Khon Kaen

Khon Kaen (ขอนแก่น) is a city and province in Isaan, Thailand.

Understand

While various artefacts have been found in the region that hint at its dinosaur era and early human inhabitants, what we know today as Khon Kaen came into being when the ancient Khmer empire expanded into the area in the 12th century. The current town was established a little over two centuries ago during the reign of King Rama I.

In addition to being a university town, Khon Kaen is a historic centre of silk production. In Chonnabot, Mudmee silk is delicately woven by hand and then tie-dyed.

Get in

By plane

Thai AirAsia flies from Bangkok (DMK) to Khon Kaen (KKC) twice a day. Thai Airways flies from Bangkok (BKK) five times a day. From Chiang Mai, there are direct weekly flights to and from Khon Kaen by Kan Air.

By train

Khon Kaen is on the branch of the Northeastern Line that runs to Nong Khai and Laos. The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) runs one reasonably timed overnight train, Train 133, which leaves Bangkok at 20:45 and is scheduled to arrive at 06:11 in Khon Kaen.

By bus

Khon Kaen has three bus terminals. The newest, Terminal 3, is six kilometres out of town and, for that reason, inconvenient. The city fathers want to get buses out of the city's core. The taxi Mafia support that initiative for obvious reasons: the cost of a tuk-tuk or taxi to downtown may well cost more than your bus ticket to Khon Kaen.

Buses to/from Bangkok's Northern (Mo Chit) Bus Terminal depart every 15 minutes from early until late.

For quicker service, avoid the touts at Mo Chit, and ask for Chan Tour. This company provides only VIP buses, which have very large seats and a bathroom. Alternatively, Nakhonchai Air has nice VIP buses which are cleaner (meals, drink, in-coach toilet) than Chan, but with small seats. Both will cost 420 baht, highly recommended. Both have terminals separate from Mo Chit, about 1 km away, where you can wait for your bus in an air-conditioned waiting room.

From Chiang Mai Arcade Terminal 3, Phetprasert and Sombat Tour have buses throughout the day from 08:00. Evening buses run at 19:00 and 20:00 from Platform 6. The price is approximately 641 baht one-way and duration of journey is 10 hr. The only problem is at the Khon Kaen end: you are dropped off at Terminal 3, far from the city center, near the intersection of Highway 2 and the ring road south of Khon Kaen. This terminal is new (Aug 2014) and lacking in amenities (coffee shop, hotel, etc.), but there is a new (Feb 2016) 7-11 about 100 meters to the south of the Nakhonchai Air terminal. NCA has a free shuttle service for its customers between its downtown and ring road terminal. A yellow songthaew service will take you downtown to the rail station and the in-town bus station (non-air-conditioned bus station) for 10 baht (Jan 2015).

From/to Udon Thani, several air conditioned buses depart hourly from Udon's Bus Station 1 downtown. Fare is 80 baht (Nov 2015) and the duration is approximately 90 min. Minivans depart from the same station to Khon Kaen continuing on to Roi Et. They are slightly faster than the bus, but probably not as comfortable. Buses arrive at Khon Kaen's "non-air conditioned bus terminal" downtown, much more convenient in most cases than the distant Terminal 3.

By car

It's easy to get to Khon Kaen by car from Bangkok. Just follow the four lane Hwy 2. Hwy 2 also heads north to Udon Thani, Nong Khai, and Laos.

Get around

Khon Kaen's centre is characterised by a strict grid system of wide streets and long blocks. It appears to have been designed for road traffic in mind, pedestrians be damned. Thus getting around on foot is fairly unpleasant.

Numbered songthaews charge 9 baht/person/trip (pay when you get out). Just wave your hand and the songthaew will stop to let you get on; ring the bell and it will stop again to let you get off. There are at least 10 routes serving Khon Kaen. Signage in Thai only.

The ordinary bus station ("baw kaw saw") is the interchange for all songthaew routes.

If you need to take a tuk-tuk the driver will normally quote 40 to 50 baht for trips within the city. Taxis (similar to those in Bangkok) are available too.

See

  • Art and Cultural Centre ((หอศิลปวัฒนธรรม) (on the Khon Kaen University campus). the Isaan barn-style building displays local arts, geography, and history. The centre can be accessed through the Si Than Gate.

Do

Every night at the City Pillar Shrine, movies are shown for free on large projectors outside at around 20:00. Most are dubbed in Thai.

Buy

Khon Kaen is famous for its silk.

Across the road from the Roma Hotel in downtown, there is a cheap breakfast restaurant. A lady pulls up in a car and unloads stuff to sell on the footpath, including Thai silk. Prices are excellent, and can be bargained down if you buy in quantity. (Initial price was 500 baht, Four of them were 1,500 baht total.)

There are two shopping centres, TukCom (formerly Oasis Plaza) and Fairy Plaza, a Big C, a Tesco Lotus and a Makro. Other major stores include Global House, Homepro and Index Living Mall. Central Department Store (Central Plaza), just beside the City Gate, is the largest shopping complex and hosts SFC cinema, Robinson, Se-Ed Book Centre, B2S, Tops Supermarket, and various restaurants.

There are various night markets, which also are good places to try out many different kinds of foods; a "young and hip" market at Khon Kaen University behind the Complex where students sell many of the goods, a popular one on Glang Muang Rd, and one that sometimes doubles as a carnival, at Bueng Kaen Nakhon.

Eat

Along the road from the Roma Hotel (same side of the road), there are several cheap street eateries. There is also a cheap Internet cafe in the area. A 7-Eleven (alcohol sales 11:00-14:00 and 17:00-24:00) is nearby where you can buy beer if you want to drink with your meal, use the shop's bottle opener.

Drink

Sleep

Go next

There are two bus terminals in town. The "big" terminal, where most buses arrive and leave and the "small" terminal, which is somewhat more exclusive and appears to provide the "direct to BKK" type of buses. It really is quite small compared to the other. They are about 1 km distant from each other within the centre of town, unlike most Thai cities where the bus terminals are on the outskirts. Both terminals have air-con buses, but the big one also has non-air-con to the local provinces.

Routes through Khon Kaen

Nong Khai Udon Thani  N  S  Nakhon Ratchasima
Nong Khai Udon Thani  N  S  Phimai Saraburi



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