I just came back to Bangkok yesterday from my second trip to the Northeast of Thailand, Isaan. This time the trip was all about Nakhon Ratchasima or as Thais call it in short: Korat. Before I tell you about my experiences there, my highlights and how the nightlife is, here two really interesting facts about Korat that you may not have known yet:
- Korat is Thailand’s 2nd largest city with a population of only 145,000. In comparison, the (official) population of the capital Bangkok is 8.3 million!
- Korat is the former border town of the Kingdom of Siam and Laos. It’s interesting to see how the people look like a mix of Thai and Lao (or more precisely Isaan) people.
1. The Korat Night Market
The safe one night market is probably the cultural highlight in Korat, strolling around the night market at the southern end of the city. It’s huge and they sell anything from satellite receivers to t-shirts that they print the sentence of your choice on them (depending on size only 90-130 baht). There is also a huge food court and several other small and neat places where you can have dinner, enjoy a cool Leo beer and watch the scene.
To get there, take a songthaew (pick-up van in form of a passenger taxi) from the main road all the way down to the night market. You can’t miss it as the market is right next to the main road (on the left coming from the city). It takes about ten minutes from the mall and the fare is just 8 baht (no matter from where you go).
2. The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima
I don’t mention a mall in my highlights of Korat out of shopping reasons – you might have a better and cheaper experience at the night market and you can find shopping malls in any major city in Thailand anyway. However “The Mall” really seems to be the place that everyone hangs out during the day. It was the first place that I visited in Korat, I just got off the bus there as it’s conveniently located on the main road in the heart of the city.
There was a stage set up in front of the mall with a Thai rock band playing, lots of young people cheering and having a good time. The mall is also a good place to just come to eat, as in most other Thai malls there is a food court where you can get fine local dishes like Khao Kha Moo for just 50 baht. And there’s a really nice and large swimming pool (50m lanes) outside right next to the food court, entrance fee is 100 baht for the whole day.
3. Exploring Korat’s quiet streets
Given that Korat is Thailand’s second biggest city I was surprised how empty and quiet its streets were at any time of the day. So it was worth to just take a walk around the center of town and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere all over the place. I discovered the neat railway station and a few temples like the one you can see on the picture.
4. Khmer Temple in Phimai
More than 800 years old, the temple complex in the Phimai historical park is one of the most important Khmer temples in Thailand. It is believed that this temple has actually been the inspiration for the world famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It also marks the end of the Ancient Khmer Highway. In fact, Phimai was once territory of the Khmer empire that is now known as Cambodia.
Phimai is located about 60km northeast of Korat and to get there you can take a minivan or bus from the Korat bus terminal. One way fare is 50 baht. I recommend you take the minivan as it’s faster than the bus (45 minutes compared to one hour and fifteen minutes).
Nightlife in Korat
There is no redlight district in Korat (apart from several karaoke bars). Instead you can find a decent local bar scene that is located in the northern end of the city in a street called Changphuak Road, about 1km further north from the bus terminal. There are lots of bars and sort of clubs in this road, the most popular being ทู กรุงเทพ ราชสีมา in the center of that road (I didn’t see an English translation for it), a typical Thai club with live band and lots of tables where most of the young crowd drinks Black Label whisky in small groups.
Another local favorite is “U-Bar” on the corner of Changphuak Road and the Main Road (highway) that is more bar than club but with live music as well. Next to that one is an open air bar with pool table.
Even though you barely see any foreigner in these places, the local Thais are very friendly and it’s quite easy to get in touch with them.
That’s my highlights for Korat! If you want to know how to travel to Korat from Bangkok, check out this post.