When one thinks of Thailand they see the sprawling lengths of Bangkok or the fantastic exotic beach scene of Phuket, but never the historically rich regions of the Isaan in the northeast. Although the area does not quite have the beaches or the big city, it has in stunning temples, waterfalls and architecture—not to mention few visitors, making it ideal for those looking to go off the beaten track.
One of the best sites in the region is Sala Kaew Ku, with its bizarre but amazing statues. Sporting some of the largest sculptures in the country, the intricate handiwork of statues depicts quiet interesting Buddhist ideas, such as a Buddha meditating under several nagas and several gods and goddesses, as well as human-beast hybrids. With a nominal charge of 20 baht (or $0.66) to enter the park, seeing the park comes at not real expense.
With a heavy influence of Khmer culture here, the town of Nang Rong presents an opportunity to see some great historical monuments including the Prasat Hin Mueang Tam, a sanctuary surrounded by lovely gardens and Khmer architecture.
Another interesting aspect of Isaan is its cuisine, which borrows from neighboring Laos. Although still Thai food, it is distinctly different from the more common eats in places like Chang Mai and Bangkok as dishes tend use crab meat instead of shrimp. Then there are tasty dishes like som tam, a spicy salad made from papayas.
Getting to Isaan is no great challenge. The most common way is by train out of Bangkok with services running regularly. You can also fly in to one of many nearby cities—either Khon Kaen, Nakhon Phanom or Udon Thani, where you can grab a car straight away.