Thailand // The northeast: Isaan //

The trails

The challenging main trail leads from the Sri Taan visitor centre, at the base of the mountain, 5.5km up the eastern side of Phu Kradung, passing occasional refreshment stalls, and becoming steeper and rockier on the last 1km, with wooden steps over the most difficult parts; most people take at least three hours, including rest stops. The main trail is occasionally closed for maintenance, when a parallel 4.5km trail is opened up in its place. At the end of the actual climb, the unbelievable view as your head peeps over the rim more than rewards the effort: flat as a playing field, the broad plateau is dotted with odd clumps of pine trees thinned by periodic lightning fires, which give it the appearance of a country park.

Several feeder trails fan out from here, including a 9.5km path along the precipitous southern edge that offers sweeping views of Dong Phaya Yen, the untidy range of mountains to the southwest that forms the unofficial border between the northeast and the central plains. Another trail heads along the eastern rim for 2.5km to Pha Nok An – also reached by a 2km path east from the main visitor centre – which looks down on neat rice fields and matchbox-like houses in the valley below, an outlook that’s especially breathtaking at sunrise.

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