Getting off the well-beaten tourist path in Thailand shows a very different side of the country.
Escaping the traffic and fumes of Bangkok, or negotiating an exit from interminable hagglers on the beaches of Pattaya or Phuket, why not make your way up to the northeast of the country?
Here you will find friendly locals unjaded by mass tourism, a deliciously vibrant cuisine, and some spectacular sights and sounds.
Exploring Northern Thailand
Udon Thani is one provincial capital on the way to the Thai - Laos border. The town itself grew rapidly during the Vietnam war and is a regional commercial centre, but when you head out into the surrounding villages you suddenly discover ways of life that have remained steadfastly unchanged for many, many years.
A unique way to experience this region, where Lao is the main dialect, is to book a stay at one of the few locally-run villas for rent in the countryside, like ones found on Airbnb. You will taste Isan cuisine in the meals they prepare for guests, and you should definitely take the chance to ask the owners to arrange a trip for you to the Red Lotus Sea, just minutes away by car or tuk-tuk.
The Red Lotus Sea
A huge lake steeped in folklore, the lake seems nondescript from its shores, but taking a wooden boat out into the heart of the lake can be a stunning experience, as all of a sudden you find yourself among waterways strewn with endless pink lotus blossoms. As you admire the natural beauty of the lake, inquisitive water fowl will dive bomb you, and flights of heron ascend to the blue skies above.
No wonder the lake has been listed as one of the world's most beautiful and most strange. With its unexpected setting, colorful flora and squirrel-based myths and legends, it makes an unforgettable trip!
And for other accidental discoveries, the World Heritage site of Ban Chiang is also nearby - an imporatnt broze age civiliation discovered by an American who tripped on exposed artefacts in a tiny farming village.