I’m originally from the state of Wisconsin in the USA. I first visited Thailand in 1997 and have lived in Khon Kaen since 2007. I make my living by a mix of travel writing and organizing tours in Thailand’s seldom-visited Isan region.
After travelling in Thailand a few times I decided to have a different kind of travel experience by staying in one place for a year. That year turned into two, then three… Now I have no intention of leaving. I chose to live in Isan because it’s the region of Thailand that I enjoyed most the when traveling.
The idea that Thailand is overrun with tourists is a widely believed myth. But the vast majority of visitors go to the same few places leaving the rest unspoiled. I think the prevalence of the standard Bangkok-Chiang Mai-and-a-beach itinerary mostly boils down to two things – people on their first trip to Thailand want to see the things they’ve seen in pictures and videos, and they want to go places where they can get by in English. Isan doesn’t offer either of these.
People who come to Isan are generally looking to experience local life – handicrafts, food, temples, markets, and the like .Beyond delving into the local culture, two Isanhighlights are Khmer ruins and traveling along the Mekong River. Isan Explorer’s Absolute Isan tour (https://www.isanexplorer.com/absolute-isan.html) gives visitors some of all three.
Elephant tourism in Thailand has gotten better in the past couple of years. There are still a lot of terrible, abusive elephant camps out there, but the trend now is to transition from elephant trekking to people walking and swimming with elephants. This doesn’t solve all the problems with elephant tourism, but it’s a good first step.
Also, there’s less off-the-beaten-path travel by foreigners in Thailand than there was two decades ago. The opening up of travel in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar means there is much more to see on a SE Asia trip without having to rough it. On the other hand, the increase in Thais traveling around their own country means that there are more and better facilities in the less-visited parts of Thailand.
I love Si Satchanalai. The ruins themselves are a little less captivating than nearby Sukhothai, but the setting is far more beautiful and peaceful.
I live in Isan, but my favorite Thai food is Khao Soi, from Northern Thailand.