite undeveloped, high level of poverty. Drought disaster, forest fires, just made it even worse...

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    But this pic takes the cake: buddhist monks smoking, sporting smart phones and designer sunglasses. In Yasothon of all places.

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  20. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    During planning stages of this trip I had to search through google maps to find accommodation along the route. As you can see, I try avoid entering bigger cities unless there is something to be seen. Just wanted to stay in genuine Isan village and found this place in Mukdahan:

    Thai House Isaan Guesthouse: 16.49290, 104.24585 - http://www.thaihouse-isaan.com/

    Friendly Ausssie owner David John Crow, the only foreigner in this tiny Isan village. Lovely place with pool, free wi-fi, a/c, hot water, TV and all for THB750.
    Also beef steaks, pies and burgers...hard to see such thing in heart of Isan where pork is main part of diet. Can't wait to visit again.

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    Last edited: May 3, 2016
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  21. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Kalasin province, also known as Jurassic Park of Thailand.

    Rode to Phu Faek Forrest Park, famous for T-rex footprints. Back in November 1996, a family noticed strange footprints in the middle of a rock terrace at a ravine near Phu Faek foothill. They later informed geologists who came to survey the site. They discovered seven footprints belonging to carnivorous dinosaurs, believed to have been alive 140 million years ago.

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    Last edited: May 5, 2016
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  22. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Not far away from actual footprint site there is excellent museum: Phu Kum Khao or as recently renamed Sirindhorn Museum.
    Definitely not a tourist trap, well maintained and free entry too.

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  23. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Funny you mention that.. We were going to go in.. But bailed as the crowds were so bad.
    Didn't want to leave all our gear on the bikes and hike.

    But must say.. This waterfall does look like a winner and worth a visit.

    Nice of the lady to charge you the Thai price.. May be too many angry people when nothing to see at full price LOL
    Cheers
    Brian
     
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  24. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    During my visit there were less than 10 people. True, she didn't charge me full price because there is nothing to see anyway.
     
  25. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Sakhon Nakhon Province. Have been warned by many Thais to be careful here, apparently last bastion of dog-eating culture in Thailand. To be honest, haven't seen anything unusual but didn't look for any restaurants either. 7-11 is a life saver.

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    These are Khong Ping Ngu Curves, long, winding road named after it's similarity to a slithering snake (Ngu in Thai). Apparently that milestone in the background is the largest in Thailand - according to TAT. I have to say, I've seen much bigger.

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    I was told there is a Royal Summer Retreat around here somewhere, a palace. Asked few people and even though I was less than 1km away they sent me wrong way. This was not the first time during the trip, quite surprised how oblivious folks here are. I guess they have more important things on their mind....

    And finally I find Phu Phan Ratchaniwet Palace. First gate was shut, apparently member of Royal Family was there. Went thru another gate but my movement was heavily restricted for reason mentioned earlier.

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    Lots of these beautiful birds around but as soon as I come closer they run away...Still managed to snap this one.

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    Last edited: May 5, 2016
  26. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Tomorrow morning I am off to 3 days ride so there will be no topic updates until Monday.
     

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