Unexplored Terrain

Come on, Thailand isn’t just about Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, elephants and, ahem, sex shows (yes, we can damn well read your mind.). Budget airlines like Tiger Airways are now flying into lesser-known provinces like Udon Thani which are worth exploring too, tempting travelers to stray away from the well-trodden paths. So if you’re the adventurous type, put on your walking shoes and pack your bags. Here are some spots in Northeastern Thailand (and beyond) to check out.
Suan Hin Pha Ngam Park (Loei, Nong Hin District, Thailand)
The mountainous Loei is quiet and scenic, and is more frequented by domestic tourists than overseas travelers. A good place to go for some eye candy is Suan Hin Pha Ngam, or the Stone Forest. Climb up steep slopes and paths and set your gaze on beautiful limestone mountains, which are evocative of those in Kunming, China. There are two waterfalls here too—Namtok Suan Hom and Phiang Din. Nature lovers will dig this place.
Udon Thani
Phu Pra Bat Historical Park (Baanphue District, Udon Thani Province 41160, Thailand, +66 42-222-909 ext. 218)
This park is not just about animals and trees. Sited at the boundary of the Udon Thani province, it’s home to absorbing cave paintings, some of which date back 3,000 years. Buddhist and Hindu rituals were once conducted here a very long time ago too, accounting for the interesting and strange rock structures and statues that you see here. If you are itching for a relaxing walk that’ll open your eyes to what life was like in prehistoric times, this is it.
Ban Chiang Archaeological Site (Nong Han District, Udon Thani Province 41130, Thailand, +66 42-208-340)
Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is where a civilization lived in the Bronze Age. It’s currently undergoing restoration and will resume operations in Apr. Check out its Ban Chiang Museum in the meantime, and take a peek at pottery, pictures of excavations, artifacts such as infant burial jars and more. Only for history freaks.
Morning Market (Downtown, Vientiane, Laos)
If Northeastern Thailand is not enough to sate the travel bug in you, cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It plays host to a myriad of attractions like the Morning Market. You can almost find everything here, from textiles to gold, pirated CDs to exotic foods, T-shirts to small trinkets. Just think of an ultra large indoor pasar malam, only more crowded, more shops and more buzz. Remember to bargain if you intend to purchase anything.
Wat Phra That Luang (Downtown, Vientiane, Laos)
One thing that’ll strike you about Vientiane is the prevalence of temples. Wat Phra That Luang, also known as the Great Stupa, is one of the more majestic and important ones. Decked in gold, it’s flanked by hawkers selling food and keepsakes. Nearby temples Wat Si Saket and Wat Ho Phra Keo have very unique architecture reflecting the period they were built as well.
Nong Khai
Sala Kaew Koo (Downtown, Nong Khai, Thailand)
We love this place. Known also as Wat Khaek or Indian Temple, Sala Kaew Koo is weird, eerie and eccentric. Luang Pu Luea, a man who believed that different religions should be assimilated, envisioned and built this place in 1978. Sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu gods stand side by side with those of serpents, devils and demons, creating a bizarre world which as creepy as it is alluring. We couldn’t stop staring.
Tha Sadej Market (Downtown, Nong Khai, Thailand)
The place to stock up commodities from Indochina and East Europe, Tha Sadej Market consists of rows of stalls selling everything from food to clothes, souvenirs to cookery. And one of the most pleasurable things to do here is to dine at one of the restaurants and chill out to a picturesque view of the Mekong River and the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. Do try the seafood, most of which are freshly caught from the Mekong River.

Thai Basics 101:

“Sawadee”: Hello/Goodbye.
“A-roy”: Delicious.
“Mai pen rai”: No problem.
“Khun chue arai?”: What’s your name?
“Khun na ruk”: You are cute.
“Kop khun”: Thank you.
“Joop dai mai?”: Can I kiss you?
“Mai kao jai”: I don’t understand.
“Tao rai?”: How much?
“Lot loi dai mai?”: Can you make it cheaper?
“Mai aw”: Don’t want.
“Phaang mak”: Very expensive.
“Kor thot”: Sorry.
“Hoong nam yuu thii nay?”: Where is the toilet?
If you’re a guy, end your sentences with “Krap” and you’re a woman, “Ka.”