Isan (Thai: อีสาน) is a general name given to the northeastern region of Thailand. Anong and I spent 9 days in Nong Bua Lam Phu (Thai:หนองบัวลำภู) province for the Songkran festival, plus a couple days for travel. Isan is bordered to the north and east by Laos and Cambodia. Ethnically and culturally the people are Lao though Thaification has reduced the influence of the Lao culture (the people still drive like idiots here though not as bad as in the south). The dominant language in Isan is also called the Isan language. Luckily for me it is very similar to the Thai language and the people of Isan are generally bi-lingual in Isan and Thai so I was able to have very basic conversations with Anong’s family who does not speak english. Conversations mostly consisted of me saying “Wannee aga rawn mak mak” (Today the weather is very hot), “Phom mai kao jai” (I do not understand), and “Kap khun krap” (Thank you). It was nice to meet them and they seem like nice people.
The food is also different in Isan but I didn’t really notice because Isan food has permeated the rest of Thailand and central Thai cuisine has also made its way to Isan. One big difference though is meals in Isan are usually served with sticky rice instead of long grain white rice. I was impressed by the Isan persons ability to consume sticky rice.
Isan is the poorest region in Thailand though economically it is also the fastest growing. Agriculture is the dominant sector of the economy in the region. Most people grow rice or sugarcane. The countryside is very beautiful and the pace of life there is slower than in Bangkok and southern Thailand.
There are also many temples in Isan. Look at my previous post for some pictures. Here are a couple more of Wat Tam Erawan (Thai: วัดถ้ำเอราวัณ).
The only thing I didn’t like about Isan is the lack of sport climbing. Next spot for me to visit will be Chiang Mai which is known for it’s unique Thai culture and also has very good sport climbing. Not sure when that will be though.