“Where?” I hear you say. Yes, Nakhon Ratchasima, better known – or shall I say better remembered – as Korat. The name is both used for the city and the province of which it is the capital, and the shorter name of Korat comes from an older name the city was called many years ago.
A 3 to 4 hour drive from Bangkok in a North-Easterly direction will bring you to this wonderful city, and while it might have the reputation lure of Bangkok or Phuket, it shouldn’t be written off when it comes to things to do and places to see in Thailand.
With a population of just over 200 000, a host of shopping malls, a sports stadium, zoo, lots of interesting temples, museums and more, there is a reason why Korat is one of the four most important role-playing cities of Isan – The North Eastern territory of Thailand.
It’s very easy to get to, too, with buses departing from Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus station roughly twice per hour. It’s an inspiring ride too, once that is the concrete jungle disappears and you find yourself staring at far-off horizons overlooking farmlands, fields, wide open spaces and Khao Yai national park halfway into the journey.
Accommodation is very easy to find in the city, ranging from super cheap apartment rentals to ridiculously low-priced 5 star hotels. The people are quite unique too, speaking a dialect known as Thai-Korat, not the Isan-Thai spoken in other more North Easterly provinces.
If you happen to find yourself passing through this city, or feel like getting off the beaten Thailand tourist track, why not consider immersing yourself in a corner of Thai culture you won’t find in Bangkok or the Southern Islands. Western travellers here are few and far between and you might just have to up your Thai language skills a notch before ordering food or asking for directions!
Here’s a list of 25 things to do in Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima…
1. Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo (Korat Zoo)
You can spend an entire day here. As a matter of fact, why not spend a night or two in one of the comfortable chalets on offer? The zoo covers a massive area with a kaleidoscope of animal species from all over the world. The African big five, tigers, lizards, camels and also marine life are but a few wonderful animals to be discovered here.
The Zoo is situated in Muang District, Chaimongkol and regular buses from Korat city centre provide easy transfers to and from the zoo.
2. Korat Zoo Lagoon and Water Park
Situated within Korat zoo you’ll find the Water Park to enjoy a spot of cooling down. Being the largest park of it’s kind in the Northeastern area, you’ll be sure to kill a few hours here with a relaxing stroll and splash. If you’ve got kids, they’ll love it here!
3. Phimai Historical Park
Take a stroll back in time and witness ruins from as early as the 11th century. The architecture of these historical gems is in Angkor style, which inspired a number of important structures, cities and buildings in Thailand during later years.
The park is roughly 60kms north-east of Korat City and easily accessible for self-drive travellers or by public transport.
4. Thao Suranaree Monument
A true testament of will, determination and the power of one. During an invasion of Korat in the early 1800s, the wife of an absent general took it upon herself to take control and lead the residents of Korat to defend their city. They were victorious, and Khunying Mo was rewarded the honourable title of Thao Suranaree by the King of that era.
The monument is certainly worth visiting for a photo opportunity and can be found in Korat City near the Chumphon Gate.
5. Wat Sala Loi
Another historical temple attached to the above mentioned lady, Thao Suranaree. Along with her husband, she constructed this temple in the 1820s. It was then awarded the most significant religious building in 1973. A plaster statue of the war heroine can be seen at this site along with clay decorations portraying the life of Buddha. The temple is also the final resting place of Khun Thao Suranaree’s ashes.
The structure can be found near the Lam Takong River in the North East part of the city, only a few minutes walk from the Thao Suranaree statue.
6. Lamtakhong Dam
The Lamtakhong dam construction started in the 1970s, specifically to irrigate the surrounding farmlands. In later years it also became the water storage facility of The Lamtakhong Power Plant, which was a first for Thailand. The dam is a tranquil, relaxing environment to break away from everyday city life. Pack the picnic baskets and visit the damn for a memorable Thai sunset.
The dam is found on the Mittraphap Highway roughly 70 kms from Korat City between the districts of Si Khiu and Pak Chona.
7. Flora Park
Here’s one for the nature lovers! Drown yourself in a massive selection of plants and flowers while taking in the pleasant smells and peaceful, colourful surroundings. Relax with a refreshing drink at the coffee shop or buy some memories from the gift shop. If your timing is right, you can experience the Flower Festival that happens each March.
The Flora Park is located roughly 100 kms South of Korat City in the Wang Nam Khiao District.
8. Ratchasima Mall (Korat Mall)
Okay, so visiting a shopping mall might not be on everyone’s list of things to do when traveling and hoping to explore the new and unknown. The Ratchasima Mall, however, is considered as one of the top shopping malls outside of Bangkok. It offers something for everyone and the food court is a haven for any type of cuisine you can possibly imagine.
The mall is situated in the city centre of Korat on Mitthaphap Road.
9. Korat Horse Racing Club
Like the zoo, this may represent an unethical attraction for some. But for many the majestic horses and of course the betting is a lure that excites. Spend a few hours enjoying quality food, a few drinks and if you feel the luck is on your side, put a bet or two on your favourite contender!
The Horse Racing Club can be found just as you enter the city from the west, in Suranaree Army Region 2.
10. Arts of Korat
This mirage art museum is for everyone! So don’t think for one second you’ll be walking around a boring art collection looking at paintings hanging on a wall. Here you actually become part of the art, as the 3D paintings come alive and bring you closer to art than you’ve ever been before.
The Arts of Korat is found in the Nai Mueang sub-district in the city of Korat.
11. Wat Phayap Temple
Wat Phayap Temple is a lovely temple found in the city centre of Korat, but with a slight surprise the moment you enter. The interior of this temple has been made to look like a cave. If you find yourself wandering around in the city, pop in here for a quick look around. The temple won’t be found amongst the lists of top tourist attractions in the area, but the locals regard it as a very spiritual and peaceful building.
Wat Phayat Temple is found in the city centre of Korat on Chumpon Road.
12. Prasat Phanom Wan
Prasat Phanom Wan is another temple that was constructed during early centuries. Initially it was dedicated to Shiva and meant as a Hindu site, but over the decades it became a place of Buddhist prayer. A large portion of the site has been ruined, but with more than enough left to appreciate the building for what it was, and still is today.
The site is found in Ban Makha, roughly 20 kilometres from the city of Nakhon Ratchasima.
13. Maha Viravong National Museum
The Maha Viravong National Museum was created around the art collection of an important Monk from the area and other cultural pieces from historic sites. You will find Buddha images from different timeframes and also pottery pieces from bygone eras. The museum is quite small, but pumped full of rich Thai history and interesting visuals.
The Museum is located in the city centre and in the form of a Thai style house, found near Klang Plaza 2 behind the public library.
14. O&D Pub & Restaurant
If you’re feeling a bit homesick and you are longing for familiar, generous portions of Western food like juicy burgers or a tender steak, then this is the place. Sit back, relax and enjoy some easy tunes while watching international sport on the big screen televisions. The pub offers a variety of local and international beers to drown any homesickness you thought you had! Don’t overlook the Thai food selections though!
The pub is found in Khok Sung, 69 Moo 7. Make sure to keep an eye out for the restaurant’s sign as the twists and turns might be a tad confusing at times.
15. Wat Dhammachakra Sema Ram
This site also goes by another name, Wat Phra Non which means ‘Sleeping Buddha’. Many travellers have seen the impressive reclining Buddha in Bangkok, but this similar sandstone sculpture is the first and oldest one in Thailand! The piece dates back to the BC era and unbelievably it hasn’t been treated in order to preserve it!
Wat Dhammachakra Sema Ram is found about 30km’s outside the city of Khorat, near a town called Sung Noen.
16. Korat City Pillar
A city pillar can be found in most major cities in Thailand. It is called ‘Lak Mueang’ by the locals and residents, which refers to the specific spirit of the city. The City pillar will, in most cases be placed in a shrine which is seen as the home of this city spirit. Locals place a huge amount of importance and respect in this pillar.
City Pillars, like the one in Korat are mostly found in the city centre
17. Korat City Gates
The old city of Khorat used to be surrounded by walls and a moat many years ago. Today only one of the four gates that used to lead into the Old Town is still in its original state, while the others have been renovated and restructured. This original gate is called Chumpon Gate and is found on the West side of the city. Watch out when walking through it though! Old tales will tell you that any foreigner walking through these gates end up staying in Korat for extended periods of time!
Chumpon Gate is found very close to the Thao Suranaree statue in the city of Korat.
18. Korat Fossil Museum
Step back in time, just a few million years should do it! This museum boasts a wealth of stories about animals and creatures believed to have walked the land in Korat and Thailand many years ago. Here you can read and learn about one of the world’s largest and most mysterious elephant graveyards found to date, along with a few dinosaurs roaming the complex too.
Khorat Fossil Museum is found in The Suranaree Sub-district, Muang, Province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
19. Petrified Wood Museum
This museum forms part of the previously mentioned Fossil Museum and can be found within the same complex. Here you can view dozens of petrified wood pieces dating back thousands of years. The smuggling of these pieces became a huge problem, creating public awareness through opening this museum was one of the suggested solutions to stop the illegal industry.
The Petrified Wood Museum is found next to the Korat Fossil Museum in The Suranaree sub-district, Muang, Province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
20. A Game of Golf
For those who enjoy q game of golf every now and again, pick a course, any course! No less than five quality golf courses can be found in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima. They can be found scattered across the province so you don’t have to travel very far to find one.
21. Korat Arts, Crafts & Food
The province of Nakhon Ratchasima offers a few very interesting and unique markets and spots to explore, including a large variety of pottery products in Dan Kwian village, silk products from Pak Thong Chai and crafts made sold by housewives at the Provincial Hall of Korat. Unique food items from the area include fermented foods, Pak Chong, Korat noodles and custard apple that is sold all year round.
22. Khao Yai National Park
The third largest park in Thailand is found on the edge of Nakhon Ratchasima province, crossing over into three other provinces. It contains thousands of different plant species along with hundreds of birds species. A number of epic hiking trails and waterfalls can be found, including a dramatic 80m fall used in the movie ‘The Beach’. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will have a royal time exploring this park.
The Park is situated on the West side of the Sankamphaeng Mountains on the South-Western border of the Korat Province.
23. Spot a Korat Cat!
Yes, this is where the famous species originated. It is one of the oldest known cat breeds, and in Thailand giving a Korat cat as a gift is an offering of good luck and prosperity. Before the Korat cat became a worldwide sensation in the last century, it was very rarely sold and usually only given as a gift. And so ne of your things to do while in Korat, is to keep your eyes peeled and see if you can spot a Korat cat!
24. Enjoy a Korat Festival
Korat hosts a number of festivals throughout the year. Keep your eyes and ears open for any festivities happening in the city or province during the time you’ll be visiting. Festivals include shows of art, cultural celebrations, religious gatherings, light shows, boat races, traditional ceremonies and more. The Thao Suranaree-, Phimai Boat- and Phimai Festivals are three of the main events that happen on a yearly basis and are held in the city.
25. Korat Sport Stadium
The construction of this world-class sports facility was completed in 2007 and dedicated to the 80th Birthday of The King. It has hosted a number of world sporting and athletics events and is the home ground of Nakhon Ratchasima Football Club. If you thought football was only played passionately in Europe or South America, think again. Korat residents are very enthusiastic about their local team and really create a exciting vibe on match day. Be sure to watch a game if you can.
The stadium is located roughly 3 kilometres South of Korat City.