Fun things to do in Northeastern Thailand

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    Dinosaur Footprints - Tha Uthen (Nakhon Phanom)

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 26, 2014

    Now it is time for us to leave Nakhon Phanom and drive to Nong Khai which is another 350 kilometers away, but there will be a stop along the way as we have heard there is a place with Dinosaur Footprints, hope we can find it!!

    Well we were about 20 kilometers outside Nakhon Phanom, the Dinosaur Footprints place is on the map, so we should be there now, it looks like somehow we have missed it and Gary is refusing to go back looking for it. So we just keep heading for Nong Khai following the Mekong. Then about another 80 kilometers out we see a sign and turn off the main road.

    Amazing there is the Dinosaur Footprints Park at Tha Uthen, we have found it. Well this is amazing and for the first time I am seeing footprints that are millions of years old. The park is nicely set up with different viewing areas and info on what you are looking at.

    Some of the Dinosaur footprints found here are the Ornithomimosaurs which with their toothless beaks and slender feet made them look like giant featherless birds with clawed hands and a long tail. They are among the fastest dinosaurs being able to run up to 70 kilometers an hour.

    Sauropods were the biggest land animals and very slow moving, their long tails were to help keep them balanced and to also protect them from predators.

    The amount of footprints found at Tha Uthen show that over 100 million years ago this old river bank provided very good feeding grounds.

    There is a lot of work happening at this place, huge fiber glass dinosaurs ready to be put together, workers everywhere, buildings going up. So it looks like they are turning it into a huge tourist attraction. I hope more people visit here as it is definitely off the beaten track and was not easy to find, but totally worth going to.

    Well we have been back here again and all the work that was happening a couple of years ago seems to have come to a stand still. The buildings are not finished, it looks like the place has been abandoned. But it is still worth a visit!

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    Ho Chi Minh's Safe House - Nakhon Phanom

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 26, 2014

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    On the outskirts of Nakhon Phanom is a little place called Ban Na Chok. Here you will find the safe house that Ho Chi Minh lived in for several years from 1923, he was the ex president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam during 1924 - 1931 when he led the war for Vietnams Independence.

    The house and small museum is run by the grand children of the Vietnamese immigrant who gave Ho Chi Minh shelter. Entry is free and there is a donation box inside the house.

    The gardens here are beautiful and you will see the coconut trees that were actually planted by Ho Chi Minh and the original furniture and a few of Ho Chi Minh’s possessions are still in the house.

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    Wat Phra That Phanom - Nakhon Phanom

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 26, 2014

    This beautiful Temple is 80 kilometers south of Nakhon Phanom and it is said that every Buddhist should visit here at least once in their lifetime. We have visited twice now and it really is a special place. The Chedi is the main reason as it contains the chest bone of the Lord Buddha.

    So this makes Wat Phra That Phanom one of the most sacred Temples in Thailand and every year there is a week long festival with many thousands making the pilgrimage.

    This beautiful place is full of history and was erected over 2500 years ago; it has been renovated quite a few times over the years.

    Archaeologists date the earliest structures to between the sixth and tenth centuries AD, with the present form of the temple being established by the Lao kings of Vientiane in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The centerpiece of the temple is a 57 meter tall Chedi which is decorated with 110 kilograms of gold!

    On August 11, 1975 the entire pagoda collapsed after many days of rain. The Thai public donated the money to rebuild the pagoda to its former glory. People have also placed many valuable items in the main body of the pagoda which is supported by four square bases 12m wide. The spire is gold and weighs 110kg. The pagoda is 57m high.

    In the rainy season for about three months during July, August and September (depending on the lunar months), the monks are not allowed to sleep outside their temple and cannot defrock. Wat Phra That Phanom is then extremely busy.

    Every morning at dawn, the monks go out to collect food. People fill the monks bowl with rice, soft drinks, cakes and so on. This is called "TAKBAT” and it is very impressive in That Phanom with a row of hundreds of monks.

    Wat Phra That Phanom really is something special to see and very easy to spend many hours in here. If you ever visit here make sure you also go into the Art and Culture Centre plus the small Museum area that is set over 2 floors with the Temple grounds.

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    Driving from Prasat to That Phanom

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 26, 2014

    We left Prasat early in the morning for the 380 kilometer drive to That Phanom as we wanted to arrive there early but once again there were just too many places to stop at along the way. From Prasat we travelled along Highway No. 214 through Surin and up to Suwannaphum where we veered right onto Highway No 202 heading for Yasothon.

    There was a little bit of rain about but it did not last for long. I wouldn’t mind staying a few days around Yasothon as there seems like so many nice places to visit from there. Maybe next trip
    .
    From Yasothon we continued on to Amnat Charoen where we made a left turn onto Highway No. 212 to go to Mukdahan where the Friendship Bridge II that links Thailand and Laos is. Not really much to see there, it is a big busy place, ok been there done that so back on the road we go.

    Just out of Mukdahan we were pulled over by the Police, he acted as though he did not speak English, Gary showed him his International Driving Permit and the guy then said – 400baht. Well Gary knew he had done nothing wrong so refused to pay it.

    I took out my mobile phone and said I will ring our Police friend; straight away the guy smiled at us and waved us on. He understood exactly what I had said. This is the first time in many years of driving around Thailand that we have been asked for money by the Police.

    Our next stop is That Phanom where we had booked bungalows for a few days at Rotchanas Retreat on Mekong. The retreat is Thai & Australian owned and there are only 6 quaint bungalows on the Mekong River overlooking Laos. Meals are in Rotchana and Andy’s house, there are no menus, just delicious home cooked food.

    Gary and I have driven to Nakhom Phanom on a previous trip but we wanted to show my sister and her husband around some of our favorite places. The absolute must see here is Wat Phra That Phanom which is a very famous Royal Temple of the First Class.

    Other places we visited were Ho Chi Minh’s Safe House and the Dinosaur Park at Tha Uthen. Once again I have covered the main places we visited with more information and photos under Things to do in the Issan area.

    We loved the That Phanom area and there was nothing better than relaxing at our bungalows with the mighty Mekong and views into Lao in front of us.

    A funny incident in the back streets of That Phanom was when we stopped at a little local barbers shop so Gary could have a haircut. Being hair challenged he has it all taken off with the clippers. It was fantastic in here, pure entertainment. The barber pointed to a picture of a monk on the wall and said to Gary “Like Monk” - Gary said yes – big mistake!!

    The haircut went fine, and then out came the cut throat razor for a shave, all the normal was done, nose, ears, back of neck, throat. Now Gary has had a mustache for close to 35 years. In one swoop of that cut throat razor, half of it was gone. We all fell to pieces laughing and had to run out of the shop.

    Poor Gary did so well as he knew what had happened, he could hear us laughing and it took all of his strength to control himself and not laugh while that cut throat razor was taking away his mustache. All of this for 40 baht, fantastic and the mustache is back 4 weeks later.

    So that was our drive from Prasat to That Phanom, the roads were good except for one section that was under repair with a bridge being replaced, but it only slowed things down a bit and no doubt it is already repaired.

    There are also plenty of rest stops, petrol stations with toilets, shops and restaurants etc along the way.

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    Huay Ta Kao Dam - Surin Province

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 25, 2014

    We decided to drive to the Huay Ta Kao Dam for lunch; there is a little beach area and quite a few nice rickety style restaurants. I forget what we had for lunch etc, but from the photos it looks like chicken fried rice, the menu was in Thai but we left full and happy.

    The area around the dam is lovely, I have never seen so many butterflies, and there was something in the banks of the dam that they liked as there were hundreds of the big blue & black ones.

    I have no idea how we found the dam and can find no information on the internet about it at all. But we were on our way back to Prasat from Chong Chom, so we are in Surin Province not far from Prasat, there must have been signs somewhere along the way to make us go there.

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    Phanom Sawai Forest Park - Surin Province

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 25, 2014

    Phanom Sawai Forest Park was another place I had on my list of places I wanted to visit. We combined the trip after our drive to Chong Chom Border Markets, Ban Pluang Ruins and lunch at Huay Ta Kao Dam. So it is easy to see all four places in one day.

    Coming from Surin City Hall travel along the Surin Prasat road highway number 214 for about 22 kilometers and you will see the sign for the turn off to Phanom Sawai Forest Park; it is then a 6 kilometer drive. It did take us quite awhile to find the turn off as we were driving from Prasat and kept missing the sign.

    Phanom Sawai Forest Park is inside a reserve and it really is beautiful here. The hill has three peaks, Wat Phanom Sawai is in the first peak, the second peak is where the Buddha statue is and the third peak has an eight sided pavilion which is home to a replica of Lord Buddha’s footprint which was relocated from Yot Khao Chai. So it is a very sacred place for Thai people.

    Entry was free but for 50baht you can buy a wooden (not sure what you call it) dongle thing so you can then ring each individual bell in the park. There are over 600bells and yes we did them all and then we climbed about 300 stairs up to see the huge Buddha. The views are sensational up there.
    Angie and I also decided to visit the local Temple which was not really a good idea!

    Gary drove us into the Temple and off Angie and I go, Gary and Brett decided to stay in the car, I think they were getting templed out. We go up quite a big flight of stairs and then we noticed some mountain goats coming our way. No problem, until we noticed their huge horns, oh well we are ok, we are up the top of a building and they are at the bottom of the stairs. Then we saw all the goat poo around us, great they are going to come up here with us.

    So this you have to imagine, there are huge gates at the top of the stairs that look like they have not been closed in a long long time. Wrong - if the mountain goats come anywhere near us we are shutting the gates. We are trying to get Gary’s attention by waving and carrying on so he could bring the car to the bottom of the stairs and we can make a quick getaway as the goats were watching us, lowering their heads and moving their legs like they were getting ready to charge.

    Finally Gary notices us, brings the car over and Angie and I ran down those stairs in record time and dived into the car.

    Anyway we highly recommend a visit to Phanom Sawai Forest Park, there are quite a few places to visit within the park and it is very beautiful with no tourists!

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    Prasat Ban Pluang - Khmer Ruins - Surin Province

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 25, 2014

    Prasat Ban Pluang is only a small site but beautifully restored and still worth a visit. It is easily combined with a trip to Chong Chom Border markets. The ruins are a 11th -12th century Khmer sanctuary and surrounded by a U shaped pond with some beautiful carvings.

    Ban Pluang Ruins are about 30 kilometers south of Surin or 5 kilometers from Prasat town.

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    Phnom Rung Historical Park - Buriram Province

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 25, 2014

    Phnom Rung Historical Park is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and important Khmer ancient monuments and it is at the top of an extinct volcano in Buriram Province which is in the Issan region of Thailand. The creator of Phnom Rung was Narendraditya who was related to King Suryavarman II who was the creator of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

    It took Thailand’s Fine Arts Department 17 years too fully restore Phnom Rung and it is absolutely stunning plus the grounds etc are in pristine condition. The first thing you will see is an amazing stairway from the bottom of the hill up to the top and most of the buildings are made from sandstone and laterite with beautiful carvings.

    We stayed here for hours and there were hardly any tourists, mainly Thai families and school groups. Actually we were asked to be in quite a few of their photos so it was a lot of fun with the children.

    Entry fee to the Phnom Rung Historical Park is 100baht or you can pay 150baht which will also include entry to Prasat Mueang Tam which otherwise is another 100baht entry fee.

    Phnom Rung Historical Park is also on the tentative list with UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site.

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    Prasat Mueang Tam - Khmer Ruins - Buriram Province

    by Cathy&Gary Updated Feb 24, 2014

    Prasat Mueang Tam is a Khmer temple in Prakhon Chai district, Buriram Province, Thailand. It is modeled on the Khleang and Baphuon styles, which dates its construction to the late 10th and early 11th centuries.

    This is another beautiful place to visit and much cooler here with four ponds which symbolize the Goddess of the Water and 5 headed Naga snakes at each corner of the ponds There is a 100baht fee to visit Prasat Mueang Tam but if you have been to Phanom Rung first a 150baht ticket will cover both sites.

    There was no one else here when we visited and it was so peaceful and serene and most definitely worth a visit.

    Next to Prasat Mueang Tam is Mueang Tam Lake which is manmade and a beautiful area where we saw hundreds of monks and nuns walking along the banks to a meditation area.

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    Buriram Province

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 23, 2014

    Buriram means the City of Happiness or Peaceful City and is in the north east of Thailand about 420 kilometers from Bangkok. The province is home to over 60 Khmer ruins including the very impressive Phanom Rung Historical Park which is about 60 kilometers away from town and one of Thailand’s most spectacular and ancient Khmer sanctuaries.

    The easiest way to get around here is by driving yourself as nearly every place worth visiting is very spread out and can be up to a hundred kilometers away. It is most definitely worth spending time here.

    Buriram Province is one of the poorest provinces in Thailand and the majority of people are rice farmers.

    However there are a lot of beautiful festivals, museums, Temples and Khmer ruins to keep you here for quite a few days.

    One of our best meals was from a little restaurant along the road in Buriram province. As soon as we pulled up the staff were so excited and made sure we were comfortable in the sala, they even connected up a pedestal fan in case we were hot. The pork and chicken cooking on the rotisserie looked and smelt so good, so we ordered both with sticky rice.

    We had no idea how much to order so left it to the owner and it came with sticky rice. The total bill for 4 people with food, a couple of beers and soft drinks was 420baht and it was all delicious.

    It was also in this area that we came across a Thai family who had a flat tyre but they could not change it as they did not have a jack. So the boys went to their rescue and helped changed the tyre for them.

    I bet every car that went past thought it was us with the flat and the Thai’s were really helping us!!

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    Dinosaur Footprints Park - Tha Uthen

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 23, 2014

    Now it is time for us to leave Nakhon Phanom and drive to Nong Khai which is another 350 kilometers away, but there will be a stop along the way as we have heard there is a place with Dinosaur Footprints, hope we can find it!!

    Well we were about 20 kilometers outside Nakhon Phanom, the Dinosaur Footprints place is on the map, so we should be there now, it looks like somehow we have missed it and Gary is refusing to go back looking for it. So we just keep heading for Nong Khai following the Mekong. Then about another 80 kilometers out we see a sign and turn off the main road.

    Amazing there is the Dinosaur Footprints Park at Tha Uthen, we have found it. Well this is amazing and for the first time I am seeing footprints that are millions of years old. The park is nicely set up with different viewing areas and info on what you are looking at.

    Some of the Dinosaur footprints found here are the Ornithomimosaurs which with their toothless beaks and slender feet made them look like giant featherless birds with clawed hands and a long tail.

    They are among the fastest dinosaurs being able to run up to 70 kilometers an hour. Sauropods were the biggest land animals and very slow moving, their long tails were to help keep them balanced and to also protect them from predators.

    The amount of footprints found at Tha Uthen show that over 100 million years ago this old river bank provided very good feeding grounds.

    There is a lot of work happening at this place, huge fiber glass dinosaurs ready to be put together, workers everywhere, buildings going up. So it looks like they are turning it into a huge tourist attraction. I hope more people visit here as it is definitely off the beaten track and was not easy to find, but totally worth going to.

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    Ho Chi Minh's Safe House - Nakhon Phanom

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 23, 2014

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    On the outskirts of Nakhon Phanom is a little place called Ban Na Chok, it took us quite awhile to find it and we were just about to give up when Gary decided to try a small turnoff on the left, well there it was!

    Here you will find the safe house that Ho Chi Minh lived in for several years from 1923. The house & small museum is run by the grand children of the Vietnamese immigrant who gave Ho Chi Minh shelter. Entry is free & there is a donation box inside the house.

    The gardens here are beautiful and you will see the coconut trees that were actually planted by Ho Chi Minh and the original furniture and a few of Ho Chi Minh’s possessions are still in the house.

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    Wat Phra That Phanom - Nakhon Phanom

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 23, 2014

    This beautiful Temple is about 80 kilometers south of Nakhon Phanom, it is said that every Buddhist should visit here at least once in their lifetime. The Chedi is the main reason as it contains the chest bone of the Lord Buddha.

    So this makes Wat Phra That Phanom one of the most sacred Temples in Thailand and every year there is a weeklong festival with many thousands making the pilgrimage.

    Wat Phra That Phanom is full of history and was erected over 2500 years ago; it has been renovated quite a few times over the years. Archaeologists date the earliest structures to between the sixth and tenth centuries AD, with the present form of the temple being established by the Lao kings of Vientiane in the fifteenth or sixteenth century.

    The centerpiece of the temple is a 57 meter tall Chedi which is decorated with 110 kilograms of gold!

    On August 11th 1975 the entire pagoda collapsed after many days of torrential rain. The Thai public made considerable donations to rebuild the pagoda to its original glory. People also placed many valuables inside the main body of the pagoda which supported by four square bases 12metres wide.

    In the rainy season for about three months during July, August and September (depending on the lunar months), the monks are not allowed to sleep outside their temple and cannot defrock. Wat Phra That Phanom is then extremely busy.

    Every morning at dawn, the monks go out to collect food. People fill the monks bowl with rice, soft drinks, cakes and so on. This is called "TAKBAT” and it is very impressive in That Phanom with a row of hundreds of monks.

    We spent many hours at Wat Phra That Phanom, it is the most beautiful Temple I have ever seen, a very special place. It was also strange having Monks call out to us and wave, so I take it that not many tourists visit this area, actually I don’t think we had seen any for a couple of days! We drove there from Nakhon Phanom and the roads were excellent.

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    Nong Prachat Park - Udon Thani

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 23, 2014

    Nong Prachat Park was formerly called Nong Na Kluer and was a natural swamp before the founding of Udon Thani. The swamp and surrounding area was designated as a park and named after the town founder Major General Krom Laung Prachat Silapakom.

    It is now a very popular recreation park with beautiful flowers in a garden in the middle of the swamp with a bridge connecting it to land.

    There are shady trees, fountains, statues, playgrounds, a clock tower and paddle boats. It is a very busy place especially on weekends with locals feeding the fish, having picnics or exercising. The Royal Palace is on the north west side of the park.

    If your feeling energetic you can also hire push bikes to ride around the park. Just outside the park there are plenty of food stalls which stay open late along with massage stalls.

    We enjoyed our time at the park just sitting there people watching, especially a little Thai girl and her mother who invited me to help them feed the fish.

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    Ban Chiang Archeological Site - Udon Thani

    by Cathy&Gary Written Feb 23, 2014

    Ban Chiang Archeological Site is located in Nong Han district and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It is the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South East Asia.

    The site is under the town of Ban Chiang; only one of the excavation sites is open to the public and it is in the grounds of a Temple called Wat Po Si Nai.

    The site was discovered in 1966 and there is evidence of prehistoric occupation from 3600BC up until around AD200. It was always thought that SE Asia was very backwards compared to China and India back in these days but the discovery of these sites and the artifacts discovered have shown a very advanced Asian Bronze Age.

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Northeastern Thailand Things to Do

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