Nakhon Ratchasima. Welcome to Isaan

One of several modern shopping malls in Nakhon Ratchasima

The city of Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as Korat, is located north east of Bangkok and is the gateway to Isaan.

Isaan is a vast area covering the north east of Thailand bordering Cambodia and Laos.

It is an area with its own distinct culture, cuisine and some stunning scenery and surprisingly not visited in significant numbers by foreigners.

Korat is one of the largest cities in Isaan and it has all the eating, shopping and accommodation needed – without the frenetic pace of Bangkok.

it’s a straightforward drive

The city is located about 300 kms north east of Bangkok Airport and whilst the roads are busy, it’s a fairly easy drive on multi lane highways all the way.

On our latest driving holiday, we arrived in the city mid afternoon on a Sunday, drove through the bustling centre of the city and followed our trusty cell phone GPS to the Imperial Hotel.

The Imperial Hotel and Convention Centre lives up to its name

This was the first time we had stayed in the city and we were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of all the staff, comfort of our room and the quality of the restaurant in the hotel.

The night market is worth a visit

The hotel is a few hundred metres from the night market which starts at about 5pm each day so we wandered over there to soak up the atmosphere, sample the food and browse the shops.

It’s an interesting market and well worth visiting.

The night market attract a large crowd of locals

As we had come off an overnight flight, we soon returned to the hotel for an early night. We had visited the city previously so we had a relaxing day planned for Monday.

Excellent medical facilities

Breakfast next morning was excellent. Our first stop was the dental clinic at Saint Anne’s Hospital. I had lost a filling the day before our departure and phoned the hospital to make an appointment to have it replaced.

On our arrival, the dentist spoke excellent English. She was very professional and the procedure cost a fraction of what I would pay back home.

Saint Anne’s Hospital has a really good dental clinic

Before long we were on our way to one of the several shopping centres. For the girls, this was a day to spend at the hair stylists, have a massage and eat at a popular MK restaurant for lunch.

I tried shopping for a while but eventually gave up and returned to the hotel for a day by the pool.

Again, that evening we revisited the night market and returned to the hotel restaurant early for a delicious dinner.

The next morning we were going to venture north east to Mukdahan on the banks of the Mekong River. With a few planned detours, the drive would be about 450 kms and take most of the day.

We were up before sunrise with one important call to make before we headed east.

The legend of Ya Mo

We drove through the dawn to the centre of the city and with the sun’s first rays we arrived at the statue of Thao Suranaree (fondly known as Ya Mo) who is revered and worshipped by Thai people.

Ya Mo. Revered by Thai people

Even in the early morning there were worshippers praying to this heroine. The early morning is a great time to visit as the monks are on their morning rounds and there are ample carparks available.

Later in the day the area becomes quite crowded. This is because a visit to the Ya Mo shrine is important to Thai people.

Early morning prayers

The story of Ya Mo is a really interesting one.

History has varying accounts of Ya Mo’s bravery but overall she is credited for saving Korat’s people with a crucial victory against the Lao army in 1826.

My favourite version is that as the wife of the deputy governor, Ya Mo gathered together a band of local women and managed to defeat the Lao invasion by getting the Lao soldiers drunk.

Presumably this rendered them easier to defeat.

Prayers said and merit made and we returned to our hotel. After breakfast we headed out of the city and east to the city of Mukdahan. It is situated directly  opposite the Laos city of Savannakhet on the Mekong River.