Nakhon Ratchasima (นครราชสีมา), usually referred to as Korat, is the largest city in the Isaan region of Thailand. Its proximity to Bangkok and Issan make it a good stopping-off point for travellers who are heading into Issan. It has excellent transport links to the rest of the country and beyond. Highway 2 (Bangkok to Nong Khai) runs through the city as does the northeast railway line which splits in the east of the city: one line runs up to Nong Khai and the other, to Ubon Ratchathani. And there are buses which run to just about every city in the northern, northeastern and eastern regions. You can even get buses to Vientiane in Laos and to the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet.
The city itself has a population of around 150,000 (Nai Muang district), but the entire urban sprawl of the Nakhon Ratchasima metroplitan area (Muang Nakhon Ratchasima) has a population of approaching half a million. Despite the size of the city, it is not a favoured holiday destination for the average foreign traveller. Instead, visitors are more likely to base themselves in the city as they visit nearby tourist destinations such as Khao Yai national park, Phimai and Phanom Rung.
The modern-day city can trace its roots back to the late seventeenth century when King Narai of Ayutthaya ordered the construction of the city to protect the Ayutthaya Kingdom's northeastern frontier from Laotian or Khmer attack. It was just such a Laotian attack that was defeated by local heroine Thao Suranaree in 1826. She, and her army, are credited with freeing the city from King Anouvong's Laotian forces. These exploits have lifted 'Yamo' to almost god-like status in Korat. Her statue, in the centre of the city on Ratchadamnoen Road, is the most visited attraction in the city. The city continued to grow, helped by the arrival of the railway in the early twentieth century, and, today, is a typical Thai mix of chaos, pollution and tradition.
|Source: World Meteorological Organization|
Korat is classified as having the three tropical seasons of hot, rainy and cool (or sometimes dry). But the seasons overlap considerably, and the rainy and hot seasons occur almost simultaneously whilst the cool/dry season is quite short. Basically, it's very dry and relatively cool (although daytime temperatures will still often exceed 30 degrees C) in November, December and January. March, April, May and June are the four hottest months but there can be heavy rains during this time - particularly in May. The temperatures decrease slightly month by month as the area moves into the rainy season. August, September and October are the wettest months but tropical storms may be experienced any time between March and October. The downpours quite literally end as October ends: the rainfall in November is five-times lower than that of October.
The city - with its traffic and concrete - will be a little hotter than the rest of the province. And days in April and May can be unbearably hot amidst the urban jungle. Conversely, it can be surprisingly cool between November and January. Think you don't need long sleeves in Thailand? Think again. It's not unusual for temperatures at night in the city to drop below fifteen degrees celsius in the cool season, whilst out in the rural areas, single-digit temperatures aren't unknown.
The main road into the city is Highway 2 (Mittraphap Road) which originates in Saraburi and terminates in Nong Khai. The Mall, Tesco Lotus and several hotels are situated next to it. Shortly after The Mall, it bears left, goes past the main bus station and onto Khon Kaen. To the north of the city it joins up with the bypass also known - somewhat confusingly - as Highway 2.
The road network within the city is, for the most part, an American-style grid system. Therefore, once you are familiar with the place, it is easy to find your way around. But if you are new in town it can be a nightmare as every road looks the same. This is particularly the case in the moated historic centre of the city.
The moat encloses the original city - almost a perfect rectangle, one and a half kms by one km - and consists of seven main roads that run east to west: Phonsaen, Yommarat, Atsadang, Chomphon, Mahat Thai, Supphasit and Kamheng-Songkhram, and six main roads that run north to south: Chumphon (not to be confused with Chomphon), Jagkree, Manat, Pratchak, Kudan and Phonlan. The English spelling of Thai words is an inexact science so don't be surprised to see variations on these spellings in different guide books, on maps and on street signs. For example, Jagkree is sometimes spelled Chakrii; Phonsaen can be Polsan; Chomphon can be Jompol; Supphasit may have no h; Atsadang may have double s and no t; Pratchak may have no t, and so on. To add to your confusion, the names of Jagkree Road and Pratchak Road change south of their intersections with Chomphon Road: to Watchara Sarit Road and Chai Narong Road respectively.
The obvious geographical reference point for travellers is the statue of Thao Suranaree (or Yamo). Every tuk-tuk, motorbike taxi, songtaew and taxi driver will understand "Yamo" so you shouldn't have any problem getting there. She stands between Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Roads. Both of these are one-way streets and from Ratchadamnoen you can catch songtaews to just about every part of the city. Ratchadamnoen ends where it meets Highway 224. Turn left onto Highway 224 and it becomes Highway 2 (Mittraphap) after about a kilometre. Turn right, and the 224 takes you east and then south towards Dan Kwian pottery village and Chok Chai. At Chok Chai (30 kms south of the city) the 224 crosses Highway 24 which goes to Buriram, Surin and Ubon Ratchathani.
Three main roads lead off Ratchadamnoen: Chomsurangyat, Pho Klang and Suranaree. These are busy two-way thoroughfares and all three converge a kilometre and a half west of Yamo to form Mukmontri Road which leads back to Highway 2.
There are three routes to take from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
- First Route: Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin) passing Don Muang Airport, Wang Noi and Nong Khae till you arrive at the Saraburi interchange. At Saraburi, turn right along Highway No. 2 (Mittraphap Highway) which finally leads to Nakhon Ratchasima. The total distance of this route is 259 kilometers.
- Second Route: This alternative route is a little longer in distance but passes some interesting places. Take Highway No. 304 via Min Buri, Chachoengsao, Phanom Sarakham, Kabin Buri, Wang Nam Khiao and Pak Thong Chai to Nakhon Ratchasima. The total distance is 273 kilometers.
- Third Route: Take Highway No. 305 passing Thanyaburi, Ongkharak to Nakhon Nayok. From Nakhon Nayok, turn right on to Highway No. 33 to Kabin Buri and then turn left along Highway No. 304 passing Wang Nam Khiao and Pak Thong Chai to Nakhon Ratchasima.
Assuming you are in Bangkok, just head to Morchit Northern/Northeastern Bus Terminal. No need to consult a timetable: buses leave Bangkok for Korat several times an hour 24 hours a day. Go to the top floor of the terminal building and buy your ticket at window 49, 50, 51 or 52.
- Window 49 - Ratchasima Tour. Most buses travel direct to Korat but some stop in Pak Chong.
- Window 50 - Suranaree Air. Direct only. No night service
- Windows 51 and 52 - Air Korat Pattana. Window 51 for buses to the 'old' bus station and window 52 for buses to the 'new' (main) bus station
After you have purchased your ticket the vendor will point to a number on the ticket. This is the bay you must go to to catch your bus. Overhead signs will guide you there - just like following a gate number at an airport.
As of February 2010, the price was 198 baht, one-way from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. That is for a direct bus. The buses follow 'First Route' described above.
Other cities which run buses direct to Korat include Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Chonburi, Chantaburi, Rayong, Lopburi, Nakhon Sawan, Hua Hin and just about every provincial capital in Issan. If you are coming from Cambodia, there are buses from the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border crossing. And, if you're entering from Laos, there are a couple of buses a day between Korat and Vientiane (launched in December 2009). If you're entering from Laos at the Savannakhet border crossing then you can get a bus direct from Mukdahan to Korat.
Once you've arrived at the bus station (it will be the larger, 'new' bus station on Highway 2 you'll arrive at unless you bought your ticket from window 51 at Morchit, see above) all the usual Thai means of transport are available for you to get to where you want to go. Tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis and meter taxis (see Get around) are in abundance in the bus station. To get a songthaew back towards the city centre then you will have to either walk out of the bus station and cross Highway 2 to catch one going back in the direction of Yamo (in all likelihood, route number 7 or 20) or hang around in the bus station for a number 15 (see 'By Songthaew' in 'Get Around').
Trains leave from Bangkok Railway Station (Huamlamphong) daily and can take anything from four to six hours depending on what type of train you catch. Twelve trains a day leave Bangkok for Korat. The times are 5:45, 6:40, 10:05, 11:40, 15:20, 18:30, 18:55, 20:00, 20:30, 21:50, 22:25 and 23:40. Fares are very reasonable for the 264 km journey. Third class is fifty baht, second class is 115 baht and first class is 230 baht.
There are two stations in Nakhon Ratchasima. The main station is on Mukmontri Road about two kms from the city centre. Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis at the front of the station will take you to the Yamo area for around sixty and forty baht respectively.
The other station - Thanon Chira - is more centrally located. It is just to the south of the previously described old city (see 'Orientation'). Tickets from Bangkok are just a couple of baht extra to go to Thanon Chira instead of the main station, and if you're heading for the city centre it is well worth getting off here.
Happy Air will operate a new service starting on August 20th 2010. Bangkok to Chiang Mai via Nakhon Ratchasima will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with a planned departure time in Korat of 9:00AM. Chaing Mai to Bangkok via Nakhon Ratchasima departs Korat for the capital at 1PM on the same days. Flights to Chiang Rai operate at the same times but on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Korat to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai is ฿2,900 one way. Korat to Bangkok is ฿1,200.
The three-wheeled buzzboxes are plentiful in the city. They congregate in large numbers outside shopping centres, department stores, the two bus stations and train station. And individuals will be dotted along all the busy roads.
Happily, the reputation that tuk-tuk drivers have for ripping off tourists in places like Phuket and Pattaya does not generally apply in Korat. The fare from the main bus station to Yamo/city centre is sixty baht. Agree on this price before you get in. Fares typically go up in multiples of twenty and start at forty baht.
Remember, this isn't a tourist city so your driver will not speak English. He (it's always a man) may know the names of some hotels and will understand "Yamo", but that's about it. This is a prime example of where a smattering of Thai can go a long way.
By motorbike taxi
Wherever you find tuk-tuks you will find motorbike taxis. Their fares are generally two-thirds to three-quarters those of tuk-tuks (i.e a sixty baht tuk-tuk fare will be forty baht on a motorbike etc). Some riders even put up a list of fares as if to prove that they don't just make up prices. You're certainly a long way from tourist rip-off territory here.
Safety is obviously a concern for a lot of travellers when it comes to motorcycle taxis. Only you can decide if you want to risk it or not but the rider should at least provide a helmet.
Meter-taxis are a fairly new introduction to the Korat roads. They are blue and yellow in colour and scarce in number. If you are lucky enough to see one for hire on the street then you can hail it as you would a Bangkok taxi. It is thirty baht for the first kilometre and four baht a kilometre after that. You can call for one (044342255) but if you do that then the meter won't be used but a fixed fee will be charged for your journey. Furthermore, you can't book one in advance as you can with a minicab. You just have to call when you want one and hope that one is available. It should be added that the operator doesn't speak English so get your hotel receptionist to call.
They do congregate at the main bus station and if you catch one from here then the meter should be used. Again, don't expect the driver to speak English.
By cycle rickshaw (samlor)
The traditional pedal-powered 'samlor' (literally, 'three wheels') is a large tricycle with room for - at a squeeze - two passengers who sit on a covered, padded seat behind the rider. These days there are far more tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis than samlors but you can still find them dotted along most major roads. They come into their own during the Yamo festival (end of March/start of April) when Ratchadamnoen Road is closed and pedestrianized every evening and samlors are the only form of transport allowed. You'll notice that all samlor operators are elderly men so don't get them to take you halfway across the city! A kilometre or so is a more appropriate distance and it will only cost you twenty baht.
Songtaews (sometimes songthaews) are the most popular type of public transportation. A songtaew is a pick-up truck which has been converted into a small short-hop bus. Passengers step into the back of the truck and sit on parallel benches. When you want to get off just press the buzzer and hand your fare through the passenger window to the driver.
You can get on one anywhere by hailing it from the side of the road although there are official bus stops complete with signs displaying which number songtaew(s) stop there. They usually only stop when a passenger presses the buzzer or when a pedestrian hails one but there are a few locations where they will always stop such as The Mall, Klang Plaza and Big C.
Each songtaew follows a fixed route (a different system to that which is used in Chiang Mai, for example) and there are around twenty different routes which cover most roads in the city. The vehicles come in a variety of colours and numbers - each denoting a different route. Most have their route number prominently displayed on a board above the window. Some start as early as 5 am and run as late as 11 pm but generally speaking it is rare to see one before 7 am and very rare to see one much after 9 pm.
For the newcomer, using songtaews can seem quite daunting as nearly all the destinations are written in Thai (on the front and side of the vehicle) and you need to know that the songtaew you are getting on hasn't just stopped at the place where you want to go. For example, you might be waiting outside the front of The Mall wanting to go to the zoo. Along comes a songtaew with 'Korat Zoo' written on the side. You understandably jump on the back of the vehicle, however, in that situation, the songtaew is coming from the zoo and is heading into the centre of the city.
Most songtaews go back the way they came, so it is usually pretty straight forward getting back to where you departed from: just cross the road and get one going back the other way.
For the benefit of the traveller, it seems unnecessary to describe every route (you're unlikely to go day-tripping to the Suranaree Industrial Zone - incidentally, it's a number 5, white with luminous orange stripe if you do need to go there!) but there are a few routes which will be of use to the visitor. To save on complication, all routes described are based on someone catching a songtaew from Ratchadamnoen Road/in front of Yamo (unless stated otherwise).
- Number 1. To get to the main train station, catch a number one heading west on Suranaree Road (just off Ratchadamnoen/rear of Mae Kim Heng market). Catch one outside the station to bring you into the city.
- Number 2 (or Number 11). These go to the 'old' bus station.
- Number 4. Catch one of these from the Thanon Chira train station (see above) to the city centre/Yamo area.
- Number 6. Usually white with a red and yellow stripe, number sixes are the most common songthaews in the city. They vary in their ultimate destination but all stop at The Mall and Lotus.
- Number 7. Very important for the traveller. Number sevens go to the main bus station (bok kor sor mai). They also stop opposite Big C before they reach the bus station.
- Number 15. Catch one of these new purple and white songthaews at the main bus station to get to the city centre (Yamo area). Wait near the main exit of the bus station for one. They also go to the main bus station from the city centre; the same goes for the Number 10 (white with red and yellow stripe).
- Number 4129. These call at The Mall and Lotus on the same route as a number 6 but they go all the way to the zoo. The number is only displayed in small characters on the sides of the vehicle but they are all white with a yellow and blue stripe along the sides. Most now say Korat Zoo in English on the bodywork (see photo).
The current fare is eight baht for a single journey (that's right, 8 baht!) but particularly long journeys - from Yamo to the zoo, for example - will be a little more.
- Statue of Thao Suranaree. Yamo. Ratchadamnoen Road/Chumphon Road. From Mittraphap Road (Highway 2) head east and turn right onto Chumphon Road just past IT City. The statue is halfway up Chumphon on the right. Open 24 hours FREE (20 baht for incense, candle and flower offering, 50 baht for photo). The statue stands in a pedestrianized municipal area between Ratchadamnoen and Chumphon Roads. Day and night, Thais will kneel before the statue and pray before making offerings of incense and flowers (purchased for twenty baht from an adjacent hut). It's fine to take photos of the statue but take your shoes off before ascending the steps. You can also have your photo taken by one of many professional photographers who loiter around the statue. This service should cost 50 baht and your picture will be printed out there and then on a portable digital printer.
- Maha Weerawong Museum Maha Viravong Ratchadamnoen Road From Yamo statue, walk up Ratchadamnoen - i.e against the flow of traffic - go straight across the junction with Chomsurangyat, go straight on for another 100m, turn right onto the lane/soi which bisects the library. The museum is behind the library. W-Su, 9AM-4PM ฿10 A quiet, dusty and rarely visited place, it contains mainly ancient Buddha statues and icons. The museum closes for all public holidays.
- Thao Suranaree Bravery Light and Sound Performance Building Municipal area, Chumphon Rd from Highway 224, turn right onto Chumphon Rd. This small, white building - which is designed to look like a section of the old city wall - is halfway up Chumphon on the right, just before the turning for Atsadang Rd Tu-Su 9AM-6PM FreeA rather strange attraction, this one-room museum/art exhibit documents the story of Thao Suranaree (Yamo) through the medium of miniature models. Village and battle scenes are recreated in minute detail and run the length of one wall. On the opposite side of the room is a hugely impressive wall-mounted sculpture, in relief, of a battle scene. Yamo is near the middle of the scene. On the walls and pillars are some of the oldest photos in existence of the city.
- Wat Phra Narai Maharat Atsadang/Chomphon Road travel east along Atsadang, go straight across three sets of lights. The lake and temple are on your right shortly after the third set of lights. Best songtaew to get is a '''Number 1'''. Catch it on the corner of Chumphon and Chomphon roads immediately behind Yamo and the Chomphon Gate. Again, you'll go across three sets of lights - the junctions with Jagree, Manat and Pratchak Roads. The red and gold archway entrance to the temple is on your left about 100m after the Pratchak junction. dawn til dusk One of the most famous temples in Korat. This one is notable for its lake and island temple. Within the building is an ancient sandstone staue of the Hindu god Vishnu. You can cross the bridge and walk around the island but can not enter the building which houses Vishnu. Also, you may see huge Water Monitor lizards amongst the undergrowth or in the water. These things are as big as crocodiles, but are generally safe, and provide a surprising photo opportunity in the centre of the city.
- Wat Sala Loi Chapel shape of Chinese Junk
- Prasat Hin Phanom Wan Khmer stupa built of sandstone. From Korat City take a songthaew from Bus Terminal Number 1 get off at Ban Maka (look for a large water tower) then a motorbike taxi to the ruins.
- Khao Yai National Park Thailand first national park. Has four different provinces which includes 3,000 species of plant, 200 wild elephants, tigers, gibbons, bears, deer, bats, wild pigs, bird, and etc. the admission fee is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children. Lodge houses range from 1,200 baht. Youth Camps range from 10 to 20 baht. Camping rate from 5 baht with your own tent.
- Dan Kwain Nakhon Ratchasima's main ceramics centre. Famous for its rough texture and rust-like colour pottery.
- Lam Takhong Dam surrounded by shady trees
- Sai Ngam Located on the bank of the Moon River. Includes some of the largest banyan trees in Thailand. Short motorbike taxi trip from Prasat Hin Phi Mai.
- Prasat Nang Ram originally meant to be a nursing place during the 12th century in Khmer style.
- Khao Chan Ngam Cave famous for pre-historic color paintings.
- Archaeological Site At Ban Prasat Ancient bronze age artifacts in burial site that dates back 3000 years.
- Muang Sema Buddhist Temple
- Wat Ban Rai famous monastery of a well known monk, Luang Pho Khun Porisutho.
- Prasat Hin Phi Mai Stone Khmer temple complex in Ampur Phi Mai. Frequent buses from Korat City's Bus Terminal Number 1. Excellent museum as well.
- Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo Korat Zoo Head south on Highway 304 - Korat to Pak Thong Chai road - turn left onto Highway 2310, the zoo is on the left after about 1km. Easiest way for visitors to get there is by songthaew: catch the 4129 - white with yellow and blue stripe - on Ratchadamnoen Road or heading west on Mittraphap/Highway 2. Opposite The Mall or outside Tesco Lotus are good places to catch them. From the centre of town the charge will be ฿20. The songtaews go right inside the zoo. Catch one from the drop-off point to go back to the city. +66 (0) 44 934648 http://www.zookoratzoo.com Every day, 8AM-5PM Adults ฿100, children ฿50 (Thais ฿70/฿15). ฿50 per car, ฿10 per motorbike. Korat Zoo is one of the biggest in Thailand and, cliche or not, it really is a great day out. The zoo, some 20km from the city centre, is set in the Korat countryside. As such, the site is ''huge''. The animals live in vast, sprawling natural habitats (except for the snakes) and many of them can be hand fed. Lions, tigers, elephants, bears, giraffes, zebras, chimpanzees, rhinos, cheetahs, wildebeest, alligators, antelope and many, many more species can be found here. Bicycles can be hired to tour the zoo or you can catch the sight-seeing bus for ฿20. Electric carts (actually, former golf buggies) can also be hired to get around the zoo at a rather pricey ฿300 per hour. The zebras, giraffes, elephants and chimpanzees can be fed with bananas - ฿20 per bunch. There are, of course, many cafes and snack shops dotted around the site. In 2009 a new water park opened. Entrance to 'Korat Zoo Lagoon' comes at no extra charge. Swimming hats are compulsory and adults may feel a little out of place in this child-friendly leisure pool.
- Thao Suranaree Municipal Area Between Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Roads from the west (Bangkok) follow Mittraphap as it changes to Highway 224. Turn right onto Chumphon Rd just past I.T Plaza. The Municipal Area is on your right and runs the length of Chumphon Rd Every day, 24 hrs The Municipal Area (sometimes referred to as a park) is a long pedestrianized strip sandwiched between Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Roads. It runs nearly the full length of Chumphon Road from the junction with Highway 224 up to the Yamo monument. It's one of the best places in Korat for an evening stroll.
Best place to start your walk is at the northern end (Highway 224) at the 'Yamo Entrance' (see main photo at the top of this article). You will pass a short section of moat - Wat Phayap is on your left - and then come to the start of the pedestrianized area. Here, a raised water course follows the line of the long-gone moat and city wall. As you continue your walk you will pass the 'Light and Sound Performance Building' (see 'See') on your left and, near to that, a reconstructed section of the city wall complete with explanatory plaque in English. Further up the Municipal Area you will come to an amphitheatre and, beyond, the statue of Yamo and the Chomphon Gate. Beyond here, the moat recommences.
- Nakhon Ratchasima F.C 'SWAT Cats' 80th Birthday Stadium, SEA Games Sports Park, Highway 304 go west on Highway 2 - Mittraphap Road - and join Highway 304 about 1km after the Sima Thani Hotel, s/p Pak Thong Chai, the stadium turning is on the right after about 3.5kms. Songtaew 4129, bound for the zoo, goes past the entrance to the site but this still leaves a lengthy walk to the stadium and it may be difficult to get a songtaew back after 7PM. Taxi would be best. +66 (0) 44 289 626 http://www.clubwebsite.co.uk/koratfc ฿50Take in a local football match in Korat at one of the best stadiums in the country. The local team - Nakhon Ratchasima F.C - play in the Northeast Division of the Regional League. The regular season runs from February to September (but play-offs may extend it). The stadium and surrounding sports facilities were purpose-built for the 2007 Southeast Asian Games
- The Mall - a huge shopping mall with a quite beautiful waterfall theme
- Waterslide park - has an Olympic-sized pool, great to do some laps and stay in shape
- Landscaped jogging park - near the military base
- Thai discos
- Massage parlors
- Cinema and bowling alley
- Volunteer - Dragonfly Volunteer Projects operates out of Khorat and arranges volunteering opportunities in schools and orphanages across Isaan
- Golf- all are beautiful golf courses
- Friendship Meadows Country Club- range from 600 for guest to 800 for visitors on weekdays, 400 baht more on weekends.
- Misson Hills Golf Club Khao Yai- range from 800 for guests and 600 for visitors a day.
- Rooks Korat Country Club Golf & Resort- starts at 500 for both guests and visitors.
- The Country Club Khao Yai- Start at 250 for guests and 500 for visitors.
- Voyage Panorama Resort and Golf Club Starts at 500 for guests and visitors for weekdays and 800 for weekends.
Festivals and events
- Phimai Boat Races Take place on the Moon River near the old Khmer city of Phimai and are held yearly by the people of Amphoe Phimai during the second weekend of November. This event includes boats decorated competitions and stalls selling local products.
- Thao Suranari Commamoration. held from March 23 to April 2 to commemorate the victory of Thao Suranari. This event includes cultural displays, exhitions, and fireworks.
- Phimai Festival. held the same time as Phimai boat Races in Phimai historical Park. This events includes light and sound presentation of buddhist, historical, and cultural exhibitions.
- 'Miss Boonlua Memorial Commemorate miss Boonlua and the people of Nakhon Ratchasima who died in the battle of Thung Samrit in 1826.
Nakhon Ratchasima has the usual Thai mix of modern department stores, malls and supermarkets; large covered day markets; night markets and smaller street markets. The aforementioned dept stores, malls and supermarkets are all easily reached by public transport. Some of the markets may take a bit more finding but are always well worth the effort. The sights, sounds and smells in a Thai market can make your head spin but they are a 'must do' if you've never experienced them before. All the modern malls are open seven days a week. Most small, independent shops are open at least six days a week and often seven. Remember, this isn't Pattaya or Bangkok, though. Most small shops close at eight at the latest and roads which are busy, shopping thoroughfares by day can be almost deserted by 9pm. But don't despair; there are always the night markets!
Department Stores, Shopping Centres and Supermarkets
- Klang Plaza Chomsurangyat Klang Mai/Klang Plaza 2 Corner of Ratchadamnoen and Chomsurangyat Stand in front of Yamo, facing Ratchadamnoen Road, and look left - you can't miss it! see photo +66 (0) 44 260111 +66 (0) 44 252534 www.klangplaza.com Every day, 10AM-9PM Klang Plaza Chomsurang (or Jomsurang) Department Store was opened in 1991. This building, staggeringly huge by Korat standards, utterly dominates the downtown/city centre area. It is about 100 metres from Yamo but directions are superfluous: you really can't miss it. The more useful points of interest include: a supermarket, food hall and various restaurants on the ground floor and another food hall on the fifth floor; coin-operated Internet access on the fifth floor; a kids' play area, including minature railway on the sixth floor and an exhibition hall often used for sports events on the seventh floor.
- The Mall Mittraphap Road (Highway 2) Approaching from the west (Bangkok) The Mall is on the left halfway between Tesco Lotus and the Highway 2 and 224 intersection. +66 (0) 44 231000 www.themallkorat.com Every day, 10AM-9PM The Mall, part of a nationwide chain, opened around ten years ago and is a popular daytime haunt for the more affluent members of Korat society. The sprawling complex - which has just had another floor added - has all you would expect of such a place: western restaurants (including the only McDonalds in the whole city), fashion boutiques, a supermarket, cinema, a large food hall, an outdoor swimming pool and so on. After window shopping upstairs, head down into the basement/lower-ground floor level where you will find many small independent shops and stalls selling clothes for a fraction of the price of those upstairs.
- Big C 118 Mittraphap Road Follow Mittraphap as it bears left shortly after The Mall, s/p Khon Kaen & Udon Thani, Big C is on the right after a couple of hundred metres +66 (0) 44 295050 firstname.lastname@example.org +66 (0) 44 295030 http://www.bigc.co.th/en/stores/bigc/korat Every day, 9AM-11PM This large superstore (officially a 'Supercenter'!) has restaurants, banks, clothes shops, jewellery shops and more on the ground floor and a supermarket on the first floor. As with most modern supermarkets, it sells a lot more than food and drink. Clothes, furniture, household appliances, even motorbikes can all be found on the first floor. Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis wait outside and songthaews 7 and 15 will get you back to the city centre.
- Klang Plaza Atsadang Klang Plaza 1 Atsadang Road From the west, Highway 224, turn right onto Chumphon Rd, take the third left on Chumphon (Atsadang Rd), go straight across the intersection with Jagree Rd and it is on your right - opposite the Korat Hotel. +66 (0) 44 244771 http://www.klangplaza.com Every day, 10AM-9PM This is the original Klang Plaza, built in 1976. It was one of the biggest department stores in the northeast when it opened but feels more like 'Grace Brothers' today. It has most of the same shops and departments that its younger brother has (except for technology stores) but on a much smaller scale. Walk down the soi behind the shop and onto Chomphon Road to catch songthaews 1,8 or 12 back to the centre/Yamo area.
- Tesco Lotus Lotus 719/5 Mittraphap Rd (Highway 2) Lotus is halfway between The Mall and the Sima Thani Hotel on Highway 2 +66 (0) 44 263 70024 +66 (0) 44 263 7267 http://www.tescolotus.net/placedetail.php?menu=location_th&type=Hypermarket&lang=en&id=108 Every day, 6AM-11PM The newest addition to the Korat retail landscape, Lotus is similar to Big C in that there are small shops on the ground floor and a huge 'Hypermarket' on the first floor. Songthaews 6 and 4129, among others, will get you there from the city centre. Beware! You have to cross the ten lanes of Highway 2 to get a songthaew back to the city centre. Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis also wait out the front, and it's also a good place to catch a bus to Pak Chong or Pak Thong Chai if you don't want to go to the old bus station.
- I.T Plaza I.T City/I.T 324 Mittraphap Rd/Highway 224 I.T is located on Highway 224 very near to the junctions with Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Roads +66 (0) 44 269717 +66 (0) 44 269716 Every day, 10AM-20:30PM I.T Plaza (sometimes mistakenly referred to as I.T City; I.T City is in fact a large shop within I.T Plaza) is a technology-only department store in central Korat. The main entrance is on the first floor and is reached by a footbridge over Mittraphap.
The ground floor is mainly taken up by mobile phone shops. The first and second floors are occupied by shops selling computers and related accessories. There is a Hot Pot restaurant in the basement/lower-ground floor. For a 21st century high-tech superstore, it's actually quite dated and tired inside with cracked and missing floor tiles; tatty, chipped walls and lots of vacant shops. In fact, the empty shops and completely unused third floor tell you that Koratians are doing their tech' shopping elsewhere these days. Indeed, everything that I.T sells can be found in much nicer surroundings at The Mall or Klang Plaza Chomsurang.
- Mae Kim Heng Market Pho Klang Road the closest market to Yamo, just turn onto Pho Klang opposite the statue of Yamo. The market is about 100m down the road on your right. There are also entrances on Suranaree Road and Buarong Road. Every day, 24 hrs (but most stalls are closed at night) One of the largest indoor markets in Korat, Mae Kim Heng sells food: both fresh produce and prepared dishes. Get there early (6AM-8AM) and you can buy some typical Thai breakfast fare: satays, grilled chicken and warm soya milk with doughnuts for dipping. Viewed from the Pho Klang entrance, the market can be divided into three main sections: fresh meat and fish on the left-hand side, fruit & veg and pre-cooked food down the middle and small restaurants down the right-hand side. At the Suranaree Road end of the market there is a clothes section, and next to that, just where the market spills out onto the street, are two very popular 'OTOP' grilled chicken and sticky rice stalls. Stalls selling fruit, veg, fish and meat then continue down the pavement on Suranaree Road towards the junction with Ratchadamnoen Road. These stalls set up mid-morning, and here you can experience some of the hustle and bustle missing from the main market.
- Night Bazaar 1 Manat Road travel east along Chomphon Road, go straight across the junction with Jagree Rd. The market is on your right at the next junction. It is on the stretch of Manat Rd between Chomphon and Mahat Thai Roads every day, 6PM-late The Night Bazaar on Manat Road mainly sells clothes and accessories, and a little food. It's well known throughout the city but you may be left wondering why. There's nothing on sale here that can't be found at myriad markets and stalls all over the city and it's pretty small, too.
- Night Bazaar 2 The eastern end of Chomphon Road between Kudan and the Phonlan Roads. from the centre of town, catch the number 1 songtaew from the corner of Chumphon and Chomphon Roads. Stay on the songtaew until it makes a a left in front of the Iyara Hotel. You will see the market from here - just across Kudan Road. every day, 6PM-late A bigger, more relaxed market than the crowded, narrow Night Bazaar 1. This one mainly sells food but has some clothing and other goods.
Never let it be said that you can't eat on a budget in Korat. The cheaper restaurants usually open during the day and can generally be divided into two groups: those which sell pre-cooked khao man gai, kwitiyao and khao moo daeng (boiled chicken & rice, noodle soup and red pork with rice), and those which have a menu and sell khao pad, pad Thai (fried rice, fried noodles) and so on. In the case of the former, you will see the cooked chickens and strips of red meat in a cabinet in front of the restaurant, and they usually just sell the aforementioned three meals. ฿25 is the going rate for one meal but you can push the boat out and pay ฿30 for a larger portion! The other type of restaurant will be able to prepare any Thai meal (within reason) and, again, ฿25 is usually the starting price. Pad krapao moo (spicy minced pork cooked with basil) and khanom chin (fresh rice noodles served with a spicy sauce and vegetables) are particularly popular in Korat. As is pad mee Korat a local, spicier variation on pad Thai. The budget restaurants listed below, therefore, offer something a little different to the khao man gai and kwitiyao eateries which abound on nearly every street.
- Cafe de Toom 62 Chomsurangyat Rd From Yamo, go up Ratchadamnoen Rd in the direction of Klang Plaza, turn right onto Chomsurangyat Rd, go past Klang Plaza and the post office, the restaurant is on your right next door to SevenEleven just before the Chao Phaya hotel M-Sa, 8:00AM - mid-afternoon (or whenever everything has been sold) Different to most cheap Thai restaurants, this one only sells pre-cooked curries. There are eight to ten different types on display at the front counter ready to eat. Gaeng Massaman (muslim curry) is sweet and not too spicy, and is thoroughly recommended. Price for all curries is ฿25-฿30. The owner speaks good English and will whip you up a refreshing iced-tea or coffee. The board out front advertises an 'American Breakfast' for ฿90 - a concession made for the many farang staying at the nearby Chao Phaya hotel.
- Long Tua Steakhouse ลงตัว Buarong Road from Yamo, turn left onto Suranree Road, turn left at the first set of lights onto Buarong Road, the restaurant is a few buildings down the road on your right directly opposite the Sri Vichai Hotel Every day, 4PM-late Thai-style steak and distinctive noodle soups in an informal and popular restaurant. A refreshingly small menu with just a dozen or so dishes on it (most Thai menus run to hundreds of dishes). Chicken and pork steaks are ฿50 and beef, ฿60. French fries ฿39. Vietnamese style noodle soup starts at ฿25. All food is available to take away. A very popular place to watch football on the big screen so expect big crowds on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
They have all kinds of drinks.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
How low can you go? Budget hotels in Korat start at less than ฿200, but it's fair to say you get what you pay for. These hotels will be devoid of any facilities and usually just consist of a reception desk with a flight of stairs leading to the rooms above. At less than ฿200, the room won't have air-con or hot water. It will be very dated, poorly decorated and probably uncleaned. They have a reputation for being 'short time hotels' but the fact that two have recently closed down - the Potong Hotel on Ratchadamnoen Rd and the Ratchasima Hotel on Chomphon Rd - suggests that the days of ฿200-a-night dumps may be numbered: they won't be missed.
If you must, the Srisura on Suranaree Road, the Chomphon on Pho Klang Road, the Cathay on Ratchadamnoen Rd and the Sri Chomphon on Chomphon Road are city-centre examples of such places.
The budget hotels listed below are a rung or two above those described above. These hotels have air-con, TV, a restaurant and so on
- Far Thai Hotel 35/37/39 Pho Klang Road The entrance to Pho Klang Road is immediately opposite the statue of Yamo and the Far Thai is 50m up Pho Klang on the left. +66 (0) 44 267 3901 +66 (0) 44 252 797 ฿430Pretty basic and quite tatty. ฿430 is for a double room with air-con but rooms with a fan start from ฿260. All rooms have a TV but none have a fridge. A small, quiet restaurant serving typically cheap Thai fare is at the rear of the ground floor. No lounge or bar. The closest hotel to the staue of Yamo since the closure of the Potong Hotel.
- Sansabai House 335 Suranaree Rd. From the Ratchadamnoen Rd end, go down Suranaree Road, straight across the junction with Buarong Rd, past the turning for Burin Rd, the hotel is on your left, nearly opposite a 7/11 store. +66 (0) 44255144 email@example.com http://www.sansabai-korat.com ฿270/฿450/฿600 SuraneeEssentially the same type of hotel as the Far Thai but much brighter and better appointed. As of Feb 2010 room with a fan, fridge, cable tv, free wifi, balcony, closet, small table with chairs, western toilet and shower for 270 baht. Clean rooms, centrally located with a lot of street food stalls nearby. No bar or restaurant.
- Srivichai Hotel 9-11 Buarong Rd From Yamo, go down Ratchadamnoen Rd, turn left onto Suranaree Rd, go down Suranaree, turn left at the traffic lights onto Buarong Rd. The hotel is a couple of buildings down Buarong on your left. +66 (0) 44 242194 (or 241284) firstname.lastname@example.org +66 (0) 44 267254 http://www.srivichaihotel.com ฿500 (+฿100 for an extra bed)A small budget hotel, the Srivichai is a rival to the nearby Chao Phaya. Quite a cosy place with a small lounge and small bar/restaurant both overlooking the street. There's a computer with Internet access (฿30/hr) near to the reception desk. Rooms are basic but functional with air-con, fridge and tv. All rooms are the same price
- Chaophayainn Hotel Chao Phaya 62/1 Chomsurangyat Road From Yamo, go south on Ratchadamnoen Rd, turn right at Klang Plaza Dept Store onto Chomsurangyat Rd. The hotel is a couple of hundred metres up the road on the right, shortly after the post office. +66 (0) 44 260544 email@example.com +66 (0) 44 258657 http://www.chaophayainn.com ฿500-฿1000A popular mid-range choice, the Chaophaya is a fairly large yet pretty basic place. Facilities are limited to a sleepy cafe (with a more popular outside dining area), room service and free Wi-Fi. The type of hotel that makes a good base for exploring the city centre but not the type of place that you're likely to spend a serious amount of time in. Walking distance from Yamo, the museum, Klang Plaza Dept Store and several visitor-friendly temples. Rooms, clean; mattresses, hard.
- Chomsurang Hotel Jomsurang Hotel 2701/1-2 Mahat Thai Rd From Highway 224, turn right onto Chumphon Rd, travel the entire length of Chumphon and turn left at the end of the road. You will now be able to see the hotel; a large, tall white building a few hundred metres up the road on your right +66 (0) 44 2570 809 firstname.lastname@example.org +66 (0) 44 252897 http://www.chomsurang.com ฿500-฿1000One of the oldest hotels in Korat and one of the best in its day. That ''day'', however, was some forty years ago. Today, it is quiet, very dated (even the promotional leaflets are fifteen years old) and completely outclassed by other hotels in the city. The fact that the room rates have been considerably reduced from those displayed on the website tells you something. But the location - adjacent to the southern entrance of Night Bazaar 1, close to several popular restaurants and ten-minutes walk from Klang Plaza and Yamo - is hard to beat.
- Sima Thani Hotel 2112/2 Mittraphap Road Approaching from the west (Bangkok) the Sima Thani is on the left just after you cross the railway line flyover. It's a huge, prominent building; you can't miss it. +66 (0) 44 213100 email@example.com +66 (0) 44 213121 http://www.simathani.com ฿1400-฿2500/฿4000-฿15,000 rooms/suitesA former Sheraton hotel, the Siam Thani is the most famous and biggest (265 rooms) hotel in Korat - it's also one of the most expensive. It's more traditonal-luxury than the V-One's modern-funky (see below). It has all the facilities you would expect from a five star hotel and is a favoured destination for any celebrities that happen to be in town. But its location - a couple of kms west of the city centre - isn't great for night owls.
- Dusit Princess Korat The Royal Princess (former name) 1137 Suranarai Road (Highway 205) From the west (Bangkok) follow Highway 2 then Highway 224 through the city. Turn left onto Highway 205 (s/p Phimai,Chaiyaphum). The hotel is on your left after approx 1.5km. +66 (0) 44 256629 +66 (0) 44 256601 http://www.dusit.com/en/hotels/thailand/korat/dusit_princess/index.html ฿1600-฿4700A Sima Thani rival, the Dusit Princess is part of the Dusit International group. Facilities are as you would expect from a 4/5 star hotel and there is a limosuine service which can collect you from Suvarnabhumi airport (฿9000! Er...up to you!) Like the Sima Thani, it suffers from a location adjacent to a main highway and is several kms from the city centre. Website claims of it being 3.5 kms from the train station and 2 kms from the bus station are bold to say the least. You can email the hotel through their website (email address not available).
- Hermitage Hotel Hermitage Resort 725/2, Highway 224 follow Highway 2 then 224 through Korat, the hotel is on your left, set back from the road, just after you have come over the railway line flyover; difficult to get to and from if you do not have a car, buses bound for the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet stop in front of the hotel +66 (0) 44 247444 firstname.lastname@example.org +66 (0) 44 247463 http://www.hermitagethailand.com ฿1,600-6,000A 139-room hotel in the southeast of the city. Surrounded by gardens and lakes. A pool, gym and sauna are among the facilities and it comes with a reputaion for good food.
- V-One Hotel 666/6 Chang Pheuak Rd From the west (Bangkok) follow Highway 2 past Lotus and The Mall. Bear left on Highway 2 past Big C and the 'new' bus station. Turn right onto Chang Pheuak Rd in front of the Pegasus Hotel. V-One is a few hundred metres down Chang Pheuak on the left. +66 (0) 44342444 email@example.com +66 (0) 44 342400 http://www.v-onehotelkorat.com ฿3060(฿1836) - ฿11299(฿6780) Figure in brackets is the Internet booking rate (40% off).The V-One is a self-styled 'trendy, boutique hotel'. Certainly, its modern, colourful decor and 21st century facilities mark it out as quite different from any other hotel in the city; you have to pay for it, though (see below). It does have 'Brother' and 'Sister' hotels - smaller buildings adjacent to the main building. The rooms in these are smaller and cheaper than the quoted figures. The road the hotel is situated on is one of the better for nightlife by Korat standards. The V-One also benefits from being close to Highway 2 and the main bus station.
Internet cafés are plentiful and typically charge around ฿10/hour or ฿25 for three hours.
- Khao Yai National Park — largest national park of Thailand with fascinating animals, waterfalls and more
- Phimai — the historical Khmer remains
- Preah Vihear — amazing temple right on the border with Cambodia, no separate visa necessary to visit
- Surin — the annual elephant parade
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