Khon Kaen boasts of a lengthy history and has been the birthplace to many thriving civilisations and cultures. This is an area where the first dinosaur fossils were found in Thailand. Once the quiet capital of one of the poorest provinces in the Northeast, it has undergone dramatic changes and is now a prosperous, bustling town. Located at the heart of the region, it is the focal point of many regional development projects, including the site of the region's largest public university, commerce activities and abounds with beautiful, natural surroundings. Khon Kaen is 445 kilometres from Bangkok and has an area of about 10,886 square kilometres.
The Khon Kaen National Museum houses a collection of artifacts discovered in the NE region, including those from Ban Chiang, and a number of artifacts from the Dvaravati period discovered in Kalasin and from the Khmer era.
The town's principal temple of Wat Chediyaphum houses the Phra That Kham Kaen. Legend has it that a withered tamarind tree (makam) miraculously sprung back to life as an erect tree sprouting green leaves everywhere while the procession containing a Buddha relic was passing by. People who witnessed this phenomenon erected a chedi in that area and called it the Phra That Kam Kaen, the origin of Khon Kaen's present name.
The highly revered Luang Pu Fang Keji, a teacher of the Vipassana (a type of Buddhist meditation) path, permanently resided at the forest temple of Wat Udom Kongka Khiri Khet while he was alive. Though now deceased, he is still held in high regards and memorial shrine houses his ashes on the temple ground. The elegant hilltop temple is renowned for its ornate, gold-colored roof and beautifully decorated doors.
Ubolrat Dam is the largest dam in the entire NE region. Obstructing the Pong River, the 80-m long and 20-m high dam was built entirely from stone and is used to supply electricity to 8 neighboring provinces. A restaurant by the reservoir and boating trips makes the dam a popular weekend destination for locals.
The main attraction of the Muban Tao (Turtle Village) , or Muban Kok, are the numerous land-faring, dark yellowish and brown-shelled'pek' turtles that reside in this village.
With an area of 325 sq km, the Phu Wiang National Park resembles a rocket launcher with the middle section being a flatland surrounded by towering mountains. The first dinosaur bones in Thailand were discovered here. Further investigation led to the discovery of many different types of dinosaur bones and over 50 different dinosaur prints within the stony geological layers, dating back from 140 million years ago. The fossilized remains of a herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaur may be seen at the park headquarters at Hua Phu Chon Reservoir.
The Noan Muang Historical Site is believed to have been inhabited from prehistoric times until at least the 10th century A.D., as evidenced by human skeletons and 3,000-year-old bronze tools discovered in the area.
Of particular interest at the Puay Noi Sanctuary , the largest Khmer complex in Khon Kaen, are the 3 brick pagodas, a laterite palace and beautifully carved doors.
The locals of Chonnabot District are renowned for producing high-quality mudmee silk fabrics, a time-consuming and delicate tie-dying technique performed before the silk is woven into intricate patterns. The Center for Development and Preservation of Silk Products leads visitors through the entire mudmee silk weaving process and provides the opportunity to purchase the finished products.
The Muban Ngu (Snake Village) , or Muban Koke Sanga in Nam Pong District is widely known for owning deadly poisonous snakes as pets. Originally, the villagers raised the poisonous snakes to produce herbal medicine, which later transformed into quicker, moneymaking entertainment shows, such as fights pitting man against snakes.
Bung Kaen Nakhon has a large area of around 600 acres. It is the recreation and exercise spot for the city people. It is at its most beautiful at sunset. A road circling the lake is lined with numerous restaurants. The northern end of the lake is the Chao Phia Mueang Phaen monument that was built to honour Khon Kaen's founder.
Khon Kaen National Museum is on Lang Sun Ratchakan Road. It has on display exhibits on ancient civilisations, and artefacts found in the Northeast including the prehistoric civilisation of Ban Chiang. It houses human skeletons, tools, earthenware pottery, heart-shaped stone temple markers, bas relief of the Dvaravati period from Fa Daet Song Yang in Kalasin, including Khmer or Lop Buri period art objects found in the Northeast and the Central Region, such as god figures, earthenware pottery, and sandstone lintels. It is open daily except holidays from 09.00-16.00 hrs.
Phra That Kham Kaen is in Wat Chetiyaphum, Tambon Ban Kham. It can be reached by driving for 16 kilometres on Highway No. 209 (Khon Kaen-Kalasin road) and going left for 14 more kilometres. This is Khon Kaen's main historical site. Legend has it that a dead tamarind stump miraculously grew branches and leaves again after a procession bearing the holy relics of Lord Buddha walked past. A pagoda was then built the area, and the name of the province was actually derived from this sacred place.
Ban Khok Sanga king cobras are at Tambon Sai Mun, 33 kilometres on the Khon Kaen-Udon Thani road and left onto Road No. 2039 (Nam Phong-Kranuan) for 14 kilometres. A 2-kilometre road leads into the village. The villagers here traditionally catch cobras for a living and put on occasional cobra shows to supplement their income. There is now a king cobra breeding house at Wat Si Thamma in the village. Visitors can view these reptiles and see an exhibition on them. In addition, there are local herbs for sale. Interested parties can contact the King Cobra Club of Thailand, 96 Mu 6, Ban Khok Sanga, Tambon Sai Mun, Nam Phong, Khon Kaen. Villagers here established the club.
Nam Phong National Park covers several districts in Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum. The park headquarters is beside Ubolratana reservoir. To get to the park, take the Khon Kaen-Chumphae road to Km. 30 and turn right for 19 kilometres, totalling 49 kilometres. It is the watershed of the Chi and Phong rivers. The topography is mountainous and covered with hard timber and dry virgin forests. Numerous barking deer inhabit the park. Vantage points give great views of the reservoir. There is a natural rock pool that is shaped like a volcano cone.
Ubolratana dam is the largest multi-purpose dam in the Northeast. To get there, take Highway No. 2 (Khon Kaen-Udon Thani) for 26 kilometres, turn left and drive for 24 kilometres. The dams is across the Phong river at the pass connecting Phu Kao and Phu Phan mountains. The view at the dam is magnificent. Tourists regularly frequent the area to look at the lake and sample local delicacies, including the famous grilled fish famous here.
Non Muang archaeological site is where a city from the Dvaravati period was situated. It is at Ban Na Pho, 80 kilometres from Khon Kaen. Before getting to Chum Phae, there is a road on the left. Take that road and drive for 5 kilometres. The site is an egg-shaped earth mound with an area of 170 acres. Two city moats have been found, as well as sandstone heart-shaped temple markers and pieces of earthenware pottery with red designs like scratches and ropes. In addition, human skeletons were found buried with tools, which was according to ancient beliefs.
Tham Pha Phuang Forest Park is in Ban Dong Lan, Tambon Pha Nok Khao, 123 kilometres from Khon Kaen on the Khon Kaen-Chum Phae road by Highway No. 12 and 201. A 4-kilometre road on the right then takes you to the park. Tham Pha Phuang is a huge limestone cave. Inside is a large chimney-shaped rock and lovely stalagmites and stalactites.
Phu Wiang National Park has an area of 325 square kilometres. Shaped like a smokestack, the middle part is a plain surrounded by mountains. A hard timber forest is around the plain while a dry virgin forest is on a plateau. The park can be reached by taking Highway No. 12 (Khon Kaen-Chum Phae) for 48 kilometres, then turn right on Road No. 2038 and drive for 38 kilometres to the park headquarters.
Phu Wiang is where geologists looking for uranium first discovered dinosaur fossils in Thailand. Many more locations were later found in the park. Fossils of both large herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs have been unearthed here. Furthermore, dinosaur footprints are evident at Lat Pa Chat rock plateau, comprising over 50 prints of many kinds of small predator dinosaurs in the rock formation. These prints are around 140 million years old.
Phu Pha Man
Pha Nok Khao is a high mountain on the bank of the Phong river, 125 kilometres from Khon Kaen city on Highway No. 2 and 201 (Khon Kaen-Wang Saphung).
Visitors can easily see its resemblance to a bird if they view it from the wood sprout cultivation centre across the road. The mountain has a head, a crest, a beak, and two wings spread out.
Phu Pha Man National Park has an approximate area of 350 square kilometres. It covers a verdant forest area in Khon Kaen and Loei. Tourist spots in the park are scattered throughout and can be separated into 2 groups. The first group is in the southern part, comprising a mountain with a 90-degree cliff stretching out like a curtain. Caves large and small dot the cliff. In the evening flocks of bats fly out to hunt, forming a continuous line not unlike smoke from a mountain. There are also 2 nice waterfalls, which are Tat Yai and Tat Fa. The second group is in the north adjacent to Amphoe Phu Kradung. Tat Rong waterfall is the highlight here and there are also caves with stalagmites and stalactites. Phaya Nakharat and Lai Thaeng caves of prehistoric paintings.
To get to the park, take the Khon Kaen-Chum Phae-Wang Saphung route for 100 kilometres. Then take another road for 12 kilometres. The park headquarters is at Pha Nok Khao that is just past the Phu Pha Man district office on Road No. 201.
Tao (turtle) village is at Ban Kok, about 2 kilometres from the district office on Highway No. 2062 (Mancha Khiri-Phra Yuen). The entrance to the village is easily noticeable from the 2 replica turtles there. The village is a unique mix of people and turtles that have lived together in harmony for generations. The locals call the land turtle found here "Tao Pek" and each is about 1 foot long. It has a yellow and brown shell and likes to live in damp and cold places. It feeds in the morning and at night. Legend says that these turtles are the servants of holy spirits. Thus, no one will harm the turtles in this village.
Chonnabot Mat Mi silk is the main product of the people of this district. Tourists can buy beautiful, quality silk in the town and see an exhibition on silk production, patterns and old fabrics at Sala Mai Thai, which is the centre for studying, developing and preserving silk products. To get there, take Highway No. 2 (Khon Kaen-Nakhon Ratchasima) for 54 kilometres to Ban Phai and take a right-hand road for 10 kilometres.
Prasat Pueai Noi is the largest Khmer sanctuary in the upper Northeast. The compound comprises 3 brick buildings built on the same laterite base. All face to the east. Each pagoda has a sandstone lintel with designs. Each pagoda has a smaller chapel and a lintel with clear, lovely designs. A laterite wall surrounds the compound and there is a pool just beyond it. From Khon Kaen, take Highway No. 2 for 44 kilometres to Ban Phai, then take Highway No. 23 for 11 kilometres to Borabu district, then take a right-hand road for 24 kilometres to Ku Pueai Noi.
Dok Khun Siang Khaen Festival is held during April 13-15 every year at Bung Kaen Nakhon. The day starts with merit making, followed by pouring holy water on Buddha images, local dramatic arts, floral cart procession, northeastern food contest, boat race in Bung Kaen Nakhon, and shops selling a variety of products.
Silk and Phuk Sieo Festival is held annually on 29 November-10 December at the front area of Khon Kaen town hall. The main events are the display of the local silk and the contest, and I-san friend-making tradition called Phuk Sieo. Pha Laeng, a wonderful I-san dinner is also available.
Hotels and accommodation
- Amarin Plaza : 181 Rop Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4332 1660-61 Fax: 0 4322 3956] : 450-600 baht
- Ban Phai Hotel : 396 Chan Prasit Road Amphoe Ban Phai [Tel: 0 4327 2119, 0 4327 3617] : 100-220 baht
- Chai Phat : 106/1-2 Na Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4333 3055-64 Fax: 0 4323 6860] : 900-1,400 baht
- Charoen Thani Princess : 260 Si Chan Road, Tambon Nai Muang Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 0400-14 Fax: 0 4322 0438] : 800 baht
- Chiwin Palace : 333 Maliwan Road Amphoe Chum Phae [Tel: 0 4331 1577-8] : 220-600 baht
- Dima : 133 Thachikhon Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4332 1562-5 Fax: 0 4322 3956] : 250-450 baht
- Grand Hotel :: 39 Soi Samakkhi, Lang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4323 8057, 0 4323 6690] : 150-250 baht
- Kaen Inn : 56 Klang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4324 5420-31 Fax: 0 4323 9457] : 800-1,800 baht
- Kaen Nakhon : 690 Si Chan Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 4268-71] : 280-600 baht
- Kamolphan Resort : Km.49 Amphoe Khao Suan Kwang [Tel: 0 4332 8186 Fax: 0 4332 7734] : 500-1,200 baht Khon Kaen Hotel : 43/2 Phim Phasut Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4323 7711, 0 4324 4881-5 Fax: 0 4324 2458] : 480-800 baht
- Khon Kaen Run Rom : 223 Run Rom Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 3522-3, 0 4322 5446-7 Fax: 0 4322 0567] : 350 baht
- Kosa : 250-252 Si Chan Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 5014-8 Fax: 0 4322 5013] : 700-900 baht
- Pen Nung : 105 Chai Narong Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4332 2051-5 Fax: 0 4332 1234] : 350-400 baht
- Phi Phi : 98 Darun Samran Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 6500-10 Fax: 0 4332 1756] : 300-1,000 baht
- Phu Charoen : 331-3 Ratchanikun Road Amphoe Ban Phai [Tel: 0 4327 2126, 0 4327 2214] : 120-250 baht
- Phu Inn : 26/34 Sathit Yutitham Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 43 243 174-6] : 250-450 baht
- Queen : 207-209 Maliwan Road Amphoe Chum Phae [Tel: 0 4331 1320, 0 4331 1272] : 120-350 baht
- Roma : 50/2 Klang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4323 6276, 0 4323 7206, 0 4323 7771] : 150-500 baht
- Rotsukhon : 1/11 Klang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4323 8576-8 Fax: 0 4323 8579] : 700 baht
- Saen Samran : 55-59 Klang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4323 9611, 0 4333 2985] : 160-250 baht
- Sawasdee : 177-179 Na Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 1600, 0 4322 2433] : 150-500 baht
- Sofitel : 9/9 Pracha Samran Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4332 2155-9 Fax: 0 4332 2150] : 3,000-7,000 baht
- Suk Chai : 816/1 Maliwan Road Amphoe Chum Phae [Tel: 0 4331 1221] : 120 baht
- Suksan : 104-107 Maliwan Road Amphoe Chum Phae [Tel: 0 4331 1125, 0 4331 1143] : 300-380 baht
- Suksawat : 2/2 Klang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4323 6472] : 100-160 baht
- Suwat Resort : 109 Mu 7 Tambon Khuen Ubonrat Amphoe Ubonrat [Tel: 0 4344 6007] : 400-800 baht
- Thani Bungalow : 222 Runrom Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4322 4833, 0 4322 1428] : 250-500 baht
- Ubonrat Dam : Contact EGAT [Tel: 0 4344 6231] : 200-2,200 baht
- Villa : 79/1 Klang Muang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 4324 1545-6 Fax: 0 4323 7720] : 200 baht
- Wan Chai : 381 Sukhaphiban 1 Amphoe Ban Phai [Tel: 0 4327 2033] : 130-300 baht
- Local Cuisine
- Kai Yang Rot Wiset (BBQ Chicken) : Mitrapab Rd. (within the Wichian Service Gas Station), Tel: 0-4322-5004
- Kai Yang Pa Pong : Klang Muang Rd. (next to Rot Sukon Hotel)
- Krua Way : 1/1-1/2 Klang Muang Rd. (next to Bangkok Bank, Na Muang branch), Tel: 0-4332-1074
- Kan Luang : 24/1-4 Na Muang Rd., Tel: 0-4324-1922
- Chorn Ngern : 86/1 Sri Nuan Rd., close to Kaen Nakhon Lake, Tel: 0-4322-4817
- Ban Na Mai : 42/14 Ammat Rd., Tel: 0-4323-9958, 0-4324-6288
- Mangkorn Luang Restaurant (Chinese) : 169/7 Maliwan Rd. (across from Khon Kaen University's Srithan entrance gate), Tel: 0-4323-7638, 0-4323-6996
- Riam : Rob Bung Kaen Nakhon Rd., Tel: 0-4322-1095
- Lung In : Rob Bung Rd., Tel: 0-4322-0669
- Suan Hansa : 162/1 Mitrapab Rd., Tel: 0-4324-2236-7
How to get there
* By carFrom Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 to Saraburi and Highway No. 2 to Khon Kaen via Nakhon Ratchasima, a total distance of 449 kilometres.
* By bus
Buses depart from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal to Khon Kaen every day. Contact Transport Co.Ltd at Tel: 0 2936 2852-66 for more information.
* By train
Regular trains depart from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Khon Kaen every day. Call 1690, 0 2223 7010-20 for more information.
* By plane
Thai Airways flies from Bangkok to Khon Kaen every day. Call 1566, 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000 for more information.