Sisaket, Thailand – Isaan Through and Through

Young boy monk in Sisaket, ThailandI’ve not spent a lot of time in Sisaket, Thailand, maybe a 4-5 months or so, in total. Sisaket is a province and a town. The town is located west of Ubon Ratchathani in the Isaan area of Thailand. “Isaan” is what the northeast area of the Thailand is known as.

In the summers the temperature is blistering hot. The Songkran Water Throwing festival is seriously appreciated during this time. They should throw water for all of April, May, and June because it is like a desert during these months. Even on into July and August, you don’t want to leave your flip-flop sandals on the outside of a temple you’re visiting because if you need to walk across the ground that has been brightly lit by the sun for a couple hours you’re going to be dancing your way towards some shade in a hurry! In the winters it can be COLD. Riding the motorbike in Isaan after 10 pm on a winter’s night can get below the freezing point with the windchill. Frequently during the winters at night, it’s possible to breathe out the fog.

Sisaket town is smaller than Ubon Ratchathani and doesn’t have near as many shopping outlets available. There is one small mall in the town called, “Soon Heng” with a supermarket, theaters, bookstore, KFC chicken, and MD’s Sukiyaki (like MK’s), a coffee shop and a donut shop, plenty of karaoke booths, a place for kids to play and a small food court.

All around Sisaket seems to be a market. The entire town is like one big market. You can find tents and small shops selling fruit and every kind of food and clothes. But, uhm, no farang food like pizza and spaghetti. One would need to go an hour east to Ubon’s “Risotto” restaurant to find the closest quality pizza and spaghetti.

Sisaket has a train station and a bus station. The train will get you anywhere in Thailand as it goes through Nakhon Ratchisma (Korat) as well as Bangkok. There are air-conditioned and fan-cooled coaches. Overnight trains to Bangkok are comfortable as you can sleep for 10 hours and when you wake up, you’re there! Cost of an air-conditioned sleeper seat would be around 600 baht (in 2007).

Everyone seems to know each other in Sisaket. I remember a couple years ago I was at an outdoor market with my friend who is from Sisaket (born there) and she had her back turned to traffic, but someone KNEW it was her as they drove by in a truck and stopped to chat with her. How they knew it was her we haven’t the slightest idea except that everyone knows everyone.

As a foreigner in Sisaket, I was treated really well. There are many Thai people that want to practice their English with me and laugh when they see me. Some stare. Some point. Some say, “Mommy, farang!”. There’s no ill-intention, just curious people. A long time ago during the Vietnam war, they saw quite a few soldiers from America around, but we’re scarce now. As I said in the review of Ubon Ratchathani, there are about 1% of Thailand’s visitors having a look at Isaan. Isaan is a big place covering many provinces. Ubon is the largest province. If 1/20th out of the 1% of visitors to Thailand are going to Ubon, then about 1/500th of 1% are visiting Sisaket.

Last time I was in Sisaket I don’t remember seeing any farang (western) tourists or residents. I was there for almost a week – and it was just me and the lovely Isaan people.

Sisaket townspeople really enjoy having foreigners around. Some think we bring them good luck. Others, that we bring money. Others still, that we will marry their daughter or other relations! There’s no shortage of beautiful girls here, but most that are of working age have moved on to Bangkok or somewhere else to earn money. Girls in high school can be frequently seen, but those of college age are pretty rare. There is a Rajabhat University in Sisaket, though I think it must be much smaller than the one in Ubon Ratchathani. Ubon is kind of a college town considering they have Rajabhat, Ubon Ratchathani University, Polytechnic, and a lot of technical schools.

Young Buddhist monks at temple in Sisaket

There are many elephants walking around at night. Here is a short video of a very small baby elephant that is paraded through the street. The owners take the food with them and get people to pay to feed the elephant. Kind of sad I guess, but elephants like to walk I think. This one I saw a month ago is really cute, but when the guy realized I wasn’t paying to feed it, he quickly moved on.

On the road going towards Surin is a golf driving range, though I’m not sure there is a place to play golf since I’m not a player.

There are 4 public parks that can be seen. One very large park is very special and was built in honor of the present King’s mother. The name of this park is, “Soowan Som Det”. It is a BEAUTIFUL park with many lakes filled with large catfish and Tilapia (Nile Perch) that can be fed for 10 baht for a bag of fish-food pellets.

During March and April, the yellow trees called in Thai, “Dok Koon”, are blooming along with some purple flowered trees. There is another tree with flowers called, “Lum Duan” that suffuses great areas of the park with the most incredible smell – like a woman’s perfume. The first few times I smelled it as I ran around I thought that a woman must have just ridden through on her motorbike or something. I never imagined that the smell could be a flower because it is exactly like a perfume someone might purchase in a beauty store. The people of Sisaket have a big festival during the time these flowers are blooming in March. The park at that time is filled with hundreds (thousands?) of people dancing, eating, playing sports, selling their products and showing their artwork.

There is a small zoo in this park where you will find deer, hippos, alligators, birds of every sort, peacocks, turtles, a vulture, snakes, lizards and water monitors. There is one group of animals with genetical anomalies here which is sad to see. One was a cow with another cow growing out of its right shoulder area. Three or four legs can be plainly seen coming out of the shoulder region and there are other bones under the skin that give the cow a distorted appearance. Next to the cow is a buffalo with a malformed jaw and another buffalo missing a leg. It’s quite sad to see. Especially sad was that the cow with the deformity was a male and seemed to be horny for the female cow that was in the same pen. I kept telling him not to mate, it’s going to be nothing but bad news, but I think eventually he’s going to be able to pull it off successfully. There will be another addition to the zoo’s genetic wonders section if that happens.

The other parks are very small and don’t have many trees for shade. The weather during summer is very hot in Sisaket, I can’t stress that enough! Bring a hat and water with you wherever you go, you’ll need it.

There are a couple hotels in the city that tourists should have a look at. The best one is probably “The NorthEast Hotel” which is located on Sisumung Road near Wat Luang. The rate is about 600 baht per night and there is no discount for multiple days or weeks staying. It’s a new hotel with a coffee shop and free internet broadband place close to it. The rooms are all air-conditioned and clean. I didn’t stay there, but went and had a look at the room. I stayed at a hotel that is near the train station called, “Prompeeman Hotel” for 500 baht per night for a fan room. The sheets were incredibly disgusting and so I took some from the maid’s cart which was brand new and I re-did my bed with those. Maybe better to stay at the “NorthEast Hotel” for the cleanliness factor. There are numerous nightclub type establishments off the lobby area of the Prompeeman hotel and it seems like the one happening spot for night time activities if you are into that.

There is a bus station that can get you anywhere with air-conditioned or fan buses. Across the street is a nightclub – the largest in Sisaket, and called, “Nona”. I’ve not been there, but a friend said it resembles “The Rock” nightclub in the base of the “Nevada Hotel” in Ubon Ratchathani.

Sisaket has many temples in the area of the city and surrounding. There is a temple right outside the city about 5 kilometers called, “Wat Prathat Ruang”. If you visit there you can ring many of the bells and gongs in the temple for good luck. Great fun! Other temples are on the way to Surin and some have ancient ruins that are part of the Khmer dynasty. I have some photos here of an old brown-stoned temple on the way to Surin that was really nice.

This will sound funny, but when I was at that temple I went in to look at the Buddhist amulets for necklaces and other things they were selling. There was an odd man behind the counter whose eyes were wide and hazy, almost like he was blind, but he got around the office OK. He was missing his front two teeth. When he saw me said, “Florida” about 8 times until I understood what he was saying. I’m from Florida. I told him. He just shook his head and said, “child”. Then he said, “boy”. It was so strange. I’d never met him and he’d never have met anyone that I knew. I have a son in Florida that I think about every day and that I miss a lot. He’s always on my mind. This guy picked it up immediately. Very odd.

Khmer Buddhist temple, Sisaket, Thailand

Anyway… so, Sisaket is a very quiet town that is safe and a great place to relax if you want to unwind from Pattaya, Bangkok, or some other high-energy area of Thailand.

Don’t forget to try the ant-eggs. Women carry them around the city in clear plastic bags – they appear to be queen ants by the hundred that they chilled to stop the development. They are big, juicy, and a unique taste that you’ve likely not found elsewhere.

Sisaket, Thailand… is Isaan personified.

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18 thoughts on “Sisaket, Thailand – Isaan Through and Through

  • April 9, 2007 at 7:01 pm
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    You didn’t mention tha Sisaket and some neighboring provinces have huge khmer populations. That’s quite different from the rest of Isaan.

  • March 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm
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    Hi. I’m sorry for this article. There’s a Tesco, a Macro, and a Big C will open up in about 2 weeks. You forgit to say the truth. There’s ‘farlang’ food. One place is called “franks’, he’s German and is cooking delicious food. Pizza, Bratwurst, Scnitzel……and other good stuff. There’s anice park with a zoo, 3 swimming pools, and a lot of more to see. I settled down here about 6 years ago. What a nice place to live……

    • March 19, 2009 at 7:08 pm
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      Hi Mike, thanks for commenting. You’re right! I’ve not been back to Sisaket for a while now and apparently they are really building up the place. I heard about a Tesco/Lotus but not the Macro or Big C. Wow… Yes, I’ve been to Franks – awesome food and company. If you have the name of his restaurant I forget it – and directions – I’ll be glad to post them here. There are a couple of expat places to hang out there too that I don’t have names for. I’ve been to the zoo and the park is just amazing – part of the Queen’s initiative I believe.

      I agree – it’s an amazing place to live. The people are really genuine and I loved every minute I was there. Sisaket might be my favorite province in Thailand.

  • March 19, 2009 at 8:18 pm
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    Hi. The name of Frank’s restaurant is ‘living in the past’. That’s similar to the life here. I moved to Sisaket about 7 years ago. I’m eaching English here at a high school after three years at a primary school. Are you intereted to teach English in Thailand? I’ve got the right connections. Please feel free to mail me : mikelmersi@hotmail.com

    • March 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm
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      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the info on Frank’s place. A bit hard to find but worth it. Sorry, no – not interested in teaching…

  • April 5, 2009 at 12:45 am
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    Good morning,
    I just found your blog and read about admin’s Sisaket articl.
    Something about me: I am 56, German, having a Sisaket wife, and preparing my after-Europe-life. I still work in France/Germany with my own company, spend times between TH (we live near Chonburi) and Europe. We are just trying to find out where to spend the next 20 years or so, and my feeling (which is much supported by my wife) is going more and more to a Siskat solution. There is quite an interesting development in the Sisaket area during the last 3 years in relation with Admin’s article and 2009 (Makro, Big C, Tesco), and I have the impression that this area could develop quite well during the next couple of years. So it might be quite interesting to settle down here instead of the overcrowded area between BKK and Rayong.
    What are your opinions ?
    A question from me: are there any schools (international) with a good reputation and level in the Sisaket area ?

    @ Mike:
    Teaching:
    I like this idea, but I am not a teacher. My native language is German, I hold a translator/interpretor’s degree in French, and I speak English. During the past 10 years, I was doing sales trainings in all 3 languages all over the world for sales men and sales managers. Any chances ???
    Cheers
    Didi

    • April 5, 2009 at 8:39 am
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      Sisaket is such a great place to live – one of my favorite places in the country. People are simple. Poor really. They’re overall quite happy though. The town has little going on. The fun is in the day to day nothing of living in a small town. There is a tech school and some small highschools. There’s a nice park. There’s many old temples around. Ubon is 65 km away. Yasothon, Surin and other places are close. Chong Mek is close (Laos). Nong Khai, Khon Kaen and Korat are close enough by vehicle. Udonthani is close.

      I don’t know if it’s going to “develop” other than what’s there already. That’s QUITE a few stores to have for that small area – but they’ll come from villages all around!

      International schools? Good question. In sisaket – I don’t think so. Ubon – well, Assumption is OK, there is a private Chinese school that has high standards.

      Anyone else know anything?

  • May 12, 2009 at 4:12 am
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    hi all
    just got back from sisaket…in a few years time this place will boom..as stated tesco macrow and big c are all open.

    the hotels are up grading…spoke to the main man there he tells me a lot of cash is going to be spent there in the future…

    they want it more westernised….

    ubon airport is only 40 mins away…the road is very good with light traffic…

    flight to bkk is less than 1 hour away…

    same time to pattaya in a taxi…

    i enjoyed my stay…and its alot cheaper than pattaya or bkk…

    • May 12, 2009 at 7:41 pm
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      Hi Graham – good to hear you enjoyed Sisaket… I enjoy it because it’s not booming and I sincerely hope it never does. I don’t foresee the masses leaving Pattaya to spend time in a small town atmosphere with little going on. And that’s a good thing.

  • June 12, 2009 at 11:33 pm
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    good morning, all,

    about Sisaket:
    we all like swimming and spending time in water. In our area between SriRatcha and Chonburi are many swimming pools, in schools, public, or housing parks (open against payment of a small fee).
    Are there any swimming pools in the Sisaket area, either private or public ?

  • April 1, 2010 at 3:03 am
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    i too wish to know..i plan to move to sisaget in july..but only if there is a pool or gym…!!!!

  • April 11, 2010 at 7:03 pm
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    Hello,
    Iam 22 yrs old french man. I am married to a Sisaket (Province) girl. She is from a little village which is 16km away from Uthumphon Phisai, the last train station before Sisaket city. I have been there 3 times. Its true thats there are no tourists there, which is good I think. When i go in town, ppl really wonder and i hear “farang farang”. Many kids are quite “affraid” at me too, maybe coz iam tall with blue eyes and fair hair. Anyway that doesnt bother me, I find it quite fun. The people there is really great. My main problem is food. I hardly eat thai food and evn less Isaan one. Thats a shame I know but I cant go over it. Fortunatly there s a new Tesco in Uhtumphon Phisai. One thing i really hate also in village is the local news which are very loud from 5 to 7am. That drives me mad. Well, i’m more a city man, so its hard for me to stay so long there, I feel like am at the end of the world. But its always interesting to meet those natural and welcoming ppl. The true Thailand… I read up that Sisaket has a khmer influance.. true but its not the majority.
    I find your description of Sisaket very interesting, its rare to find info about there even on the net.

    • April 11, 2010 at 7:34 pm
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      Hi Karl,

      Wow – 22 yrs old and living in a small village outside Sisaket? First I’ve heard of a young man doing this… good luck to you! I’ve seen that train station many times… I enjoy the train and never take the bus anywhere. Some bad experiences on buses.

      If you don’t eat Thai food then you are really in a bad place my friend!

      Sisaket area is awesome… the people – gems. Beware of guys in the village that might see you as a target… past loves of your wife, or just guys that are on drugs, alcohol, or messed up in the head that want to kill you for the $ they think they can get. 99/100 people in your area might be great and never cause you harm… but it only takes 1-2 guys with nothing to lose to craft a plan.

      Take care there…

  • October 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm
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    Good Morning,
    I will be teaching in Sisaket next month, how easy is it to find a place to live? I know very little about the town but have lived in Issan before just not anywhere near Sisaket. Any advice greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Nick

    • October 31, 2010 at 7:07 pm
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      Hi Nick,

      A nice place to live, or a dorm like college kids stay at? For dorms, rather easy. There are a couple tech schools there, so many rooms. There is a yellow building behind one of the main schools that is a great place to stay – 2000 THB per month. Wish I had directions. Email me and I’ll try to find. There are no decent apartments – western style – that I know about.

  • November 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm
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    Hi.

    I left Sisaket in August 2010. It took me almost three months to search out Franks German Guesthause. It was a week before I was to leave and I went to Franks almost every day. The food was great and the people I met were all very nice. Frank has many regulars – some come for lunch- Frank also has Chile on Friday. Frank told me that he learned to love Chile from the Americans he met in Berlin. I know that when I return next year Franks place will be a regular spot for me.

    • November 9, 2010 at 12:50 am
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      Cool, glad you went and had a good time. It’s a nice laid back place. Cheers…

  • December 12, 2011 at 6:06 am
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    Hey Guys,

    Great Info here !!! Cheers, you all gave me some great news about my up-coming trip. I will travel there soon, to meet a nice woman, I hope?
    Any info about the ladies here? Would be great to hear some advice?

    Thanks, John.

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