Explore the Northeastern Thai province of Nakhon Ratchasima, the gateway to Isaan
Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as Korat, is an industrial, yet pleasant city located on the Korat Plateau. Traditionally regarded as the boundary point between the Lao and Siamese territories, it is now considered to be the gateway to the Issan region. It also houses the fifth-largest population in Thailand. At around 250 kilometers (160 miles) from Bangkok and directly linked by both train and highway,
Nakhon Ratchasima Travel Guide
Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as Korat, is an industrial, yet pleasant city located on the Korat Plateau. Traditionally regarded as the boundary point between the Lao and Siamese territories, it is now considered to be the gateway to the Issan region. It also houses the fifth-largest population in Thailand. At around 250 kilometers (160 miles) from Bangkok and directly linked by both train and highway, it functions as a frequent stop-off point on the way to northeastern Thailand and Laos beyond. It was first established during the late 1600s when King Narai of Ayutthaya built the city as a defense against potential threats of attack from the regions Laotian and Khmer neighbors.
While the city and greater metropolitan area are a sprawling urban center of nearly half a million inhabitants, Korat is surrounded by wide agricultural areas, specializing primarily in rice paddies and currently expanding into crops like sugar cane or cassava. The region has not yet created its identity as a prime tourism destination, but offers a variety of activities and sights, plenty of charm and low-end prices to encourage its image as a travel destination.
In the 1970s during the Vietnam war, Korat served as the home base for the Royal Thai Air Force, as well as constituents of both the United States Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. While the US and New Zealand Air Force troops have long since left and the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base has been replaced by the Nakhon Ratchasima Airport in functions of civil transportation, you can still explore the Vietnam War era’s history with a visit to the base.
What may be of greater interest, however, are the many architectural and cultural wonders able to be found in and around Korat. A traveler could spend days enthralled by the highly-intact ruins of Phimai Historical Park, perusing a variety of religious icons and sites, shopping at the expansive Klang Plaza Chomsurangyat shopping center, or even relaxing poolside at the local Waterslide Park with its Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Korat also offers a whole range of accommodation options, ranging from budget friendly to luxury suites. Korat may not yet be a major tourist destination but its hotels are all well facilitated and every traveler should find something to their taste and pocket.
While the city is fairly sizeable, getting to and from it, as well as around it, is a relatively easy task. Inside Korat, you can travel via tuk-tuk, motorbike taxi (a half-motorbike, half-tuk-tuk hybrid), regular taxi, bicycle rickshaw (also known as samlor), or songtaew, the most popular form of transportation, which comes in the form of a pickup truck converted into a minibus. Getting into Korat is easy by bus or train, since it lies along the major routes for both, although reaching it by plane still a travel option in its relative infancy, with daily flights between Bangkok and Korat and only weekly flights to other major cities like Phuket or Chiang Mai.
Things to see and do in Nakhon Ratchasima
While Korat is still finding its ground as a tourism hub, it already offers many enticing historical, ecological and cultural options. Whether a traveler is looking for the peace and quiet of country living, a verdant environmental wonder to explore, a bustling city for people-watching, or the chance to have a shopping spree, you can find it within city limits or nearby.
One fun, family-friendly activity is Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo, featuring over a thousand animals and boasting nearly half a million visitors a year. Aimed to promote animal conservation and public environmental education, it showcases a host of local flora and fauna and is situated on a reserve about 13 kilometers (6 miles) south of city limits.
A more spiritual tourism experience can be found by visitng Wat Sala Loi, a temple located on the Lam Takhong River around 400 meters (approximately ¼ mile) northeast of downtown Korat. Wat Sala Loi is touted for its architectural prowess due to its main chapel, constructed in the shape of a Chinese junk ship.
A great way to orient yourself, as well as to get to know a highly-significant piece of recent Korat history, is the statue of local heroine Thao Suranari, affectionately known as Yamo, named for the woman who purportedly saved the city from the invasion of the Laotian Army in 1826.
Surrounding the statue, you can find vendors selling incense and flowers to offer before beloved Yamo, as well as professional photographers willing to take and print out pictures of you in front of the statue on the spot.
Every year from March 23rd to April 3rd, a festival is held Yamo’s honor, drawing thousands from nearby provinces. And, if you’re ever lost in Korat, just remember – any tuk-tuk, rickshaw or taxi driver will know exactly how to get to Yamo.
For the more retail therapy inclined, Korat offers a surprisingly-abundant array of commercial shopping centers. One of the more prominent is known as simply, The Mall, one of a national chain. The Mall has everything Western travelers and Thai locals alike could want, from fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s to a cinema, an outdoor swimming pool, high-fashion boutiques and independent stands and stalls. Another premier shopping opportunity can be found at Klang Plaza Chomsurangyat, which stands out as one of Korat’s more dominant downtown fixtures, boasting seven floors of shopping, dining, and recreation.
If the consumer culture of The Mall and Klang Plaza Chomsurangyat are too much for the weary traveler, catch some rest outside of city limits at a more serene entertainment option. Prasat Hin Phimai, an easy ride outside of Korat, gives a taste of local history through its extensive Khmer ruins. Upon traveling there, you can find an ancient city, painstakingly carved from sandstone with holy figures and settled amongst lush greenery.
Slightly less history-based but no less engaging, Chokchai Farm is a local venture into agro-tourism. Visitors can explore this dairy farm and a plethora of farming activities like milking cows, making fresh ice cream, and exploring the animal feed plants. One can even catch the occasional rodeo or ride a 4-wheeler around the property!
No matter what you decide to do, Korat is sure to leave you entertained, inspired, or fully satisfied with your shopping exploits.