Nakhon Ratchasima is Thailand’s biggest province. Located in Northeast Thailand, it’s one of Isan’s closest provinces to Bangkok. There are many attractions to suit all tastes and interests, from temples and museums to national parks and quirky places of interest. Planning a trip to Nakhon Ratchasima? Add these 10 attractions to your must-visit list.
One of the biggest and most-impressive Khmer-era ruined complexes in Thailand, Phimai Historical Park provides a captivating look into the past. Located right in the centre of Phimai town, the large site is surrounded by what remains of the walls, deep foundations, and moats. Inside, there are large courtyards with a number of halls, ponds, and towers. Built between the 11th and 12th centuries, it is thought that the site was mainly dedicated to Buddhism, as that was the area’s main religion. You can see influences from Hinduism too, the religion of the Khmers in the past. The glorious ruins are located at one end of an ancient highway that used to run all the way to the Angkor capital (now Siem Reap).
Khao Yai National Park was Thailand’s first national park and it remains one of the most popular for international and domestic travellers. It is named after the area’s main mountain; Khao Yai means “Big Mountain” in Thai. Within the park, you’ll find well-paved roads and diverse hiking trails to suit all levels of hiking enthusiasts. There are a few campsites if you want to enjoy the great outdoors for longer. The mountainous terrain boasts a number of picturesque waterfalls, such as Heaw Suwat and Heaw Narok, and there are several viewpoints throughout the park that provide glorious vistas over the surrounding areas. Diverse creatures live in the national park, including magnificent elephants, bears, gibbons, monkeys, and deer, and there are many species of birds, insects, and reptiles too. Interesting plants, trees, and flowers grow throughout the park.
One of the more unusual temples in Thailand, Wat Ban Rai can be found in Dan Khun Thot District. The temple looks much like many other Thai temples when you first enter the grounds, but the real beauty lies towards the rear of the site. A large ceramic-covered shrine in the form of an elephant takes pride of place over the water, with a walkway flanked by two dazzling naga statues. No two parts of the shrine’s outer walls are the same, with scenes of the Lord Buddha’s life and religious symbolism created from tiles and mosaics. There are colourful statues around the building and even the toilet buildings, topped with mermaid-like statues in pink and blue, are stunning. Step inside to see thought-provoking and eye-catching artwork and climb to the top to see a golden statue of the former abbot while admiring the views.
One of Nakhon Ratchasima’s more whimsical and quirky attractions, Mister Mushroom is a farm in Wang Nam Khiao District. Visitors can learn more about the mushroom-growing processes, seeing the conditions needed for different types of the edible fungus to flourish. See mushrooms of all sizes, shapes, and colours, some growing out of bags, some in pots, and others in glass tanks. There are many delightful statues to add to the interest and the farm even has its own catchy song … all about mushrooms, naturally! There’s a large onsite shop where you can buy anything and everything related to mushrooms, including mushroom-themed souvenirs, mushroom paste, mushroom sauce, and an array of mushroom-flavoured treats. How about some mushroom fries or mushroom ice cream?
Visit Nakhon Ratchasima’s district of Sung Noen to see a piece of religious history; the town’s Wat Dhammachakra Sema Ram is home to Thailand’s oldest reclining Buddha statue. Made from sandstone, the ancient statue is thought to be around 1,300 years old! Unlike many of the nation’s Buddha statues, it hasn’t been covered with plaster, stucco, or gold, so it really looks its age. Its size is impressive too, with the statue stretching for more than 13 metres. The temple, also known locally as Wat Phra Non (Temple of the Sleeping Buddha), also contains other interesting statues, both ancient and from more modern times.
Lam Takhong Dam was built in 1974 to store water and aid with irrigation of surrounding farmlands. Since 2002, its water has also been used to power Thailand’s first pumped storage power plant. Located in Sikhio District, it’s also a popular place for leisure and relaxation. People come to admire the beautiful views and unwind alongside the water. A number of vendors sell refreshments and popular Thai dishes and snacks.
Wat Sala Loi is in Nakhon Ratchasima city. One of the city’s main temples, it dates back to the early 1800s. Local legends say that it was built by a heroine from the city, and there is a statue of the revered lady, Thao Suranari, on the grounds. The most striking feature is the ordination hall, which was built to look like a traditional Chinese sailing junk. The principal Buddha image is, fittingly, in the position of “calming the ocean”. Locally made pottery decorates the temple’s buildings and there are interesting shrines and statues throughout the complex. The pond offers a peaceful place to sit deep in thought.
A family-friendly attraction in Pak Chong, Thongsomboon Club is an exciting adventure park with a Wild West theme. On entering the park, the buildings have been designed to resemble those found in the American lands of Cowboys and Indians from times gone by. The diverse rides and activities are split between two levels, connected by an old-fashioned steam train. The rural views from the train’s carriages are scenic, and you can also soak up splendid vistas from the ski lift. The flying fox, dry sledge, go karts, zorb balls, ATVs and log flume provide an adrenaline boost, while the luge, bumper boats, and buggies can be as thrilling or as sedate as you want them to be. Pit your wits against your family and friends in the BB Gun field and laser tag area, try your hand at horse riding, and watch entertaining shows. Don’t want the fun to end? You can book one of the park’s cool accommodations, including wigwams, wagons, caravans, and chalets.
Korat Fossil Museum is a must for anyone interested in natural history. Located in the provincial capital, the museum is actually a collection of several museums dedicated to different themes. There’s a garden with many interesting pieces of petrified wood, some of which almost look like gemstones. The main part of the museum exhibits fossils that have been found all around Northeast Thailand. A separate area is dedicated to elephant fossils, bones, and remains, because of the huge number of ancient elephant fossils that have been found in the area. Nakhon Ratchasima and surrounding areas were also once prime stomping grounds for dinosaurs. The museum has a comprehensive collection of dinosaur fossils and bones discovered in Isan. The museum aims to be educational as well as interesting, and there are video explanations as well as information boards in both English and Thai.
Combining nature and culture with a dash of mystery and intrigue, Jim Thompson Farm is a great family-friendly eco-attraction in Nakhon Ratchasima. Many people have heard of Jim Thompson, the American expert in Thai silk who disappeared without a trace when walking in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. The farm tells the story of Mr. Thompson and provides insights into the production of delicate Thai silk. Silk worms and weaving looms aren’t all you’ll see here, though; the large farm has an organic vegetable and herb garden where you can pick your own fresh produce, an impressive field of giant pumpkins, a maze, many flowers in all colours of the rainbow, a gift shop, and more.