However, many return, and this time as tourists, or even as expats preparing to settle down, having found in Khon Kaen the perfect mixture of culture and commerce, and the latter at a much lower cost than in the more prominent tourist centres. Culture and commerce have a happy way of co-existing in Khoen Kaen, as can be seen every day on the streets of the city. Smartphone-juggling executives and orange-robed monks sample the goods from the early-morning street vendors of Khon Kaen together, before going their separate ways to their very disparate daily lives.
Khon Kaen is widely known for its production of Mudmee silk, which is woven by hand in Amphoe Chonnabot, which is open to visitors.
Khon Kaen is host to the largest university in the North East, a major centre of education and technology, and is expected to be pronounced as the export centre for the region some day soon. As it is also convenient for cross-border visits, both the D.P.R. of Laos and Vietnam operate consulates here to facilitate visa applications. Cambodia is also literally ‘around the corner’, so what better starting point could there possibly be for exploring the region?
The modern city of Khon Kaen is quite new, having been established about 200 years ago by King Rama I. The area was ruled by the Khmer Empire in the 12th century, all of which contributed to the fascinating mix that is Khon Kaen today – that is, save the dinosaurs: this location has been home to many previous cultures, as well as, if one is to believe the local lore, giant dinosaurs! Visitors to the nature reserves are, however, assured that the chances of encountering anything larger than a buffalo in our time are very slight.
There are plenty of places to eat well in Khon Kaen, and although the best deals may be the ones found on pushcarts outside the food emporiums, restaurants cater to every taste, western, eastern and in-between, extremely well, mostly at local prices, making this city an even more attractive as a holiday destination for the resourceful.
Getting to Khon Kaen is the least of your worries. Air conditioned buses from Bangkok run at half-hour intervals, Thai Airways operates daily flights from the capital and, if you prefer the scenic route, trains for Khon Kaen depart from Bangkok’s Hualampong Railway Station throughout the day. Upon arrival you can choose your mode of transportation.
Destination Khon Kaen
There are ample tuk-tuks and songthaews (always negotiate the rate for the tuk-tuks in advance as they vary considerably depending upon the driver) and the most recent introduction: metered taxis, which may be more familiar to most European travellers and offer remarkably competitive rates, just like most other rates in this attractive spot, which so far has successfully passed up an inclusion on the main tourist maps.