The Thai city of Khon Kaen.
Geographically located in the center of Isan, Khon Kaen is the most prosperous and most confusing city in the Northeast, home to a highly respected university as well as the Canal 5 television studio. For its size and significance, the city has surprisingly few people and plenty of space. There is a particular sense of optimism inherent in the region, underscored by the relatively harmonious blend of traditional Isan culture – huge markets and rows of street stalls – with vibrant shopping malls and world-class hotels.
The town is located 188 kilometers northeast of Nakhonratchasim on the Bangkok-Nongkhai Railway and Highway 2, making it a convenient place to respite, even though the only attractions here are a modern temple and a provincial museum. Foreigners staying in the city tend to be businessmen or university professors rather than tourists, although an increasing number of travelers are coming here for Laotian and Vietnamese visas, since both countries have consulates in Khon Kaen.
Arrival, Transportation, and Accommodations in Khon Kaen
The Thai city of Khon Kaen is a good transportation center. The train station is on the southeastern edge of the city, about a 15-minute walk from the main hotel area. The non-air-conditioned bus station is a 5-minute walk northwest of the hotels on Thanon Klang Muang Street, and the air-conditioned bus station can be found in the center of town.
Khon Kaen Airport is 10 kilometers from the city, with daily Thai Airways flights to and from Bangkok, as well as Buget and Avis branches for car rentals; minibuses from the hotels meet all the planes. The TAT office is on Thanon Prachasamoson Street about a 5-minute walk east from the bus station for non-air-conditioned buses.
Local buses and sontheu run through the streets of Khon Kaen from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., charging a flat fare of 7 baht or 10 baht for a ride in an air-conditioned bus. The TAT office in Khon Kaen produces handy maps showing the color of buses on all 22 routes. The most convenient ones are as follows:
1). Bus No. 3 (yellow), which connects the train station to the air-conditioned bus station via Thanon Si Chan Street and the TAT office;
2). Bus No. 8 (blue) and No. 9 (blue), which runs between the regular bus station and the air-conditioned bus station and connects them to the south of Thanon Klang Muang Street;
3). Bus No. 15 (yellow) and No. 21 (orange) go to Thanon Chonchun Street.
A short ride around town on a tuk-tuk will cost 40 baht, and the minimum fare in a samlor is 20 baht.
Accommodation in Khon Kaen
There are many hotels in Khon Kaen with reasonable prices, especially mid-range.
1). Charoen Thani Princess Hotel – A network of popular pleasant and uncrowded hotels. Rooms of the highest standard are located in multi-storey towers. There is a swimming pool, several bars and restaurants, night club and a floor especially for women. Location: 260 Thanon Si Chian;
2). Sofitel Raja Orchid Khon Kaen Hotel – A superbly equipped luxury hotel in a high-rise building with comfortable rooms, swimming pool and many bars and restaurants. There are always significant discounts, so this hotel is worth splurging on. One of the nicest hotels in the Northeast. Location: 9/9 Thanon Prachasamran;
3). Kaen Inn – A very high quality upper middle class establishment with all rooms having air conditioning, private baths and TV. Location: 56 Thanon Klang Muang;
4). Kosa Hotel – A giant multi-story hotel that offers upscale rooms with air conditioning and TV at reasonable prices. The hotel has a beer garden and billiards. Location: 250 Thanon Si Chan;
5). Hotel Roma – The fan-equipped rooms are not very interesting; the air-conditioned rooms, the cheapest in town, are at their best. They all have cable TV. Location: 50/2 Thanon Klang Muang;
6). Saen Sumran Hotel – One of the oldest hotels in Khon Kaen. It is the most traveler-oriented establishment with a good information booth and friendly, helpful staff. The large rooms with wooden floors on the top floor are quite comfortable and the cheapest in town. Location: 55 Thanon Klang Muang.
Khon Kaen Sightseeing
The most interesting attraction in the city is the nine-tiered pagoda at Wat Nongwang Muang Khao. Wat is located at the southernmost end of Thanon Klang Muang Street, to which the city’s number 8 (blue) sungthays from the center of Thanon Klang Muang Street, and number 14 (blue) from the train station, Thanon Sri Chan Street and the southern and central sections of Thanon Klang Muang Street run. The grandiose pagoda in red, white, and gold was conceived by the famous abbot of the temple, the handsome, much-traveled man Phra Visuttikittisan.
It took seven years and an enormous amount of foreign donations before it was completed in 1997. The design of the nine tiers is said to have been inspired by Burma’s most sacred pagoda, Shwedagon, but the gallery surrounding each tier is more of a Lao style and the crowning that (tower) is typical of Thailand. Nine is three times the lucky number in Thailand, due to the fact that the king – Rama IX, the current abbot – is the ninth since the temple was founded in 1789. Inside the pagoda, the walls of the first floor are painted with contemporary murals that depict the founding of the city of Khon Kaen.
Each tier has its own purpose. The 1st was used for meetings, the 2nd was where the monks lived, the 3rd was the library of sacred books, and so on. Climb the stairs all the way to the 9th tier and enjoy the view of the city to the north of the nearby artificial lake of Beung Kaen Nakhon to the east. You can walk to this lake from the temple complex in about 15 minutes. It takes an hour and a half to walk around its perimeter.
However, apart from a couple of minor temples and the magnificent view of Wat Nongwang reflected in the water, there is nothing else to keep you here, except for the coastal food stalls and restaurants, which are popular. Maintaining its status as a university town, Khon Kaen has some excellent collections at the National Museum on Thanon Lung Soon Rachakam. To get here by public transportation, take bus number 21 (brown) from any stop on Thanon Klang Muang Street, number 12 (green) or number 45012 (yellow) on Thanon Nah Muang Street, or number 17 (blue) on Thanon Lang Muang Street, and you will be dropped off right outside the museum entrance.
The most interesting thing about the museum is the sensuous image on the first floor of Princess Bhimba wiping Buddha’s feet with her hair when he returned to Kabilabasad after many years away in search of enlightenment. In the same room you will find an extensive collection of restored products from Ban Chiang – pots, bronze tools and jewelry that rival the antiquities on display in the National Museum of Bangkok and in Ban Chiang itself. This exhibition is complemented by a map showing the settlements of the time in this region of Thailand.
The folk crafts exhibition in one of the smallest galleries on the first floor includes interesting exhibits. Traditional fishing nets and animal traps are on display here, as well as a collection of betel sets in a range of different styles from the crude wooden ones carved by Isan farmers to the more intricate silver pieces that wealthy people gave away as dowries. Upstairs you’ll find an exhibition of Buddha statues, featuring some of the most perfect Lanna-style bronze images found in Northern Thailand.
Food, Drink, Entertainment and Shopping in Khon Kaen
The Thai city of Khon Kaen is widely known for its very spicy food, particularly sausages that are served with cubes of fresh garlic, onions, lime, and copious amounts of chili sauce. Such dishes can be found at the stalls on Thanon Klang Muang Street north of the Kaen Inn. These and other local favorites – such as pork shanks, roast duck and clams – can also be enjoyed at stalls on the north side of Bueng Keng Nakhon Lake. The food stalls are especially popular throughout the city at dusk. They are especially plentiful in the night market at the east end of Tbanon Ruen Room Street. The nightlife in Khon Kaen takes place mainly at the Charoen Thani, Kosa, and Sofitel hotels.
Khon Kaen Restaurants.
1). Baker’s Basket Restaurant – Offers a sumptuous local selection of cakes and cookies. Location: in the lobby of the Sofitel Hotel;
2). First Choice Restaurant – Another tourist-oriented restaurant with indoor air conditioning and an English-language menu. It offers Thai, Western and Japanese dishes (40-120 baht), as well as an impressive number of vegetarian options and decent breakfasts. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Location: 18/8 Thanon Pimpasoot;
3). Huaan Lao Restaurant – Housed in an elegant modern wooden house decorated with folk crafts and antiques, this restaurant is good for sitting and enjoying Thai and Lao dishes (40-120 baht). Location: 39 Thanon Pimpasoot (no sign in English);
4). Naem Nuang Vietnamese Food Restaurant – A very popular air-conditioned establishment serving mostly Vietnamese dishes listed on the menu with pictures (no English names) as well as some standard Northeastern dishes. One of the specialties is yam kai veh, a spicy chicken salad with mint. Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Location: one building away from Saen Sumran Hotel at 87/14-15 Thanon Klang Muang;
5). Underground Complex – Semi-basement complex where you can eat and drink at half a dozen small restaurants, including a small but authentic pizzeria, as well as a sushi bar and a Chinese restaurant. Location: in the basement of the Sofitel Hotel.
Khon Kaen bars and clubs.
1). Gik Club Nightclub – This is a typical nightclub with a DJ spinning live music every night. Location: in the Sofitel Hotel at 9/9 Thanon Prachasamran;
2). Kronen Brauhaus Bar – A cozy, dimly-lit bar serving German-style beers, dark and strong. Open daily from 6pm to 1am. Location: on the basement of the Sofitel Hotel;
3). Zolid Nightclub – This is a three-story nightclub with live music and a cabaret show every night. Here you will find giant screens and a disco that is considered the largest in the Northeast. Open daily from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Location: The flagship establishment is located in the Charoen Thani Princess Hotel, at 260 Thanon Si Chan.
Shopping in Khon Kaen
Khon Kaen is great for shopping and boasts a wide range of the area’s folk crafts, including high-quality Isan silk of all kinds and colors. One of the best stores is the cave-like Prathamakant Local Goods Centre at the southern end of town, 500 meters from the Kosa Hotel at 81 Thanon Ruen Rom. Although tourist-oriented, this store offers a phenomenal assortment: hundreds of bales of unbeatable silk and mut mi cotton, as well as clothing, furniture, triangular cushions, kheng musical instruments and silver jewelry.
To reach this store from the northern parts of the city, take almost any city bus along Thanon Na Muang Street to the intersection with Thanon Ruen Rung Street. The Rin Thai Silk store at 410-412 Thanon Nah Muang offers a smaller selection of Isan silk. Vagrant vendors, who prowl the main streets with boxes full of silk and cotton fabrics, also offer low prices due to competition and, despite the limited selection, you can be sure that most of the proceeds go to the weavers. They often gather on the steps of the Kaen Inn and on Thanon Klang Muang Street just north of the hotel.
A fair and sale for local artisans is held at the Suebsan Isaan Cooperative store at 16 Thanon Klang Muang. It sells bamboo fiber and water hyacinth textiles, as well as the more familiar mut mi silk and cotton, wicker products, natural cosmetics and other traditional goods. Next door on Thanon Klang Muang just north of the Roma Hotel is Naem Lap Lae, where you can buy local specialties like spicy sausages, candied beans and other Khon Kaen delicacies.
Surroundings of Khon Kaen
There are a couple of places on the outskirts of Khon Kaen Province worth exploring on a day trip. If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself experience, don’t be misled by the TAT brochure about the “turtle village” in Bangkok about 5 kilometers west of Chonnabot. It is a far more senseless and depressing sight than described in the tourist literature.
From Khon Kaen you can go to explore the local silk weaving center in Chonnabot, about 54 kilometers southwest of Khon Kaen. The silk industry has traditionally thrived in this city, and in the past few years it has become one of the important centers. Weavers now congregate in small workshops in the town, and each of them is engaged in some one stage of the process.
You can walk around and watch the women (this is still strictly women’s work) work at the spinning looms, weaving looms, or next to the dyer’s barrels. You can also buy silk from the vendors on the street. To get to Chongnabot from Khon Kaen, take a regular bus to Nakhonratchasima and go to Ban Phae (every 30 minutes), then travel the remaining 10 kilometers to Chongnabot by songhaeu.
Phuwiang National Park (Land of the Dinosaurs)
Khon Kaen made headlines all over the world when the oldest fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus ever excavated were found here in 1996. It happened in Phu Wiang National Park, 90 kilometers northwest of Khon Kaen. This skeleton is approximately 120 million years old and 6 meters long from nose to tail. It has been named Siamotyrannus isanensis. Siam after Thailand and Isan after its northeastern region.
Prior to this find in Phuwianga, the oldest tyrannosaur fossils were thought to be about 65-80 million years old, found in China, Mongolia and North America. These younger fossils are 2 times larger than Siamotyrannus, the age and size of the latter allowed it to be considered an ancestor of the genus Siamotyrannus and confirmed the hypothesis of an Asian origin of tyrannosaurs, which later evolved into other different species.
The skeleton of this outstanding dinosaur – along with 8 moderately interesting paleontological finds – is now on display for viewing at the Dinosaurland center in Phu Wiang National Park. Such a name is misleading, as there are no theme park trappings, just 9 quarries and a small visitor center. Almost all information is given in Thai, so before you come here it is worth getting an informative brochure in English about the “Land of Dinosaurs” at the TAT office.
Siamotyrannus isanensis is located in Quarry 9, which is accessed by a 1.5 kilometer path starting across the road from the visitor center. It is 500 meters from the parking lot at the end of the path to the quarry. The skeleton is an imposing sight, and large portions of the thorax are intact. Quarry No. 1 contains other exhibits as well as two previously discovered species. The beast-eater Siamosaurus sutheethomi (named after the paleontologist Varamut Sutihzorn) differs from the others in that it is a predator.
The teeth of the beast-eaters do not seem to be capable of tearing flesh. The 15-20 meter long Phumangosaurus siridhomae (after the princess princess) is considered a new species of sauropod dinosaurs. Although it is possible to go to Phuwiang Park from Khon Kaen by bus, then you have to take a motorcycle cab to get to and from Dinosaur Land, so it would be easier to rent your own car in Khon Kaen.
To get to the park, head west from Khon Kaen on Highway 12 following the signs to Chumpae to milepost #48, where you can’t help but notice the giant dinosaur statue by the road. Turn right off the main road and take Highway 2038 for another 38 kilometers, which goes through the small town of Phu Wiang and comes to the park parking lot across from Quarry No. 3, which is located about 1 kilometer north of the visitor center, where there are also food and drink stalls.
10 Sights of Khon Kaen
When you walk out into the arrivals hall at Khon Kaen Airport, you are greeted by a large dinosaur. And in the departure lounge, another dinosaur sees you off. All because some of the oldest dinosaur fossils were found near Khon Kaen, which is now one of the main reasons to visit the city. In this article, I will talk about the interesting sights of Khon Kaen that you can see at the same time as the dinosaurs.
- Khon Kaen Sightseeing
- What to see near Khon Kaen
Khon Kaen Sightseeing
There aren’t many sights in Khon Kaen itself. There are a few parks with lakes, a museum, an evening market, and temples. I really liked the video where the main sights of the city were beautifully filmed from a drone, and I want to show this video to you:
The nine-story Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon Temple ( map) is one of Khon Kaen’s main attractions. It took 7 years to build the pagoda, and it was built solely on donations. The temple is beautiful inside and out.
The inside of the temple is painted with murals with different stories. For example, the first floor has murals about the founding of the city of Khon Kaen.
The lake of Kaeng Nakhon (map) – during our visit, there were some works on the lake, so half of the lake looked like a dried up puddle. But the bridge over the lake is still impressive.
Ton Tann Market ( map) – a popular evening market in Khon Kaen.
Khon Kaen National Museum ( map) – has some interesting exhibits, including bronze Buddha images in the Lanna style of northern Thailand.
Bung Nong Khot Lake ( map) where speedboat races are held.
Thung Setthi Temple ( map) – a very unusual and beautiful temple on the outskirts of Khon Kaen.
Wat Chai Si Temple ( map) – Thai national ancient monument. The main feature of the temple – the unusual painting of the walls both inside and outside. The temple is a bit out of town, so I’ll insert a panorama so you can decide if it’s worth the trip or not.
What to see near Khon Kaen
Everything most interesting is outside of town – the ruins of Khmer temples, the cobra village, the national parks, and the huge causeway along the coast of which the Thais have made floating seafood restaurants for a day out. You can not only have a good meal, but also drive a jet ski, take a ride on the “spit” or just swim in the water.
About the Khmer temples I’ll tell you separately, for them it is better to go to Buriram or Nakhon Ratchasima, where a whole historical park Phimai (map). Village with cobras (map) – entertainment for the amateur. It is fifty kilometers from the city, about the same as the Ubolratana Dam. We chose to go to the dam.
What interesting things near Khon Kaen I can recommend to see:
Phuwiang National Park “Land of Dinosaurs” ( map) – the park is 80 km from the city, there is also a dinosaur museum, which is essentially the main attraction near Khon Kaen. There is a waterfall and hiking trails in the park. Before you go to the museum, be sure to Google it to see if it’s open. We were unlucky and the museum turned out to be closed.
Ubolratana Dam ( map) is a beautiful huge dam with a park, golf course, and recreation area. You can ride on the dam on a motor boat.
Nam Phong National Park (map) – A large national park along Ubolratana reservoir. The national park road goes along the picturesque shore of Ubolratana Dam:
The national park has several view points with beautiful views of the reservoir:
- Pha Sala Sot Cliff ( map) – The cliff has a beautiful view of the reservoir.
- Hin Chang Si Scenic Viewpoint ( map) – can be reached by car.
- Phlan Chat Scenic Viewpoint – about half an hour walk from Hin Chang Si Viewpoint.
- Pha Sawan Rock – About 2-3 km north of Hin Chang Si Viewpoint.
One of the viewpoints in Nam Phong National Park.
Hi, my name is Tatiana, and I’m happy to see you on the Life is Unpredictable! blog. I love to travel, and on the blog I share my experiences, tips and other useful notes.