Khon Kaen in Thailand’s North-eastern region of Isaan is definitely a road less travelled for us Aussies.
It’s a short one-hour flight from Bangkok and home to 1.7 million Thais. On arrival, I’m struck by the warm welcome we receive, and just how authentic this travel experience feels. This isn’t a polished tourist centre. It’s a gritty, busy, bustling city, which is home to a large student population (which means well-priced street food and a lively pace!).
While Khon Kaen is not as refined as Chiang Mai or as picturesque as Phuket, it certainly has a unique charm – and plenty to offer intrepid travellers.
Enjoy this Khon Kaen travel guide.
There are rich cultural pickings all over this town, as a little pre-holiday research on the web reveals.
Make your first port of the call the wonderful City Pillar in the centre of town – a public Buddhist shrine that safeguards the good fortune of the region. There’s an offering area outside and a prayer area inside. During our visit there’s a wonderful display of traditional dance.
Don’t miss the beautiful Wat Nong Waeng buddhist temple, located close to the Kaen Nakorn Lake. It’s well worth a visit.
For historical things to see and do in Khon Kaen, the Hong Moon Mung Mueung museum is a must.
It’s not a high tech, polished facility, but that’s part of its charm. And it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into putting this collection together.
One thing you’ll notice on arrival in Khon Kaen are the large concrete dinosaurs dotted about the place, a la (rather disturbingly) Clive Palmer. The museum fills in the blanks, describing the large number of fossilised dinosaur remains that have been found in this area, including the oldest T-Rex ever uncovered at somewhere between 120 and 130 million years old.
As mentioned, with its large university student population, the street food is Khon Kaen is plentiful and excellent.
Try the night market on Reun Rom Road.
As we’re only in town for one night and we enjoy a superb dinner and a cultural presentation at the wonderful Supanniga Boutique Hideaway. This is a tiny complex of four holiday villas set in absolutely stunning gardens. The onsite restaurant serves amazing Eastern Thai cuisine. It’s quite something.
Our evening begins with a traditional Buddhist welcome ceremony, followed by delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the garden. Dinner is served, and even with our large group of 40 people the service and food are outstanding. I can’t recommend this highly enough during your visit.
There are plenty of things to do in Khon Kaen that will leave you feeling refreshed and revitalised.
Many of them revolve around the delightful Kaen Nakorn Lake in the centre of town. It’s the focal point for local recreation and a nice shady spot to relax and watch the world go by. Lakeside activities include jogging, Tai Chi, bike riding and of course boating. For those up for a stroll, it’s a 4km round trip.
For those interested in a relaxing Thai massage, you’ll find plenty of options in town.
Khon Kaen offers some great market shopping, with a very local and authentic feel.
Expect to attract a bit of attention and the odd photo request as you browse the eclectic stalls, selling everything from garden rakes to silk pashminas.
The Chonnabot Silk Village, 57 kms south of the city, is also worth a visit. The village enjoys royal patronage with the aim of preserving the art of traditional silk making and weaving in Thailand.
Centara Hotel and Convention Centre
The brand new Centara Hotel and Convention Centre is located right in the heart of Khon Kaen. This fabulous hotel has 196 guest rooms and suites, superbly finished in a very contemporary style. The pool area is equally impressive.
This hotel has been constructed specifically with the MICE market in mind (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions), so the conference facilities are excellent as you would expect. There’s a themed English pub on site which is a lot of fun, and a plethora of dining options. Breakfast is excellent, as is the Dim sum buffet lunch.
Adam travelled as a guest of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
Do you have any tips to add to our Khon Kaen travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a Melbourne-based travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. Adam also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.