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Northeast of Thailand 18 Amnat Charoen
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     Known by Thais as I-San, the sprawling Northeast Plateau is bordered to the north and east by the Mekong River and Laos, and to the south largely by Kampuchea.
    The Northeast is a distinctive region thanks to a topography of lovely forested mountains and national parks and rolling farmland; to its colourful inhabitants who speak their own melodious dialect, have a delicious highly speiced cuising, and a hospitable, vibrant and oftentimes boisterous folk culture; and because of archaeologically significant excavations and shrines - such as Ban Chiang where the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization flourished some 5,600 years ago; and venerable prasat hin (stone castle) temples, legacy of I-San's former importance to the Angkor-centred Khmer empire.

    Khao Yai National Park, northeast of Saraburi and some 200 kilometres from Bangkok, covers parts of four provinces at an average elevation of 800 meters. Khao Yai is some 540,000 acres in area, has a highest peak of 1,351 meters and contains within its rain forests and high grasslands numerous species of protected wildlife, such as deer, bears, tigers, elephants, giant hornbills, sunbirds and silver pheasants. The park is laced with hiking trails, and has 10 rapids and waterfalls.

    Nakhon Ratchasima, 259 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, is the gateway to I-San. 56 kilometres to the northeast of provincial capital lies Phimai, site of an 11th-century prasat hin temple, one of the loveliest examples of classical Khmer architecture found outside Kampuchea. The complex occupies land within boundary walls measuring 250 x 280 meters and was sufficiently important to have been connected by road with Angkor.

    Other major I-San attractions include Khon Kaen, a university town some 450 kilometres from Bangkok in I-San's geographic center and famous for its Mat Mi silk; Loei province's Phu Kra Dung National Park, a crisply beautiful forested plateau between 1,000 and 1,350 meters where night-time temperatures sometimes drop to near freezing point, and the Kaeng Khut Khu rapids at Chiang Khan; the scenic Si Chiang Mai to Nongkhai road which largely parallels the Mekong River; Udon Thani's Ban Chiang village and museum which house priceless Bronze Age jewelry and pottery excavated from local burial mounds; Nakhon Phanom's Phra That Phanom, the most reserved Northeast shrine, the spire of which dates from the 9th century; Ubon Ratchathani, 629 kilometres from Bangkok, which introduces the annual Buddhist Rains Retreat with a lovely Candle Festival, and the pre-historical rock paintings at Pha Taem in Khong Chiam district near the Mekong River; Yasothon, where, each summer, massive homemade rockets are ceremoniously fired into the air to "ensure" bountiful rains; Surin, where an annual Elephant Round-Up each November attracts visitors from all over the world; and Buri Ram's Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, a lovely hilltop Khmer sanctuary once connected by road with Angkor.



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