Hello and welcome to our travel blog and we appreciate you dropping by! Our goal is simple – enjoy and experience life while we still have the health and energy to do so. Do that travel we’ve always wanted but didn’t get round to. Experience what traveling and living in other countries feels like. Revel in and enjoy the journey. Currently based in beachside Hua Hin on Thailand’s Gulf Coast, we are pursuing new passions. For Vivien, that’s learning Thai and helping others with English. For me, it’s writing and photography. For both of us it’s travel and being able to share our experiences with you here, and in publications that accept my writing. Enjoy reading! Michael & Vivien
Thailand is in the top 10 most visited countries in the world with 35 million annual visitors currently. Yet its largest region, equating to nearly one-third of Thailands land mass is still ‘off the beaten track’ as far as international tourism is concerned. And if tourists do visit it’s as a through point to neighbouring Laos or to a lesser extent, Cambodia. In a series of blog posts titled ‘Isaan Stories’, we will introduce you to parts of the Isaan region that have particularly captured our attention while travelling through. This post, the first in the Isaan Stories series, focuses on Nakhon Ratchasima or Khorat by its other acceptable name.
Khorat sits at the southwestern edge of the Khorat Plateau, and historically once marked the boundary between the kingdom of Siam with Ayutthaya as it’s capital, Laos to the north, and the Khmer empire to the east. Today’s modern-day city can trace its roots back to the late seventeenth century when King Narai of Ayutthaya ordered the construction of the town to protect the Kingdom’s north and eastern frontiers from Laotian or Khmer attack. The original ‘Old City’ has a walled city centre complete with protective watery moat, much like Chiang Mai, in Thailand’s northwest.
So what do Khorat and this southern region of Isaan offer visitors? Here are some of our most favourite memories.
The district of Khao Kho is not on any international tourist route though Thai visitors adore this region. This is a place for nature lovers. Soaring mountains, rolling hills, lush valleys, cascading waterfalls, gushing rivers, and two wildlife-rich national parks – all part of the attraction! Khao Kho is in the north-central Thai region of Phetchabun. This blog post is about our brief travels there. A region we consider as a great example of the ‘real’ Thailand. And a region well worth visiting.
We took the time to visit as part of a larger trip through northeastern and central Thailand – more examples of what we playfully term the ‘real’ Thailand. And now having visited, we can happily recommend it, so come see what it’s all about. Driving, a hire car or personal vehicle, is, in our view, the best way to make the most of a visit here. It provides so much more freedom and the opportunity to personalise your itinerary.
As well as being the name of the district, Khao Kho is also the regions tallest mountains at 1143 meter and forms part of the western range of the Phetchabun Mountains. Despite the reference to Alps and Switzerland often seen in Thai tourism info and online, there’s no chance of snow here – ever! Though for the two or so winter months it experiences each year, temperatures do drop to single digits overnight!
We were sitting in a café atop Rind Hill – a forested hill, park and viewpoint on the east coast of Thailand’s largest island, Phuket. Our outlook through the treetop canopy is of the coastal plains and ocean below. Seeing movement out of the corner of my eye I look up. A monkey (macaque) has jumped up onto the Spirit House positioned at the entrance path leading to the café. Ignoring the banana, fried rice and other food offerings, it instead picks up a small bottle of red soda pop deftly unscrews the top and drinks down the contents.
So began my fascination with Spirit Houses in Thailand. What is their relevance? Why the food offering? Who looks after them? Here are my learnings so far…
Travelling around Thailand, we have sometimes seen unusual graveyards and wondered about their origin. On a recent trip to the region of Kanchanaburi, we came across such a cemetery. Not having the classical Buddhist type styling, statues or figurines, we wondered if their derivation was Chinese.
Visualise this scene! A low hill backed a large gently sloping field. Well maintained grass covered this field though not like a well-clipped lawn cemetery. A much more natural look prevailed. Row upon row of tombs neatly crossing the area. Many hundreds of tombs which from a distance looking more or less identical. On both sides of the field groves of trees provided a barrier, perhaps even a windbreak. The whole field overlooked a quiet road and a wide reach of the River Kwai. A very tranquil scene.
Ever wanted to get up close to elephants? Yet seeing them in the distance at a National Park just did not do it for you? Or perhaps you have ethical issues with trekking on, riding, petting or feeding, captive elephants? Well, we recently visited a place where you can spend a day amongst the elephants (wash their back even) without the usual ethical concerns. We’re talking about the Wildlife Rescue Centre and Elephant Refuge operated by The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT).
Located just 50 or so kilometres north-west of Hua Hin near the village of Tha Mai Ruak in the Phetchaburi region, it’s a simple one hour drive (or even closer from Cha-am) and is a fantastic day trip. Or at least that was our experience.