Nakhon Ratchasima (นครราชสีมา), usually referred to as Khorat (โคราช) or, more commonly Korat, is the largest city in the Isaan region of Thailand. Its proximity to Bangkok and Isaan make it a good jumping-off point for travellers who are heading into Isaan. It has excellent transport links to the rest of the country and beyond. Hwy 2 (Bangkok to Nong Khai) runs through the city, as does the northeast railway line which splits in the east of the city: one line runs up to Nong Khai and the other, to Ubon Ratchathani. There are buses which run to just about every city in the northern, northeastern, and eastern regions. You can even get buses to Vientiane in Laos and to the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet.
The city itself has a population of around 200,000 (Nai Muang district), but the entire urban sprawl of the Nakhon Ratchasima metropolitan area (Muang Nakhon Ratchasima) has a population of approaching half a million. Despite the size of the city, it is not a favoured holiday destination for the average foreign traveller. Instead, visitors are more likely to base themselves in the city as they visit nearby tourist destinations such as Khao Yai National Park, Phimai, and Phanom Rung.
The modern-day city traces its roots back to the late seventeenth century when King Narai of Ayutthaya ordered the construction of the city to protect the Ayutthaya Kingdom's northeastern frontier from Laotian or Khmer attack. It was just such a Laotian attack that was defeated by local heroine Thao Suranaree in 1826. She, and her army, are credited with freeing the city from King Anouvong's Laotian forces. These exploits have lifted 'Yamo' to almost god-like status in Korat. Her statue, in the centre of the city on Ratchadamnoen Rd, is the most visited attraction in the city.
The city continued to grow, helped by the arrival of the railway in the early twentieth century, and, today, is a typical Thai mix of chaos, pollution, and tradition.
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Check Nakhon Ratchasima's 7 day forecast at TMD.go.th
Korat is classified as having the three tropical seasons of hot, rainy and cool (or sometimes dry). But the seasons overlap considerably, and the rainy and hot seasons occur almost simultaneously while the cool/dry season is quite short. In generally during Nov, Dec, and Jan it's very dry and relatively cool, although daytime temperatures will still often exceed 30 degrees C. Mar-Jun are the four hottest months but there can be heavy rains during this time, particularly in May. The temperatures decreases slightly each month as the area moves into the rainy season. Aug-Oct are the wettest months but tropical storms may be experienced any time between Mar-Oct. The downpours end as Oct ends: the rainfall in Nov is just 20% that of Oct.
The city, with its traffic and concrete, will be a little hotter than the rest of the province. And days in Apr and May can be unbearably hot amidst the urban jungle. Conversely, it can be surprisingly cool between Nov-Jan. It's not unusual for temperatures at night in the city to drop below fifteen degrees Celsius in the cool season, while out in the rural areas, single-digit temperatures are not unknown.
The main road into the city is Hwy 2 (Mittraphap Rd) which originates in Saraburi and terminates in Nong Khai. The mall, Tesco Lotus and several hotels are next to it. Shortly after the mall, it bears left, goes past the main bus station and onto Khon Kaen. To the north of the city it joins up with the bypass also known, somewhat confusingly, as Hwy 2.
The road network within the city is, for the most part, an American-style grid system. Therefore, once you are familiar with the place, it is easy to find your way around. But if you are new in town it can be a nightmare as every road looks the same. This is particularly the case in the moated historic centre of the city.
The moat encloses the original city, almost a perfect rectangle, one and a half km by one km, and consists of seven main roads that run east to west: Phonsaen, Yommarat, Assadang, Chomphon, Mahat Thai, Supphasit, and Kamheng-Songkhram, and six main roads that run north to south: Chumphon (not to be confused with Chomphon), Jagkree, Manat, Pratchak, Kudan, and Phonlan.
The English spelling of Thai words is an inexact science so don't be surprised to see variations on these spellings in different guide books, on maps and on street signs. For example, Jagkree is sometimes spelled Chakrii; Phonsaen can be Polsan; Chomphon can be Jompol; Supphasit may have no h; Assadang may have a t replacing one s; Pratchak may have no t, and so on.
To add to your confusion, the names of Jagkree Rd and Pratchak Rd change south of their intersections with Chomphon Rd: to Watchara Sarit Rd and Chai Narong Rd respectively.
The obvious geographical reference point for travellers is the statue of Thao Suranaree (or Yamo). Every tuk-tuk, motorbike taxi, songthaew and taxi driver will understand "Yamo" so you shouldn't have any problem getting there. She stands between Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Rd. Both of these are one-way streets and from Ratchadamnoen you can catch songthaews to just about every part of the city. Ratchadamnoen ends where it meets Hwy 224. Turn left onto Hwy 224 and it becomes Hwy 2 (Mittraphap) after about a kilometre. Turn right, and Hwy 224 takes you east and then south towards Dan Kwian pottery village and Chok Chai. At Chok Chai (30 km south of the city) Hwy 224 crosses Hwy 24 which goes to Buriram, Surin, and Ubon Ratchathani.
Three main roads lead off Ratchadamnoen: Chomsurangyat, Pho Klang and Suranaree. These are busy two-way thoroughfares and all three converge a kilometre and a half west of Yamo to form Mukmontri Rd which leads back to Hwy 2.
There are three routes to take from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
- First Route: Take Hwy 1 (Phahonyothin) passing Don Muang Airport, Wang Noi, and Nong Khae till you arrive at the Saraburi interchange. At Saraburi, turn right along Hwy 2 (Mittraphap Hwy) which finally leads to Nakhon Ratchasima. The total distance of this route is 259 km.
- Second Route: This alternative route is a little longer in distance but passes some interesting places. Take Hwy 304 via Min Buri, Chachoengsao, Phanom Sarakham, Kabin Buri, Wang Nam Khiao, and Pak Thong Chai to Nakhon Ratchasima. The total distance is 273 km.
- Third Route: Take Hwy 305 passing Thanyaburi, Ongkharak to Nakhon Nayok. From Nakhon Nayok, turn right on to Hwy 33 to Kabin Buri and then turn left along Hwy 304 passing Wang Nam Khiao and Pak Thong Chai to Nakhon Ratchasima.
There are two main bus stations in Korat. The new bus station ("bok kor sor mai") is the larger of the two and is just to the north of the city centre, beyond Big C on the Korat to Khon Kaen stretch of Mittraphap Rd. The old bus station ("bok kor sor gow") is within the city centre on Burin Rd between Suranaree Rd and Mittraphap.
So, assuming you are in Bangkok, just head to Mo Chit Northern/Northeastern Bus Terminal. No need to consult a timetable: buses leave Bangkok for Korat several times an hour 24 hours a day. Go to the top floor of the terminal building and buy your ticket at window 40, 49, 50, 52, or 53.
- Window 40 and 49 - Ratchasima Tour. Direct 24 hour service. Window 40 for the old bus station and window 49 for the new bus station.
- Window 50 - Suranaree Air. Tickets for services to either station are sold at the same window. Confusingly, there are two windows #50 at Mo Chit (50 and 50ก). The one you need is on the left of the two.
- Windows 52 and 53 - Air Korat Pattana. Window 52 for buses to the new bus station and window 53 for buses to the old bus station. It's been known for the vendor to just sell a ticket for the next departing service. If you really want to go to the old bus station ("bok kor sor gow") make sure you buy your ticket from the vendor at window 53 and that your ticket has the number 1 on it somewhere. This denotes the old bus station whereas a 2 denotes the new.
After you have purchased your ticket the vendor will point to a number on the ticket. This is the bay where you can catch your bus. Overhead signs will guide you there, just like following a gate number at an airport.
The price is 220 baht, one-way from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. The buses follow the "First Route" described above. A return ticket is available for a slightly discounted price.
Other cities which run buses direct to Korat include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Sai, Nakhon Sawan Pattaya, Chonburi, Chantaburi, Rayong, Lopburi, Hua Hin, Hat Yai, Phuket and just about every provincial capital in Isaan. If you are coming from Cambodia, there are buses from the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border crossing. And, if you're entering from Laos, there are a couple of buses a day between Korat and Vientiane. If you're entering from Laos at the Savannakhet border crossing then you can get a bus direct from Mukdahan to Korat. All these services terminate and originate at the new bus station. The old bus station is used for some Bangkok services and shorter local routes to places such as Pak Chong and Pak Thong Chai.
If you've arrived at the new bus station all the usual Thai means of transport are available for you to get to where you want to go. Tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and meter taxis (see Get around) are in abundance at the bus station. To get a songthaew back towards the city centre take the number 15 (purple and white) which waits on the road between the two main terminal buildings at the new bus station.
Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis also wait at the smaller old bus station but meter taxis don't. The old bus station is walking distance from many hotels.
Trains leave from Bangkok Railway Station (Hualamphong) daily and can take anything from four to six hours depending on what type of train you catch. Twelve trains a day leave Bangkok for Korat. The times are 05:45, 06:40, 10:05, 11:40, 15:20, 18:30, 18:55, 20:00, 20:30, 21:50, 22:25, and 23:40. The latest timetable can be found at State Railways of Thailand or call 1690. Fares are very reasonable for the 264 km journey. The cheapest ticket on the cheapest train is around 50 baht.
There are two stations in Nakhon Ratchasima.
- Chira Rd Junction Station, ☎ . The more centrally located of the two stations. It is just to the south of the old city. Tickets from Bangkok are just a couple of baht extra to go to Chira Rd instead of the main station, and if you're heading for the city centre it is well-worth getting off here.
- Nakhon Ratchasima Station, ☎ . The main station is on Mukmontri Rd about 2 km from the city centre. Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis at the front of the station will take you to the Yamo area for around 60 and 40 baht respectively. Catch songthaews 1 or 14 opposite the station to also convey you to the city centre.
Trains in Thailand are always delayed, even for short commutes. Note this fact and budget more time if you need to transfer to other means of transport, e.g., planes or buses.
There are no scheduled flights to or from Nakhon Ratchasima Airport (NAK).
These three-wheeled buzz boxes are plentiful in the city. They congregate in large numbers outside shopping centres, department stores, the two bus stations and train station. And individuals will be dotted along all the busy roads.
Happily, the reputation that tuk-tuk drivers have for ripping off tourists in places like Phuket and Pattaya does not generally apply in Korat. The fare from the main bus station to Yamo/city centre is 60 baht. Agree on this price before you get in. Fares typically go up in multiples of 20 and start at 40 baht.
Remember, this isn't a tourist city so your driver will not speak English. He (it's always a man) may know the names of some hotels and will understand "Yamo", but that's about it. This is a prime example of where a smattering of Thai can go a long way.
By motorbike taxi
Wherever you find tuk-tuks you will find motorbike taxis. Their fares are generally two-thirds to three-quarters those of tuk-tuks (i.e., a 60 baht tuk-tuk fare will be 40 baht on a motorbike, etc.). Some riders even put up a list of fares as if to prove that they don't just make up prices. You're certainly a long way from tourist rip-off territory here.
Safety is obviously a concern for a lot of travellers when it comes to motorcycle taxis. Only you can decide if you want to risk it or not but the rider should at least provide a helmet.
Meter-taxis are a fairly new introduction to the Korat roads. They are blue and yellow in colour and scarce in number. If you are lucky enough to see one for hire on the street then you can hail it as you would a Bangkok taxi. It is 30 baht for the first kilometre and 4 baht a kilometre after that. You can call for one (+66 44 342255) but if you do that then the meter won't be used but a fixed fee will be charged for your journey. Furthermore, you can't book one in advance as you can with a minicab. You just have to call when you want one and hope that one is available. It should be added that the operator doesn't speak English so get your hotel receptionist to call.
They do congregate at the main bus station and if you catch one from here then the meter should be used. Again, don't expect the driver to speak English.
By cycle rickshaw (samlor)
The traditional pedal-powered 'samlor' (literally, 'three wheels') is a large tricycle with room for, at a squeeze, two passengers who sit on a covered, padded seat behind the rider. These days there are far more tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis than samlors but you can still find them dotted along most major roads. They come into their own during the Yamo Festival (end of Mar/start of Apr) when Ratchadamnoen Rd is closed and pedestrianized every evening and samlors are the only form of transport allowed.
You'll notice that all samlor operators are elderly men so don't get them to take you halfway across the city! A kilometre or so is a more appropriate distance and it will only cost you 20 baht.
Songthaews are the most popular type of public transportation. A songthaew is a pick-up truck which has been converted into a small short-hop bus. Passengers step into the back of the truck and sit on parallel benches. When you want to get off just press the buzzer and hand your fare through the passenger window to the driver.
You can get on one anywhere by hailing it from the side of the road although there are official bus stops complete with signs displaying which number songthaew(s) stop there. They usually only stop when a passenger presses the buzzer or when a pedestrian hails one but there are a few locations where they will always stop such as mhe mall, Klang Plaza, and Big C.
Each songthaew follows a fixed route (a different system to that which is used in Chiang Mai, for example) and there are around twenty different routes which cover most roads in the city. The vehicles come in a variety of colours and numbers, each denoting a different route. Most have their route number prominently displayed on a board above the window. Some start as early as 05:00 and run as late as 23:00, but generally speaking it is rare to see one before 07:00 and very rare to see one much after 21:00.
For the newcomer, using songthaews can seem quite daunting as nearly all the destinations are written in Thai (on the front and side of the vehicle) and you need to know that the songthaew you are getting on hasn't just stopped at the place where you want to go. For example, you might be waiting outside the front of the mall wanting to go to the zoo. Along comes a songthaew with 'Korat Zoo' written on the side. You understandably jump on the back of the vehicle, however, in that situation, the songthaew is coming from the zoo and is heading into the centre of the city.
Most songthaews go back the way they came, so it is usually pretty straightforward getting back to where you departed from: just cross the road and get one going back the other way.
For the benefit of the traveller, it seems unnecessary to describe every route (you're unlikely to go day-tripping to the Suranaree Industrial Zone (incidentally, it's a number 5, white with luminous orange stripe if you do need to go there!), but there are a few routes which will be of use to the visitor. To save on complication, all routes described are based on someone catching a songthaew from Ratchadamnoen Rd/in front of Yamo (unless stated otherwise).
- Number 1. To get to the main train station, catch a number one heading west on Suranaree Rd (just off Ratchadamnoen/rear of Mae Kim Heng market). Catch one outside the station to take you into the city.
- Catch one on the corner of Chumphon and Chomphon Rd (behind the Chomphon Gate) to take you all the way down Chomphon to Wat Boon Night Bazaar. Get off just as it turns left in front of the Iyara Hotel. It also passes Night Bazaar 1 halfway down Chomphon.
- Number 2 (or Number 11). These go to the 'old' bus station.
- Number 4. Catch one of these from the Chira Rd train station (see above) to the city centre/Yamo area.
- Number 6. Usually white with a red and yellow stripe, number sixes are the most common songthaews in the city. They vary in their ultimate destination but all stop at the mall and Lotus.
- Number 7. Very important for the traveller. Number sevens go to the main bus station (bok kor sor mai). They also stop opposite Big C before they reach the bus station.
- Number 15. Catch one of these new purple and white songthaews at the main bus station to get to the city centre (Yamo area). Wait near the main exit of the bus station for one. They also go to the main bus station from the city centre; the same goes for the Number 10 (white with red and yellow stripe).
- Number 4129. These call at the mall and Lotus on the same route as a number 6 but they go all the way to the zoo. The number is only displayed in small characters on the sides of the vehicle but they are all white with a yellow and blue stripe along the sides. Most now say Korat Zoo in English on the bodywork (see photo).
The current fare is 8 baht for a single journey (that's right, 8 baht!) but particularly long journeys, from Yamo to the zoo, for example, will be a little more.
- Archaeological Site At Ban Prasat. Ancient Bronze Age artifacts in a burial site dating back 3,000 years.
- Dan Kwain (Korat's main ceramics centre). Famous for its rough textures and rust-like pottery glazes.
- Khao Yai National Park. Thailand's first national park. Has four different provinces which includes 3,000 species of plants, 200 wild elephants, tigers, gibbons, bears, deer, bats, wild pigs, birds. Lodge houses range from 1,200 baht. Youth Camps range from 10 to 20 baht. Camping rate from 5 baht with your own tent. 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children.
- Maha Weerawong Museum (Maha Viravong), Ratchadamnoen Rd (From Yamo statue, walk up Ratchadamnoen, i.e., against the flow of traffic. Go straight across the junction with Chomsurangyat, go straight on for another 100 m, turn right onto the lane/soi which bisects the library. The museum is behind the library). W-Su, 09:00-16:00. A small, quiet place, it contains mainly ancient Buddha statues and icons. Chairs used by several Thai kings and queens on their visits to Korat are among the more interesting items. The museum closes for all public holidays. 50 baht (10 baht for Thais).
- Nakhon Ratchasima FC (SWAT Cats), 80th Birthday Stadium, SEA Games Sports Park, Hwy 304 (Go W on Hwy 2, Mittraphap Rd, and join Hwy 304 about 1 km after the Sima Thani Hotel. The stadium turning is on the right after about 3.5 km. Songthaew 4129, bound for the zoo, goes past the entrance to the site but this still leaves a lengthy walk to the stadium and it may be difficult to get a songthaew back after 19:00. Taxi would be best), ☎ . Take in a local football match in Korat at one of the best stadiums in the country. The local team plays in the Northeast Division of the Regional League. The regular season runs from Feb-Sep (but play-offs may extend it). The stadium and surrounding sports facilities were purpose-built for the 2007 Southeast Asian Games. 50 baht.
- Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo (Korat Zoo) (S on Hwy 304, Korat to Pak Thong Chai Rd. Turn left onto Hwy 2310. The zoo is on the left after about 1 km. Easiest way for visitors to get there is by songthaew: catch the 4129, white with yellow and blue stripe, on Ratchadamnoen Rd or heading west on Mittraphap/Hwy 2. Opposite the mall or outside Tesco Lotus are good places to catch them. From the centre of town the charge will be 20 baht. The songthaews go right inside the zoo. Catch one from the drop-off point to go back to the city), ☎ . Daily, 08:00-17:00. Korat Zoo is one of the biggest in Thailand and, cliché or not, it really is a great day out. The zoo, some 20 km from the city centre, is set in the countryside. As such, the site is huge. The animals live in vast, sprawling natural habitats (except for the snakes) and many of them can be hand fed. Lions, tigers, elephants, bears, giraffes, zebras, chimpanzees, rhinos, cheetahs, wildebeest, alligators, antelope and many, many more species can be found here. Bicycles can be hired to tour the zoo or you can catch the sight-seeing bus for 20 baht. Electric carts (actually, former golf buggies) can also be hired to get around the zoo at a rather pricey 300 baht per hour. The zebras, giraffes, elephants and chimpanzees can be fed with bananas, 20 baht per bunch. There are, of course, many cafes and snack shops dotted around the site. Entrance to "Korat Zoo Lagoon" comes at no extra charge. Swimming caps are compulsory and adults may feel a little out of place in this child-friendly leisure pool. Adults 100 baht, children 50 baht. (Thais 70/15 baht). 50 baht per car, 10 baht per motorbike.
- Prasat Hin Phanom Wan (From Korat take a songthaew from Bus Terminal Number 1, get off at Ban Maka (look for a large water tower), then a motorbike taxi to the ruins). Khmer stupa built of sandstone.
- Prasat Hin Phi Mai (Frequent buses from Korat City's Bus Terminal Number 1). Stone Khmer temple complex in Phi Mai. Excellent museum as well.
- Prasat Nang Ram. Khmer-style, originally meant to be a nursing place during the 12th century.
- Sai Ngam. On the bank of the Moon River. Includes some of the largest banyan trees in Thailand. Short motorbike taxi trip from Prasat Hin Phi Mai.
- Statue of Thao Suranaree. (Yamo.), Ratchadamnoen Rd/Chumphon Rd (From Mittraphap Rd (Hwy 2) head E and turn right onto Chumphon Rd just past IT City. The statue is halfway up Chumphon on the right). Open 24 hours. The statue stands in a pedestrianized municipal area between Ratchadamnoen and Chumphon Rd. Day and night, Thais will kneel before the statue and pray before making offerings of incense and flowers (purchased for twenty baht from an adjacent hut). It's fine to take photos of the statue but take your shoes off before ascending the steps. You can also have your photo taken by one of many professional photographers who loiter around the statue. This service should cost 50 baht and your picture will be printed out there and then on a portable digital printer. Free (20 baht for incense, candle and flower offering, 50 baht for photo).
- Thao Suranaree Bravery Light and Sound Performance Building, Municipal area, Chumphon Rd (From Hwy 224, turn right onto Chumphon Rd. This small, white building, designed to look like a section of the old city wall, is halfway up Chumphon on the right, just before the turning for Assadang Rd). Tu-Su, 09:00-18:00. A rather strange attraction, this one-room museum/art exhibit documents the story of Thao Suranaree (Yamo) through the medium of miniature models. Village and battle scenes are recreated in minute detail and run the length of one wall. On the opposite side of the room is a hugely impressive wall-mounted sculpture, in high relief, of a battle scene. Yamo is near the middle of the scene. On the walls and pillars are some of the oldest photos in existence of the city. Free.
- Wat Phra Narai Maharat, Assadang/Chomphon Rd (Travel E along Assadang, go straight across three sets of lights. The lake and temple are on your right shortly after the third set of lights. Best songthaew to get is a Number 1. Catch it at the corner of Chumphon and Chomphon Rd immediately behind Yamo and the Chomphon Gate. Again, you'll go across three sets of lights, the junctions with Jagree, Manat and Pratchak Rd. The red and gold archway entrance to the temple is on your left about 100 m after the Pratchak junction). Dawn-Dusk. One of the most famous temples in Korat. This one is notable for its lake and island temple. Within the building is an ancient sandstone statue of the Hindu god Vishnu. You can cross the bridge and walk around the island but can not enter the building which houses Vishnu. Also, you may see huge water monitor lizards in the undergrowth or in the water. These things are as big as crocodiles, but are generally safe, and provide a surprising photo opportunity in the centre of the city.
- Wat Sala Loi. Chapel shaped like a Chinese junk.
Festivals and events
- Miss Boonlua Memorial. Commemorates Miss Boonlua and the people of Nakhon Ratchasima who died in the battle of Thung Samrit in 1826.
- Phimai Boat Races. Takes place on the Moon River near the old Khmer city of Phimai and are held yearly by the people of Phimai during the second weekend of Nov. This event includes boats decorated competitions and stalls selling local products.
- Phimai Festival. Held at the same time as the Phimai boat Races in Phimai Historical Park. This events includes light and sound presentation of Buddhist, historical, and cultural exhibitions.
- Thao Suranari Commemoration. Held from 23 Mar-2 Apr to commemorate the victory of Thao Suranari. This event includes cultural displays, exhibitions, and fireworks.
- Golf. The Country Club Khao Yai starts at 250 baht for guests and 500 baht for visitors; Friendship Meadows Country Club ranges from 600 baht for guests to 800 baht for visitors on weekdays, 400 baht more on weekends; Misson Hills Golf Club Khao Yai ranges from 800 baht for guests and 600 baht for visitors; Rooks Korat Country Club Golf & Resort starts at 500 baht for both guests and visitors; Voyage Panorama Resort and Golf Club starts at 500 baht for guests and visitors on weekdays and 800 baht on weekends.
- Jogging. Landscaped jogging park near the military base.
- Thao Suranaree Municipal Area (Between Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Rd. From the west (Bangkok) follow Mittraphap as it changes to Hwy 224. Turn right onto Chumphon Rd just past IT Plaza. The municipal area is on your right and runs the length of Chumphon Rd). Daily, 24 hrs. The municipal area (sometimes referred to as a park) is a long pedestrianized strip sandwiched between Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Rds. It runs nearly the full length of Chumphon Rd from the junction with Hwy 224 up to the Yamo monument. It's one of the best places in Korat for an evening stroll. Best place to start your walk is at the northern end (Hwy 224) at the 'Yamo Entrance' (see main photo at the top of this article). You will pass a short section of moat. Wat Phayap is on your left, and then come to the start of the pedestrianized area. Here, a raised water course follows the line of the long-gone moat and city wall. As you continue your walk you will pass the 'Light and Sound Performance Building' (see See) on your left and, near to that, a reconstructed section of the city wall complete with explanatory plaque in English. Further up the municipal area you will come to an amphitheatre and, beyond, the statue of Yamo and the Chomphon Gate. Beyond here, the moat recommences.
- Volunteer. Dragonfly Volunteer Projects operates out of Korat and arranges volunteering opportunities in schools and orphanages across Isaan.
- Waterslide Park. Has an Olympic-sized pool, great to do some laps and stay in shape.
Nakhon Ratchasima has the usual Thai mix of modern department stores, malls and supermarkets; large covered day markets; night markets and smaller street markets. All are easily reached by public transport. Some of the markets may take a bit more finding but are always well worth the effort. The sights, sounds and smells in a Thai market can make your head spin but they are a "must-do" if you've never experienced them before.
All the modern malls are open seven days a week. Most small, independent shops are open at least six days a week and often seven. Remember, this isn't Pattaya or Bangkok, though. Most small shops close at eight at the latest and roads which are busy, shopping thoroughfares by day can be almost deserted by 21:00. But don't despair; there are always the night markets!
- Mae Kim Heng Market, Pho Klang Rd (The closest market to Yamo. Turn onto Pho Klang opposite the statue of Yamo. The market is about 100 m down the road on your right. There are also entrances on Suranaree Rd and Buarong Rd). Daily, 24 hrs, most stalls are closed at night. One of the largest indoor markets in Korat, Mae Kim Heng sells food: both fresh produce and prepared dishes. Get there early (06:00-) and you can buy some typical Thai breakfast fare: satays, grilled chicken and warm soya milk with doughnuts for dipping. Viewed from the Pho Klang entrance, the market can be divided into three main sections: fresh meat and fish on the left-hand side, fruit & veg and pre-cooked food down the middle and small restaurants down the right-hand side. At the Suranaree Rd-end of the market there is a clothes section, and next to that, just where the market spills out onto the street, are two very popular 'OTOP' grilled chicken and sticky rice stalls. Stalls selling fruit, veg, fish and meat then continue down the pavement on Suranaree Rd towards the junction with Ratchadamnoen Rd. These stalls set up mid-morning, and here you can experience some of the hustle and bustle missing from the main market.
- Night Bazaar 1, Manat Rd (Travel E along Chomphon Rd, go straight across the junction with Jagree Rd. The market is on your right at the next junction. It is on the stretch of Manat Rd between Chomphon and Mahat Thai Rd). Daily, 18:00-late. Mainly sells clothes and accessories, and a little food. It's well-known throughout the city but you may be left wondering why. There's nothing on sale here that can't be found at myriad markets and stalls all over the city and it's pretty small, too.
- Wat Boon Night Bazaar (Night Bazaar 2) (From the centre of town, catch the number 1 songthaew from the corner of Chumphon and Chomphon Rd. Stay on the songthaew until it makes a left in front of the Iyara Hotel. You will see the market from here, just across Kudan Rd). Daily, 18:00-late. A bigger, more relaxed market than the crowded, narrow Night Bazaar 1. This one mainly sells food but has some clothing and other goods.
Shopping centres and supermarkets
- Big C, 118 Mittraphap Rd (Follow Mittraphap as it bears left shortly after The Mall, signposted Khon Kaen & Udon Thani, Big C is on the right after a couple of hundred metres), ☎ , fax: +66 44 295030, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily, 09:00-23:00. This large superstore (officially a "supercenter") has restaurants, banks, clothes shops, jewellery shops and more on the ground floor and a supermarket on the first floor. As with most modern supermarkets, it sells a lot more than food and drink. Clothes, furniture, household appliances, even motorbikes can all be found on the first floor. Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis wait outside and songthaews 7 and 15 will get you back to the city centre.
- IT Plaza (IT City/IT), 324 Mittraphap Rd/Hwy 224 (On Hwy 224 near the junctions with Chumphon and Ratchadamnoen Rds), ☎ , fax: +66 44 269716. Daily, 10:00-20:30. IT Plaza (sometimes mistakenly referred to as IT City; IT City is a large shop within IT Plaza) is a technology-only department store. The main entrance is on the first floor and is reached by a footbridge over Mittraphap. The ground floor is mainly taken up by mobile phone shops. The first and second floors are occupied by shops selling computers and related accessories. There is a Hot Pot restaurant in the basement/lower-ground floor. For a 21st century high-tech superstore, it's actually quite dated and tired inside with cracked and missing floor tiles; tatty, chipped walls and lots of vacant shops. In fact, the empty shops and completely unused third floor tell you that residents are doing their electronics shopping elsewhere these days. Indeed, everything that IT sells can be found in much nicer surroundings at The Mall or Klang Plaza Chomsurang.
- Klang Plaza Assadang (Klang Plaza 1), Assadang Rd (From the W, Hwy 224, turn right onto Chumphon Rd, take the third left on Chumphon (Assadang Rd), go straight across the intersection with Jagree Rd and it is on your right, opposite the Korat Hotel), ☎ . Daily, 10:00-21:00. This is the original Klang Plaza, built in 1976. It was one of the biggest department stores in the northeast when it opened. It has most of the same shops and departments that its younger brother has (except for technology stores) but on a much smaller scale. Walk down the soi behind the shop and onto Chomphon Rd to catch songthaews 1, 8, or 12 back to the centre/Yamo area.
- Klang Plaza Chomsurangyat (Klang Mai/Klang Plaza 2), corner of Ratchadamnoen and Chomsurangyat (Stand in front of Yamo, facing Ratchadamnoen Rd, and look left), ☎ , fax: +66 44 252534. Daily, 10:0-21:00. This building, staggeringly huge by Korat standards, utterly dominates the downtown/city centre area. It is about 100 m from Yamo but directions are superfluous: you really can't miss it. The more useful points of interest include: a supermarket, food hall and various restaurants on the ground floor and another food hall on the fifth floor; coin-operated Internet access on the fifth floor; a kids' play area, including miniature railway on the sixth floor and an exhibition hall often used for sports events on the seventh floor.
- The Mall, Mittraphap Rd (Hwy 2) (From the W (Bangkok) The Mall is on the left halfway between Tesco Lotus and the Hwy 2 and 224 intersection), ☎ . Daily, 10:00-21:00. A popular daytime haunt for the more affluent members of Korat society. The sprawling complex, which has just had another floor added, has all you would expect of such a place: Western restaurants (including the only McDonalds in the whole city), fashion boutiques, a supermarket, cinema, a large food hall, an outdoor swimming pool, and so on. After window shopping upstairs, head down into the basement/lower-ground floor level where you will find many small independent shops and stalls selling clothes for a fraction of the price of those upstairs.
- Tesco Lotus (Lotus), 719/5 Mittraphap Rd (Hwy 2) (Halfway between The Mall and the Sima Thani Hotel on Hwy 2), ☎ , fax: +66 44 2637267. Daily, 06:00-23:00. The newest addition to the Korat retail landscape, Lotus is similar to Big C in that there are small shops on the ground floor and a huge hypermarket on the first floor. Songthaews 6 and 4129, among others, will get you there from the city centre. Beware! You have to cross the ten lanes of Hwy 2 to get a songthaew back to the city centre. Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis also wait out the front, and it's also a good place to catch a bus to Pak Chong or Pak Thong Chai if you don't want to go to the old bus station.
Never let it be said that you can't eat on a budget in Korat. The cheaper restaurants usually open during the day and can generally be divided into two groups: those which sell pre-cooked khao man gai, kwitiyao and khao moo daeng (boiled chicken & rice, noodle soup and red pork with rice), and those which have a menu and sell khao pad, pad Thai (fried rice, fried noodles) and so on. In the case of the former, you will see the cooked chickens and strips of red meat in a cabinet in front of the restaurant, and they usually just sell the aforementioned three meals. 25 baht is the going rate for one meal but you can push the boat out and pay 30 baht for a larger portion! The other type of restaurant will be able to prepare any Thai meal (within reason) and, again, 25 baht is usually the starting price. Pad krapao moo (spicy minced pork cooked with basil) and khanom chin (fresh rice noodles served with a spicy sauce and vegetables) are particularly popular in Korat. As is pad mee Korat a local, spicier variation on pad Thai. The budget restaurants listed below, therefore, offer something a little different to the khao man gai and kwitiyao eateries which abound on nearly every street.
- Cafe de Toom, 62 Chomsurangyat Rd (From Yamo, go up Ratchadamnoen Rd in the direction of Klang Plaza, turn right onto Chomsurangyat Rd, go past Klang Plaza and the post office, the restaurant is on your right next door to 7-11 just before the Chao Phaya Hotel). M-F, 08:00-mid-afternoon(or whenever everything has been sold). Different from most cheap Thai restaurants, this one only sells pre-cooked curries. There are eight to ten different types on display at the front counter ready to eat. Gaeng Massaman (Muslim curry) is sweet and not too spicy, and is thoroughly recommended. Price for all curries is 25-30 baht. The owner speaks good English and will whip you up a refreshing iced-tea or coffee. The board out front advertises an 'American Breakfast' for 90 baht, a concession made for the many farangs staying at the nearby Chao Phaya Hotel.
- Long Tua Steakhouse (ลงตัว), Buarong Rd (from Yamo, turn left onto Suranree Rd, turn left at the first set of lights onto Buarong Rd, the restaurant is a few buildings down the road on your right directly opposite the Sri Vichai Hotel). Daily, 16:00-late. Thai-style steak and distinctive noodle soups in an informal and popular restaurant. A refreshingly small menu with just a dozen or so dishes on it (most Thai menus run to hundreds of dishes). Chicken and pork steaks are 50 baht and beef, 60 baht. French fries 39 baht. Vietnamese style noodle soup starts at 25 baht. All food is available to take away. A very popular place to watch football on the big screen so expect big crowds on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||Under 500 baht|
|Splurge||Over 1,500 baht|
How low can you go? Budget hotels in Korat start at less than 200 baht, but it's fair to say you get what you pay for. These hotels will be devoid of any facilities and usually just consist of a reception desk with a flight of stairs leading to the rooms above. At less than 200 baht, the room won't have air-con or hot water, are often dated and poorly decorated.
They have a reputation for being "short time hotels". But the fact that two have recently closed down, the Potong Hotel on Ratchadamnoen Rd and the Ratchasima Hotel on Chomphon Rd, suggests that the days of 200 baht-a-night places may be numbered. The Srisura on Suranaree Rd, the Chomphon on Pho Klang Rd, the Cathay on Ratchadamnoen Rd, and the Sri Chomphon on Chomphon Rd are cheap places near the city center.
The budget hotels listed below are a rung or two above those described above. These hotels have air-con, TV, a restaurant, and so on
- Chumpol Hotel, Pho Klang Rd (From the Yamo statue, head westwards on Pho Klang Rd. The Chumpol is on the right.). A little run down but reasonably clean place and good location, many long-term foreigner stay here. 270 baht gets you a nice fan room. Wifi in most (but not all) rooms. Hot showers, even in the fan rooms. There is a convenience store right at the entrance, and a massage place downstairs. Self-service washing machines (20 baht a load) at the entrance. (as of Dec 2014) 270-500 THB.
- Far Thai Hotel, 35/37/39 Pho Klang Rd (The entrance to Pho Klang Rd is immediately opposite the statue of Yamo and the Far Thai is 50 m up Pho Klang on the left.), ☎ , fax: +66 44 252797. Pretty basic and quite tatty. 430 baht is for a double room with air-con, but rooms with a fan start from 260 baht. All rooms have a TV, but none have a fridge. A small, quiet restaurant serving typically cheap Thai fare is at the rear of the ground floor. No lounge or bar. The closest hotel to the statue of Yamo since the closure of the Potong Hotel. 430 baht.
- Sansabai House, 335 Suranaree Rd (from the Ratchadamnoen Rd end, go down Suranaree Rd, straight across the junction with Buarong Rd, past the turning for Burin Rd, the hotel is on your left, nearly opposite a 7-Eleven.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Essentially the same type of hotel as the Far Thai but much brighter and better appointed. Room with a fan, fridge, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, balcony, closet, small table with chairs, Western toilet and shower for 270 baht. Clean rooms, centrally located with a lot of street food stalls nearby. No bar or restaurant. 270-450-600 baht.
- Srivichai Hotel, 9-11 Buarong Rd (from Yamo, go down Ratchadamnoen Rd, turn left onto Suranaree Rd, go down Suranaree, turn left at the traffic lights onto Buarong Rd. The hotel is a couple of buildings down Buarong on your left.), ☎ , , fax: +66 44 267254, e-mail: email@example.com. A small budget hotel, the Srivichai is a rival to the nearby Chao Phaya. Quite a cosy place with a small lounge and small bar/restaurant both overlooking the street. There's a computer with Internet access (30 baht/hr) near reception. Rooms are basic but functional with air-con, fridge and TV. All rooms are the same price. 500 baht.
- Chaophayainn Hotel (Chao Phaya), 62/1 Chomsurangyat (From Yamo, go south on Ratchadamnoen Rd, turn right at Klang Plaza Dept Store onto Chomsurangyat Rd. The hotel is a couple of hundred metres up the road on the right, shortly after the post office.), ☎ , fax: +66 44 258657, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A popular mid-range choice, the Chaophaya is a fairly large yet pretty basic place. Facilities are limited to a sleepy cafe (with a more popular outside dining area), room service and free Wi-Fi. The type of hotel that makes a good base for exploring the city centre but not the type of place that you're likely to spend a serious amount of time in. Walking distance from Yamo, the museum, Klang Plaza Dept Store and several visitor-friendly temples. Rooms, clean; mattresses, hard. 500-1,000 baht.
- Chomsurang Hotel (Jomsurang Hotel), 2701/1-2 Mahat Thai Rd (From Hwy 224, turn right onto Chumphon Rd, travel the entire length of Chumphon and turn left at the end of the road. You will now be able to see the hotel; a large, tall white building a few hundred metres up the road on your right), ☎ , fax: +66 44 252897, e-mail: email@example.com. One of the oldest hotels in Korat and one of the best in its day. That day, however, was some forty years ago. Today, it is quiet, very dated (even the promotional leaflets are fifteen years old) and completely outclassed by other hotels in the city. The fact that the room rates have been considerably reduced from those displayed on the website tells you something. But the location, adjacent to the south entrance of Night Bazaar 1, close to several popular restaurants and 10 min walk from Klang Plaza and Yamo, is hard to beat. 500-1,000 baht.
- Korat Hotel, 191 Assadang Rd (In the old walled city), ☎ . Small room is 600 baht with breakfast, and a larger room 750 baht. Breakfast is a choice of Thai or Western and is cooked to order. Hotel is dated, but clean, and hot water in the shower. Plenty of tuk-tuks outside, and close to the night market. 600+ baht.
- Dusit Princess Korat (Formerly, The Royal Princess), 1137 Suranarai Rd (Hwy 205) (From the west (Bangkok) follow Hwy 2 then Hwy 224 through the city. Turn left onto Hwy 205 (signposted Phimai, Chaiyaphum). The hotel is on your left after about 1.5 km.), ☎ , fax: +66 44 256601. A Sima Thani rival, the Dusit Princess is part of the Dusit International group. Facilities are as you would expect from a luxury hotel and there is a limousine service which can collect you from Suvarnabhumi airport (9,000 baht). Like the Sima Thani, it suffers from a location adjacent to a main highway and is several kilometres from the city centre. Website claims it is 3.5 km from the train station and 2 km from the bus station are bold to say the least. 1,600-4,700 baht.
- Hermitage Hotel (Hermitage Resort), 725/2, Hwy 224 (Follow Hwy 2 then 224 through Korat, the hotel is on your left, set back from the road, just after you have come over the railway line flyover; difficult to get to and from if you do not have a car, buses bound for the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet stop in front of the hotel), ☎ , fax: +66 44 247463, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A 139-room hotel in the southeast of the city. Surrounded by gardens and lakes. A pool, gym and sauna are among the facilities and it comes with a reputation for good food. 1,600-6,000 baht.
- Sima Thani Hotel, 2112/2 Mittraphap Rd (Approaching from the west (Bangkok) the Sima Thani is on the left just after you cross the railway line flyover. It's a huge, prominent building; you can't miss it.), ☎ , fax: +66 44 213121, e-mail: email@example.com. A former Sheraton hotel, the Siam Thani is the most famous and biggest (265 rooms) hotel in Korat. It's also one of the most expensive. It's more traditional-luxury than the V-One's modern-funky. It has all the facilities you would expect from a hotel and is a favoured destination for any celebrities that happen to be in town. But its location, a couple of kilometres west of the city centre, isn't great for night owls. 1,400-15,000 baht.
- V-One Hotel, 666/6 Chang Pheuak Rd (From the west (Bangkok) follow Hwy 2 past Lotus and The Mall. Bear left on Hwy 2 past Big C and the 'new' bus station. Turn right onto Chang Pheuak Rd in front of the Pegasus Hotel. V-One is a few hundred metres down Chang Pheuak on the left.), ☎ , fax: +66 44 342400, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The V-One is a self-styled "trendy, boutique hotel". Certainly, its modern, colourful décor and 21st century facilities mark it out as quite different from any other hotel in the city; you have to pay for it, though. It does have affiliated hotels, smaller buildings adjacent to the main building. The rooms in these are smaller and cheaper than the quoted figures. The road the hotel is on is one of the best for nightlife by Korat standards. The V-One also benefits from being close to Hwy 2 and the main bus station. 3,060-11,299 baht. Booking on the Internet will save you 40%.
Internet cafés are plentiful and typically charge around 10 baht/hour or 25 baht for three hours.
- Khao Yai National Park — largest national park of Thailand with fascinating animals, waterfalls and more
- Phimai — the historical Khmer remains
- Preah Vihear — amazing temple right on the border with Cambodia, no separate visa necessary to visit
- Surin — the annual elephant parade
|Routes through Nakhon Ratchasima|
|Nong Khai ← Phimai ←||N S||→ Saraburi → Bangkok|
|Bangkok ← Saraburi ←||W E||→ Buriram → Ubon Ratchathani|
|Nong Khai ← Phimai ←||N S||→ Saraburi|