Khon Kaen

Khon Kaen

A Photo Essay Through a Lesser-Known Region of Thailand

I recently spent a few days exploring Khon Kaen in the Northeast of Thailand. Well connected to Bangkok by multiple daily one-hour flights and boasting a unique blend of natural beauty, Isan culture, traditional temples, cutting-edge architecture and emerging arts, this university city offers various diverse and authentic experiences. Below, you’ll find my personal photo essay capturing the essence of the city.

Chris Crampton | MD Europe

(All images, text & quotes by Chris)

I’d never been up to Khon Kaen before. It’s certainly less well known and not on the regular tourism trail for visitors to Thailand.

But what a place. The city is on the edge of huge development and growth, older buildings are being preserved and repurposed rather than just knocked down and replaced with faceless concrete.

Nong Waeng Temple, Khon Kaen

Nong Waeng Temple

The standout attraction in Khon Kaen is the nine-storey chedi, Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon, also referred to as ‘The nine-storey chedi’, situated within the premises of Wang Nong Waeng, a royal temple bordering Kaen Nakhon Lake. Established in 1793, a staircase leads to the top of the chedi offering scenic views of the city and lake.

Ton Tan Night Market

This expansive indoor and outdoor night market is open every day from 5 – 11pm and attracts locals as well as tourists. There are stalls selling clothes, jewellery, bags, trinkets, handmade items etc. With several large food halls it’s a great place to get delicious Thai food at cheap prices. Live bands and entertainment all add to the fun atmosphere.

Ton Tan Night Market, Khon Kaen
Ton Tan Market, Khon Kaen
Ton Tan Market, Khon Kaen
Ton Tan Market, Khon Kaen

Columbo Craft Village

The al fresco cafe in this quaint craft village is popular with university students and is a serene place to enjoy coffee and cake under the shade of the trees. Unleash your creativity in hands-on pottery workshops and through drawing and painting activities. Additionally, browse arts and crafts created by local artisans, showcasing the region’s creative spirit.

Columbo Craft Village, Khon Kaen
Nam Phong National Park, Khon Kaen

Nam Phong National Park

Covering an area of 197 square kilometers, Nam Phong National Park is renowned for its expansive cliff-edge panoramas overlooking Ubonrat Lake towards the Phu Wiang Mountains. The main highlight is the diverse array of captivating rock formations and prehistoric rock paintings scattered throughout the forest.

Wat Thung Setthi

Wat Thung Setthi stands out with its unique white exterior adorned with gold and blue details, a departure from the customary gold and red temples prevalent across Thailand. Its name, ‘Temple Millionaire’s Field’, suggests that those who offer merit here may attain wealth or prosperity. It’s worth a try!

Wat Thung Setthi, Khon Kaen
Kaen Restaurant, Khon Kaen

Coffee Shops & Restaurants

Stand out eateries include Kaen Restaurant – the chef, Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat, used to be part of the culinary council for British Airways first and business class, alongside the likes of Michel Roux. Krua Supanniga, set amongst lush greenery, is a Michelin-listed restaurant specialising in Isan food inspired by Grandma’s recipies.

Produce from the Isan region forms the heart of the food experience, with local cuisines notably different from the rest of Thailand.

Krua Supanniga, Khon Kaen
Krua Supanniga, Khon Kaen
Isan cuisine
Nightlife, Khon Kaen


Khon Kaen has a very eclectic and vibrant nightlife. There are plenty of bars, clubs, beer gardens and live music venues to try out. As there are so few tourists in Khon Kaen I highly recommend heading to a bar, grab a drink and you’ll soon get chatting with the locals!

The entertainment element is central to the whole city. Live music comes from every other bar, artists, both national and (increasingly) international, come and perform.

TCDC: Thailand Creative & Design Centre

TCDC is a modern contemporary building that takes over 1,500 sqm of land which belongs to Khon Kaen University. This centre of Isan-design knowledge and information features forward-thinking art exhibitions and workshops, and a has strong database of Isan designers, handicrafts and local arts.

TCDC Khon Kaen
Singha Park Golf Course, Khon Kaen

Singha Park Golf Course

Set on reclaimed land this 18-hole, par-72 course boasts fairways carpeted in Seashore Paspalum weaving in and out of nine lakes. Natural stones, large sand bunkers, and native trees and shrubs add to the beauty (as well as the golf challenge) and bring golfers into close contact with nature. The ultra-modern clubhouse has won numerous design awards.

The Treasury Museum

This eye-catching building was designed by a highly-regarded Thai architect who specialises in stylish, contemporary Thai architecture. Inside is a vast collection of Thai cureencies, in particular the ancient currencies of Isan. It is the only museum of its kind in Isan.

The Treasury Museum, Khon Kaen
Ad Lib Khon Kaen swimming pool and view

Where to Stay?

Ad Lib Khon Kaen is an exciting new opening, centrally located in the city. Guests can unwind at the stunning rooftop pool which boasts panoramic city views. Unique F&B venues include an exquisite restaurant on the 27th floor with outdoor terrace, a cosy speakeasy, and a ‘live house’ that showcases music and performing arts.

The lack of tourists make this an authentic part of Thailand to come and explore. Get here before everyone else discovers it.