The Northeast Thailand Region has officially been known as Isan since the beginning of the 20th century. Other spellings are also sometimes seen including Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn
Northeast Thailand shares borders with both Laos and Cambodia. It is separated from Northern and Central Thailand by the Phetchabun mountain range. The name Isan is adopted from Sanskrit Ishan, meaning in a “northeast direction”.
Agriculture is the main economic activity. Production lags behind the rest of the country due to the socioeconomic conditions and the exceptionally hot, dry climate. The region remains Thailand’s poorest with the average wage for the region being about 40% below the national average for Thailand.
Although Thai is spoken by almost everyone, the main language is Isan, which is a dialect of the Lao language, The people of Isan are well aware of their Lao ethnic origin. Several Thai prime ministers have come from this region.
They love their own culture. This includes mor lam, an indigenous type of folk music, Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and cock fighting. Anyone that has spent time in the company of Isan people will be well aware of their love for the music of their region. They also love their food, which is distinct from the Central Thai cuisine with sticky rice and chili peppers being included in almost all meals. Some foods that would be off limits in most western countries, are considered a delicacy in some of the villages of the region.
Main Cities and Attractions of the Isan Region
Amnat Charoen – weaving and gem cutting classes, mountaintop pools, temples, riverside walks
Buengkan – partitioned off Nong Khai Province in 2011 is in the north east corner of Thailand. National park and waterfall.
Buri Ram – history, national parks, wildlife reserves, silk weaving
Chaiyaphum – sandstone caves, silk weaving, rare cliff orchids, national parks, mountains, waterfalls, weaving
Kalasin– cliff carving of Buddha, caves, cliffs, open zoo
Khon Kaen – university, museum, limestone cliffs, ancient cave art, temples, strange pets, silk and cotton waeving
Loei – sandstone mountains, caves, temples, Buddha relics, waterfalls, national parks
Maha Sarakham – art, history, stone Buddhas, national parks, pottery, weaving
Mukdahan – Laos on the east and the thick-forest covered Phu Phan mountains, on the west.
Nakhon Phanom – Phu Lang Ka National Park with the Tat Kham and Tat Pho waterfalls.
Nakhon Ratchasima – historical park, maze, temples, historical ruins, zoo, national [arks, waterfalls
Nong Bua Lamphu – National parks and history of King Naresuan the Great
Nong Khai – temples, markets, wildlife sanctuaries, friendship bridge,
Roi Et – handicraft products such as silk, and bamboo woodwind instruments.
Sakon Nakhon – The heart of Buddhism
Si Sa Ket – borders Cambodia. Many Khmer ruins throughout the region
Surin – big elephants, prestigious silk, Khmer ruins, sweet radish, fragrant rice, and rich culture.
Ubon Ratchathani – beaches and rapids, Thai scholars, devout Buddhists, carved candles, and pre-historic rock paintings.
Udon Thani – best known for its archaeological and bronze age history.
Yasothon – historical relics and rocket festival.
For further reading see this Wikipedia article.