Beyond Pak Chong, Highway 2 and the rail line diverge to run either side of picturesque Lam Takong Reservoir, offering a last taste of undulating, forested terrain before reaching the largely barren Khorat plateau. They rejoin at KHORAT (officially known as Nakhon Ratchasima) – literally “Frontier Country” – which is considered the gateway to the northeast.
If this is your first stop in Isaan, it’s not a pleasant introduction: Khorat is one of Thailand’s most populous cities, its streets teem with traffic, and there’s nothing here you could call a genuine tourist attraction. On the plus side, Khorat is at the centre of a good transport network and is within striking distance of the Khmer ruins at Phimai, Phanom Rung and Muang Tam, as well as the archeological remains of Ban Prasat and the pottery village at Dan Kwian. Aside from serving Bangkok and all the main centres within Isaan, Khorat’s bus network extends south along Highway 304 to the east coast, enabling you to travel directly to Pattaya, Rayong and Chanthaburi without going through the capital.