Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as Korat, is an industrial, yet pleasant city located on the Korat Plateau. Traditionally regarded as the boundary point between the Lao and Siamese territories, it is now considered to be the gateway to the Issan region. It also houses the fifth-largest population in Thailand.
At around 250 kilometers (160 miles) from Bangkok and directly linked by both train and highway, it functions as a frequent stop-off point on the way to northeastern Thailand and Laos beyond. It was first established during the late 1600s when King Narai of Ayutthaya built the city as a defense against potential threats of attack from the regions Laotian and Khmer neighbors.
While the city and greater metropolitan area are a sprawling urban center of nearly half a million inhabitants, Korat is surrounded by wide agricultural areas, specializing primarily in rice paddies and currently expanding into crops like sugar cane or cassava. The region has not yet created its identity as a prime tourism destination, but offers a variety of activities and sights, plenty of charm and low- end prices to encourage its image as a travel destination.
In the 1970s during the Vietnam war, Korat served as the home base for the Royal Thai Air Force, as well as constituents of both the United States Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. While the US and New Zealand Air Force troops have long since left and the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base has been replaced by the Nakhon Ratchasima Airport in functions of civil transportation, you can still explore the Vietnam War era’s history with a visit to the base.
What may be of greater interest, however, are the many architectural and cultural wonders able to be found in and around Korat. A traveler could spend days enthralled by the highly-intact ruins of Phimai Historical Park, perusing a variety of religious icons and sites, shopping at the expansive Klang Plaza Chomsurangyat shopping center, or even relaxing poolside at the local Waterslide Park with its Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Korat also offers a whole range of accommodation options, ranging from budget friendly to luxury suites. Korat may not yet be a major tourist destination but its hotels are all well facilitated and every traveler should find something to their taste and pocket.
While the city is fairly sizeable, getting to and from it, as well as around it, is a relatively easy task. Inside Korat, you can travel via tuk-tuk, motorbike taxi (a half-motorbike, half-tuk-tuk hybrid), regular taxi, bicycle rickshaw (also known as samlor), or songtaew, the most popular form of transportation, which comes in the form of a pickup truck converted into a minibus. Getting into Korat is easy by bus or train, since it lies along the major routes for both, although reaching it by plane still a travel option in its relative infancy, with daily flights between Bangkok and Korat and only weekly flights to other major cities like Phuket or Chiang Mai.