While we’ve tried our hardest, Isaan is impossible to squeeze into a few pages. To help fill in the gaps we came up with Isaanisms: evocative little snapshots of authentic Isaan that we’ve experienced and strongly recommend you try and seek out
… getting hauled into a passing festival procession to dance with rambunctious older women. Then being hauled out to down shots of rice wine with farmers, and getting mobbed by a gaggle of katoeys.
… enjoying old school mor lam and authentic Isaan food at the elevated wooden roadhouse music pub called Pleng Pim, just outside Khon Kaen.
… boggling at how exactly American cowboy culture came to thrive in this remote part of Thailand while you watch a local kid expertly lasso a calf at Korat’s Farm Chok Chai.
… visiting the crazy Sala Kaew Koo shrine outside Nong Khai, and then exploring the back roads that offers a window into small village life.
… cruising by car, motorcycle along routes 2016 and 2216: the road of a thousand curves that cuts across Loei’s Phu Luang Park.
.. pulling up beside a rice paddy to watch farmers plant saplings… and walking back to your car covered in mud 20 minutes later after being invited in to lend a hand.
… dipping balls of sticky rice into earthy soups and blistering hot som tum, in a remote rural village while chickens peck in the dirt.
… discovering more kinds of mushroom than you ever imagined discovering and eating in a salad near Phu Rua National Park.
… peering through the Thai immigration and customs station at an impossibly kitsch casino just across the border in Laos.
… admiring alien-looking rock formation along the Mekong and considering the cataclysmic forces and eons it took to create them.
… eating Isaan food at a restaurant overlooking the Mekong River, such as Kaeng Kut Koo in Loei, or Khlong Jiam in Ubon Ratchathani.
… seeing your wrists slowly disappear as white string after sacred white string get tied round each arm by seemingly every elder in the village.
… shivering on a (comparatively) freezing winter’s night in one of Isaan’s National Parks while Thais ram wong around a campfire… then warming yourself up by joining them in their lively dance.
… staring bleary-eyed off a blustery cliff atop at Pha Taem National Park as the sun majestically rises over the distant Laotian hills.