Discover Isan on this week’s episode of Talk Travel Asia, as we get travel tips for northeastern Thailand from Lonely Planet author Tim Bewer.

Regularly overlooked by visitors, Isan is comprised of 20 provinces, making it Thailand’s largest region. Those who discover Isan, however, experience an area of natural beauty and fascinating culture. Inhabited by a mostly ethnically Lao population, Isan is where many famous Thai foods originate from. The region is largely flat and borders Laos to the north and Cambodia to the south, with the Mekong River constituting a large section of its international border. With long distances between major centers and many more famous destinations within Thailand to compete with, Isan is largely left out of western guidebooks, generally overlooked by visitors, and genuinely deserves more attention. Our guest, longtime Lonely Planet writer Tim Bewer, lives in one of Isan’s major cities Khon Kaen, and will share his travel tips for Thailand’s underappreciated Isan region.

Discover Isan Thailand on Talk Travel Asia podcast with Tim Bewer
Prasat Muang Tam Khmer ruin in Isan, Thailand.

Introduction: Scott’s and Trevor’s first times to Isan

Scott and Trevor talk about their first times traveling to Isan. Scott drove a car to Ubon and then up to Nong Khai to help a woman get there. He was then lucky in his first few years to visit a couple major Khmer monuments with his parents, including Phnom Rung and Phimai.

Trevor’s first visit to Isan was to Khao Yai National Park as a backpacker in the mid 90s. Later, he travelled to Nong Khai, while exiting Laos, and through Ubon Ratchathani on his way to Pakse and Vat Phu, also in Laos. Trevor says he knows quite a bit more about the region than his experience dictates.

Discover Isan Thailand on Talk Travel Asia podcast with Tim Bewer
View of Mekong River at Pha Taem National Park: Isan, Thailand.

Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW. You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover the costs of keeping the show going. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping keep the travel talk happening.

Over the years, Scott has returned to discover Isan a number of times. He’s driven through the center of Isan to the Preah Vihear gate, cycled through northern Loei in October 2020, and then visited Nakhon Phanom and Bueng Khan provinces in September 2020 with his wife Erika.

While Trevor’s experience in Isan is limited, he’s edited travel content about Isan. While looking at a Google map, Trevor remembers that there are dinosaurs (fossils) in Kalasin, there are a number of Khmer temple ruins, from pre-Angkor through the Angkor era, including Phimai, which is possibly the most well preserved Khmer temple. Trevor also talks about the naga fireballs and the rocket festival before remembering all the good Isan food. 

Tim Bewer, longtime Lonely Planet author, shares his travel tips for Isan, Thailand.

Discover Isan with this week’s guest, Tim Bewer, who shares his travel tips for northeastern Thailand.

Longtime guidebook writer, Tim Bewer, got in touch with us after listening to Episode 120: Laos with Nick Ray, who is a Lonely Planet colleague. Originally from Wisconsin in the USA, Tim is Lonely Planet’s second longest tenured Thailand writer after another Talk Travel Asia guest, Joe Cummings. Tim has authored the Isan section of the last five editions of the Lonely Planet Thailand book, as well as writing or co-writing nearly 50 guidebooks covering a variety of destinations, from Mexico to Sudan. He runs a tour business, Isan Explorer, with his wife and joins us online from his home in Khon Kaen, in northeastern Thailand.

Discover Isan Thailand on Talk Travel Asia podcast with Tim Bewer
Pottery in the Ban Chiang National Museum.

Listen to Episode 125: Discover Isan, Thailand to hear Tim’s travel tips as he answers the following questions: 

  • What brought you to Thailand for the first time?
  • When did you decide to officially call Thailand home?
  • How did you get into the guidebook writing business?
  • How do you define ‘Isan’?
  • What makes Isan different from other regions of Thailand?
  • Tell us about the people?
  • What is Isan food like?
  • What ‘experiences’ will someone potentially have if they put Isan on their travel itinerary?
  • In a nutshell, what are Tim’s top travel tips for Isan Thailand?
  • You’ve made Isan home – what do you love so much about the region?
  • Any other key sites you haven’t mentioned?
  • If someone has 10-days, can you give us a suggested travel plan?
  • Tell us about your touring business, Isan Explorer?
Buddha and other sculptures at Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park.

Links to learn more about Tim Bewer

Learn more about Scott and Trevor

Liked it? Take a second to support Talk Travel Asia on Patreon!

Leave a Reply