Historic Treasures in Thailand's Rice Belt

Adventure upcountry to discover Thailand's ancient Khmer heritage which once extended to Kanchanaburi and the border of modern Burma. Stretching from the mystical heart of the ancient empire of Angkor, a series of stunning palaces, temples, and monuments were erected and a fusion of cultures blossomed. There are many wonders to discover and an easy-going country lifestyle to soak up. Travel with us to Khorat and encounter rich history, peaceful temples, friendly people, great food and uncomplicated fun as you explore Angkor-era Khmer ruins in Khorat.

Two-Day Trip

Depart at 9am with your private car, driver and guide on a three hour journey northeast of Bangkok, past sunflower fields of Lopburi and the stone quarries of Saraburi to the plateau gateway to Isan (eastern Thailand). Arrive in Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Thailand's largest province, in time for lunch. Why not sample some of the local specialties, very different from the Thai food familiar to most people? Spend the afternoon exploring this still-charming city, with its colorful modern temples, fresh market, and old fashioned wooden shop-houses. In the center of town, astride the ancient remnants of the city's moat, is a shrine to Khunying Mo, a locale heroine. Local folk entertainers have a small pavilion here where they perform throughout the day in honor of her spirit. Khorat is also a regional headquarters of likay folk theater troupes. If you are lucky, you'll be able to attend one of these luridly colored, live-action, gender-bending soap operas! Your guide will assist in finding suitable local accommodation for the night. You might like to visit Khorat's night bazaar for dinner.

On the second day you spend your morning exploring the impressive ruins of Prasat Hin Phimai, a beautifully preserved 10th century temple compound founded by Cambodia's King Suriyavaraman I. This stunning sacred sanctuary combines Hindu and Mahayana Buddhist elements. With well-preserved carvings and superbly proportioned structures, Phimai remains energized with the power to awe. This major center of Khmer/Thai trade was once connected to Angkor by an astoundingly straight laterite highway. Have lunch in the shady compound of Sai Ngam, Thailand's largest banyan tree and home of powerful animist spirits. We recommend the peppery rice noodles served up fresh from sizzling woks. Afterwards, wander through the Phimai National Museum, repository of the finest statues and carvings from the province's many Khmer temples, including gold offerings and ornaments that once decorated the primary sculptures.

Start your return trip to Bangkok around mid-afternoon, or extend your stay one more night and visit the astounding hilltop palace of Phnom Rung tomorrow.

Three-Day Trip

Those who opt for the three-day stay may continue exploring the Khorat vicinity for the remainder of the afternoon. Nearby Ban Prasat is home of the oldest archeological digs in the province. Excavation pits are open for view, offering burial displays and pottery.Prasat Phanomwan, is another major Khmer ruin, a Hindu temple now used for Buddhist worship. The old town of Dan Kwian, south of Khorat, is famous for its terracotta pottery. Overnight again in Khorat.>

On the third day you depart as early as possible for the province of Buriram, home to 140+ ancient city sites underscoring its important position in the Khmer empire.Phnom Rung, the largest and best-restored Khmer compound in Thailand, is certainly also the most dramatic -- perched on top of an extinct volcanic cone with spectacular views across the flat countryside and even into Cambodia. Arriving early, you'll beat the crowds, enjoy the cooler temperatures, and view the ruins in ideal lighting conditions. Ascend its spectacular stepped promenade, guarded by 16 multi-headed naga serpents identical to those at Angkor. The main hall and its galleries were constructed during the golden age of Khmer artistic prowess. Phnom Rung's superb artistry, and its sensational geographic setting, have combined to create a sublime emulation of paradise.Return to Bangkok after lunch.

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Join Club Sanook, Asia's private travel club

private guide, car and driver, accommodation in a three star hotel (including tax, service and breakfast) admissions to places mentioned in the itinerary. Not included: beverages, other meals, other admissions, items of a purely personal nature. Please provide meals for your guide.