An excellent informational start is here.
This interview should be interesting to any outsider curious about trying to live in Thailand — American expat Vern found his inner peace in Isaan, Thailand .
You’ll possibly note that the interview was posted in 2007. He mentions having his own blog site, and there are several links at the end of the interview, one of which WAS his blog — it no longer exists at that address.
If you are interested in reading what this American, Vern, has to say today, then check out his truly good blog here.
One of his posts at the beginning of March (2010) indicates some further blogs that he claims to enjoy following, so you may want to check into them, too.
The KhonKaen.com Forum has a great post entitled Expat life living in a village in Isaan — check it out here.
And this should both get you going, and keep you busy!
- Isaan « Logistical
- Rethinking Isaan: Nong Khai Prologue | LOKATAS: Creating A New Worldview
- Isaan Student Activism | Physician, Heal ThySelf
- OMF Isaan » Blog Archive » Isaan and Thai: Seek the differences
living in isaan
How can I learn the Isaan language?
I live in Isaan but can not find any real good books to learn the Isaan language. It is difficult to learn the language from the normal people because they can not tell you the the correct meaning of their words in English. And what is the correct spelling for Isaan, Isan, Issan, Esaan,or Esan.
From Wikipedia, “The main language of the region is Isan, which is similar to Laotian. Considered by some to be a dialect of Laotian, but written in the Thai alphabet, Isan is among the Chiang Seng and Lao-Phutai languages, which are members of the Tai languages of the Kradai language family. Thai is also spoken, with regional accents, by almost everyone”
Isan is spoken by 20 million people. Lao is spoken by 5 million. Yet, Lao seems to have a lot more language materials available.
living in isaan
Where to be at When in Thailand
What follows is various information about some of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, as well as a number of other places. I have tried to give a summary of information about each area, as well as mention some of the most interesting things to do there, basically listing all of the sort of info that I think may be useful in making the vacation worthwhile. First of all, communicating is a huge concern in this part of the world, so, here are a few common terminologies for you to start off…..
Baht – 1). The unit of currency in Thailand.
2). The unit used in measuring the weight of gold in Thailand.
Khao Sarn – It is the name of the main road in the backpacker infested neighbourhood of Bangkok, but did you know that in Thai it actually means “un-husked rice”.
Ko – Thai for island.
Kop khun – Thai for thank you!
Ta – Thai for port or pier.
Teeruk– Thai for darling.
Wat – Thai for temple.
The cities elaborated with different places and events here include: Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Ko Samui, Chang Mai, Udon Thani, Cha Am. All the above locations have airports except for Pattaya and Cha Am (there’s one in Hua Hin).
Bangkok is truly a city that never sleeps, a city with a real energy that can induce you in, take a firm hold of you and in some cases, refuse to let go! Bangkok is not a city of endless tourist attractions and must see museums, but a city you visit to feel the vibe. Bangkok has an energy seldom found elsewhere. To the uninitiated, it can appear to be another big, drab grey city but if you persevere, exploring the city can be a rewarding experience.
Before you decide to go all out on the exploring stuff, I am sure its agreeable to get a suitable accommodation. Some of the Hotels/resorts giving best value for money can be found here. As far as attractions and interesting things to see and do in Bangkok go, there are a handful. The old part of town, that is the area down near the river, not far from the Khao San Road area, is where you’ll find a lot of the more culturally and historically significant building and temples. That is one part of the city that is actually quite pretty. For many the highlight of the area is the Grand Palace (Wat Pra Kaew), the most culturally important of all of Thailand’s 40,000+ Buddhist temples. The dress code for entry is strictly enforced – you shouldn’t wear anything too brief or a sleeveless shirt. Sort of over and behind the Grand Palace is Wat Po, which is preferable to the Grand Palace. The other major temple in this area is Wat Arun, most probably the most photographed temple, or for that matter, location, in all of Bangkok. Wat Arun is the fascinating temple just over the Chao Praya River from the Grand Palace and Wat Po. The tallest building in Bangkok is the Baiyoke 2 Tower which towers above everything else. It’s located a few hundred metres up from the Central World Plaza in a busy park of the Pratunam Market. The tower soars around 300 metres into the sky and from the top, on a clear day at least, you get good views of Bangkok. There’s a somewhat dated list but still interesting.
SNAKE FARM right in the heart of the city. Located on Rama 4 Road, within the Red Cross compound, it features a show that is presented in both English and Thai. Also in the Lumpini area is one of the city’s two major Thai boxing stadiums, Lumpini Stadium. Rather than go for ringside seats, I think it is a lot more fun to sit up in the main stand with the Thais and watch them gambling. Heaps of fun! The Ancient City, known as Meuang Boran in Thai, located a fair distance from the centre of Bangkok, is another excellent attraction, in fact the word excellent really doesn’t do it justice. It truly is a photographer’s dream. There are a number of different companies offering dinner cruises on the Chao Praya river. Some of the deals are for a buffet dinner and some are a la carte.
Pros: The Thai capital is less about tourist attractions – although there are many, but more about the vibe. Friendly people who are easily excited like to have fun – and their attitude and zest for life can be infectious.
Cons: It’s a drab, grey city with awful traffic problems. It is also home to many people who prey on tourists with various scams. You won’t get hit on the head, but you might get tricked out of your money.
The Bottom Line: Worth a few days of your time!
It was the beautiful island of Phuket that first lured me to the Kingdom Of Thailand. In fact when I first moved to Thailand my plan was to go to Phuket and secure a job teaching English down there but for whatever reason, it never happened and I ended up in Bangkok. Phuket is one of the world’s premier beach holiday destinations and ranks alongside the French Riviera, the Mediterranean and Hawaii as places where people will happily endure up to 24 hours discomfort on a plane for the promise of the quintessential beach holiday.
Phuket is an island connected to the Thai mainland by a bridge, and is located about 1,000 km from Bangkok. There are many beaches around the island province of Phuket but by far and away the most developed is Patong Beach. Patong Beach is tourist central where all of the nations of the world come together. Here you will find far, far, far more Indian and Italian restaurants than you will Thai restaurants, proving just how touristed Patong place has become. Patong is the nightlife capital of the island, not that much different to Pattaya, only smaller. For Phuket nightlife, Patong is the centre. South of Patpong Beach is Karon Beach, my favourite of Phuket’s beaches. 3 km of soft white sand lead gently down to the beautiful Andaman Sea. While accommodation prices have moved in a similar manner to those at Patong, the prices at Karon are more attractive than Patong. South of Karon Beach is Kata Beach, a somewhat smaller beach that is NOT a private beach for Club Med as some people believe. This, like Karon, is another really lovely beach and a great place to wile away the days and baste yourself under the hot Thai sun. Accommodation and restaurants are a little cheaper there than the other beaches. It is certainly much quieter and less hustle and bustle than Patong.
There are many day trip options available from Phuket. Two of these in particular are well worthwhile. The first recommended day trip is the one that takes you to Phanga Bay and the so called James Bond Island. The second day trip that is well worthwhile is over to the small paradise like island, Phi Phi.
Pros: Beautiful, diverse island with a little something for most people. Some beautiful beaches. Some SUPERB day trips available including Phi Phi Island and Phanga Bay.
Cons: Phuket isn’t cheap. A lot of very jaded Thais work the Phuket tourist scene. Local transport is far too expensive. Food prices, especially some of the restaurants in big hotels targeting Westerners, are expensive.
The Bottom Line: If you want a comfortable beach holiday with Western comforts, Phuket is the place for you.
Nowhere on earth can you find such a well developed tourism industry where sex is such a big part of it, as you can in Pattaya. It is located 150 km south east of Bangkok. Once you’ve reached Pattaya you’ll have to find somewhere to stay and if there is one area where Pattaya really excels in a huge choice of very affordable accommodation, like the Dusit Resort, the Marriott and the Sheraton. But it is in the mid-range where Pattaya accommodation represents the best value for money. There are a few beaches in the Pattaya area. The first and most popular beach is Pattaya beach. Over the hill to the south is Jomtien Beach which is very popular with Thais, especially at the weekend, and to the north of Pattaya are Nagleua and Wongamart beaches, both of which are popular with older Europeans, particularly German speakers (meaning not just Germany, but Austria and Switzerland too.)
Naglua Beach, just north of Pattaya Beach: Pattaya Beach. Well, what can I say? It’s your typical crescent shaped beach, perhaps 3 km long, and is one of those beaches that is just long enough that you can walk from one end to the other without taking a break and without getting bored or tired. There are numerous fishing vessels moored relatively close to the beach and while one understands that they have a living to make, they can be quite an eyesore. Over the hill from Pattaya, is Jomtien Beach, a nicer beach than Pattaya Beach, and a quieter area.Being next to the sea and home to a lot of fisherman, the seafood is obviously pretty good in Pattaya although I have to say that I much prefer Hua Hin for good, inexpensive seafood.
The sun sets at Pattaya: There is a reasonable shopping centre in Pattaya called Royal Plaza and another mediocre one called Mikes Department Store. On the top floor of Royal Plaza is a cinema multiplex, various amusement and fair style games and a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. It’s a good place to spend an hour wandering around in air-conditioned comfort away from the heat.
Pros: Close to Bangkok and therefore both cheap and easy to get to. Very reasonably priced accommodation and easy to get around. Good level of English due to high tourist numbers. Most reasonably priced of the popular Thai beaches. Good seafood as well as many very good, reasonably priced restaurants.
Cons: Prostitutes are everywhere – though this will appeal to some. Beaches are far from the best in Thailand. The British lager louts as well as the Russians have discovered Pattaya – and there can be some tension at times as some people consume way too much alcohol – and prove they can’t handle it by getting into fights.
The Bottom Line: It really depends on what you want in a holiday but frankly, if you are not interested in going on a holiday and meeting a local to have as your travel companion, amongst other things, Pattaya may not be for you. While reasonably priced, the beach really is nothing special at all. Still, there is a very pleasant atmosphere about Pattaya.
Ko Samui, once known as an affordable destination and a backpacker’s paradise, is the second largest island in Thailand. You can reach Ko Samui on Thai Airways in a flight that is a little under an hour. There are several flights between Bangkok and Samui every day. You can reach the island overland by travelling by Bangkok to Surat Thani by road and then taking a boat across. Samui is dominated by two beaches, Chaweng Beach which is the largest and most popular beach and Lamai Beach which is a few kilometres south and also very popular, although perhaps a little quieter as it is smaller and has less places to stay than the heavily developed Chaweng. There are other locations all over the island including Big Buddha and Bophut. The infrastructure on Samui is still coming along and for many that it is one of the big appeals about the place.
Nearby Samui is Ko Phangnan and not far from Ko Phangnan is Ko Tao. Ko Phangnan is where a lot of the backpackers end up these days, a smaller island that is a short boat ride north of Samui. There is nothing on this page at this stage as I have never been there. It happens to be the home of the Full Moon Party when everyone parties all night and gets silly on dope and all sorts of other illicit and dangerous substances – not really my idea of fun but many seem to have a real blast there. Ko Tao is said to be one of the best places in Thailand for diving, although again, I have never been there.
Pros: Nice beaches. Has a nice atmosphere, not too quiet but not too developed. Still affordable – but for how much longer?
Cons: Getting there from Bangkok is a little pricey. Too many backpackers arguing over who has paid the least for this or that.
The Bottom Line: A nice alternative to Phuket. It is not as developed as Phuket, which may or may not be to your taste.
Tourism is a huge part of the local economy and the city of Chiang Mai is set up very well for visitors. Accommodation is available in all price ranges, though there are not that many flash places in the centre of the city. If you are looking for lots of 5 star options, you won’t have anything like the range of properties that are available to you in Bangkok. In Chiang Mai there is heaps to see and do. The city itself is pleasant with a lot of temples and there are a couple of very impressive temples outside the city including Doi Suthep which to me is probably the most impressive temple complex I have ever visited. It is in my mind a MUST visit attraction if you make it up to Chiang Mai. Another of the popular trips is to Doi Inthanon, which is the highest point in Thailand.
First of all, the weather is much more pleasant, it is cooler (though this depends on the time of year), has less pollution and at night it was genuinely cool. Secondly, the food up in Chiang Mai is a little different to what is available in Bangkok. Apart from the khao soi, sort of crispy noodles in a mild curry. The people in Chiang Mai are noticeably friendlier, more polite and generally a whole lo nicer than people from any other part of the country. The north of Thailand, of which Chiang Mai is the centre, has done a much better job preserving the culture of the country, and indeed the region, than any other parts of the country and Chiang Mai is THE place to go to celebrate the major Thai festivals like Songkran and Loy Kratong. It is ironic that it took 7 years living in Thailand before I made it to Chiang Mai for the first time. It is something I want to fix and an extended stay up there is well in order! I have only spent two days up there and thus my report on that part of the country is relatively short.
Pros: Very well set up for tourism, affordable, pleasant people, pleasant environment and heaps to see and do! It is much more a cultural visit than is Bangkok.
Cons: I can’t think of any but some might consider it a bit quiet compared to Bangkok.
The Bottom Line: Very much worth visiting!
Another 100 or so kilometres up the road from Khon Kaen is Udon Thani, a smaller provincial capital which has proven to be popular with Westerners in recent years and even has a thriving farang bar scene. The city of Udon doesn’t have any major tourist attractions, or at least none that I am aware of. The provinces attractions are well outside the provincial capital and include national parks and Ban Chiang, a site where a lot of old fossils and relics were found and a spot said to be of archaeological significance. A friend who has visited was not that impressed but that said, I have not been there myself. In downtown Udon there is a large shopping centre with a greater vibrancy than any of the other shopping centres in the major centres of Udon. Here you will see far more Westerners than anywhere else in Isaan, some are tourists and some are locally based. I guess most make it to Udon with their teeruk. This shopping centre is where many of the more well to do Udonites venture at the weekend and I cannot imagine what they think of establishments opening that target farangs directly, bars and restaurants. Food in Udon Thani is very good. Westerners rave about the Irish Clock, a small Irish bar which I have yet to try. There is also a very, very good Italian restaurant called Roma Piccolo which is superb. It is located a bit outside the city centre, out on the road past Big C. It is well worth going out of your way for!
About 25 km north of Hua Hin on the way to Bangkok is Cha Am, a beach that curiously you’ll read much less about in the guides and brochures than Hua Hin, but which at the weekend seems to be almost as busy, if not busier than its more well-known neighbour, Hua Hin itself. Cha Am is a long beach which is very popular with Thais and becoming increasingly popular with Westerners. It is very popular with Bangkok Thais, as well as upcountry Thais, who flock their in droves at the weekend. The big advantage of Cha Am over Hua Hin is that generally speaking, Cha Am attracts Thai tourists who are a bit more sensitive to price than Westerners. That means that things are cheaper. So, if you are sensitive to price, then Cha Am offers you nice Thai beach resort at very reasonable prices.
Pros: Cheaper than Hua Hin, especially in the case of lower end accommodation.
Cons: The beach really is not that special.
The Bottom Line: An alternative to Hua Hin.
Ko Samet is located about 200 km from Bangkok and as the word “Ko” designates, it is an island. If you’re coming from Bangkok you will need to make your way to Bahn Pe where most of the ferries leave the mainland from, bound for Ko Samet, or Samet Island as it should technically be called in English. Ko Samet can be reached from Bangkok in about four hours and there are a couple of different ways of getting there. Once at Bahn Pe, you take a boat over to the mainland. There are a number of different piers with ferry boats going to the different bays on the island – so you need to know which part of the island you wish to go to. Samet is small in size and there is very little industry on it apart from tourism, fishing and basic services offered for both tourists and the island’s residents. With this in mind, a lot of what is sold on the island has to be brought over from the mainland and this means the prices of basic goods can be much higher on the island than on the mainland. Samet can get quite busy at the weekend, especially long weekends, when Bangkokians escape the madness of the capital and rooms can be hard to come by. Samet is one of few places in Thailand I would not head to without making a reservation first as there is only a limited number of places to stay, and there are even less in Bahn Pe, on the mainland.
Pros: Not too far from Bangkok and relatively easy to get to. Beautiful beaches on a paradise island. Low level of development – comparatively.
Cons: Not a huge amount to do there – but some would consider that a bonus. Accommodation is expensive for what you get. It can get busy during the high season and the beach can get over run.
The Bottom Line: Paradise is only four hours from Bangkok. A little pricey given the poor infrastructure but a nice place that appeals to some, and not to others.
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Thai song first then Isaan (Lao)
Group of Thai, Isaan Women singing in my car having fun getting ready for New Year, worshiping Jesus and rejoicing in knowing the Living God.
[Video by rayandsan]
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