The first impression is good, perhaps Isan people is the friendliest people in Thailand and they are prone to help tourists. The first thing you will notice when you arrive to the city is a white stupa called Lak Mueang Shrine.
Humble and friendly people
Kantharalak is a small town in Sisaket, with a very few shops, a pharmacy, some hotels (some of them almost bare bones beds and baths) and many traditional Thai restaurants using plastic chairs and tables, offering the typical Isan food and even a Pizza 4 you. As in every single town or city in Thailand you won’t be able to avoid seeing a few 7-Eleven, mostly on the main street. The Bangkok Bank is located inside Tesco-Lotus, but on the main street there are a few ones.
You will come upon the local market after entering the town, just at the left side. Like in many Thai markets, you can find almost anything you might be looking for: fruits, fresh fish, chicken and vegetables, including frog meat, they are slit open but still alive. The Rongphayaban Hospital is located near the town, however for simple and quick medical care there is a small rural hospital on the main street.
Kantharalak is a small city without taxis, but there are tuk tuks and a local guy who owns a pick-up truck and can take you anywhere within the area for a fair and reasonable price.
Besides the the mentioned above Lak Mueang Shrine, the Wat Ban Non Pueai and Wat Mai Bueng Malu Buddhist temples, there are not much attractions or points of interest in the town.
Visitors must leave the town in order to see some interesting beautiful spots such as a small boat-shaped temple located in Bueng Bun called Wat Sombon.
Around of 11 kilometers from Kantharalak in Phanom Dong Rak, surrounded by a an incomparable natural environment, we found the beautiful Wang Yai Waterfall, which is nice to visit if you like nature.
A beautiful National Park
But possibly the main attraction in Kantharalak is the well known Khao Phra Wihan National Park, the door to the disputed Preah Vihear temple. This beautiful National park contains a few small temples, the Don Tuan Ruins dating from the 11th century Khmer Empire, the well known Twin Stupas along with incredible views of Cambodian forests and three 1500 year-old relief Khmer sculptures carved into the cliff and the famous Pha Mo I Daeng Rock.
Kantharalak district is surrounded by picturesque villages and a number of beautiful natural lakes. The main way of make a living in Sisaket is the agriculture, so there is plenty of rice fields, and buffalo herds plus agricultural vehicles on the roads, so drive with caution.
At the time of the visit in November 2011, and due the dispute with Cambodia over Preah Vihear temple, we saw many military vehicles and soldiers at road checkpoints and several shelters hidden within the area near Khao Phra Wihan National Park and Preah Vihear.
Traditional Thai lifestyle
Nevertheless, the most important thing to do in Sisaket is to experience the traditional Thai lifestyle of the villagers and their culture, as an example, eat Isan Food and sleep in a house built entirely of rosewood; watch the snake charmers who perform their shows in the villages, recollect coconuts, relax and enjoy the nature.
I would recommend to try the Khao Lam (ข้าวหลาม), a mix of white sticky rice, sometimes mixed with black sticky rice, sweetened coconut milk, black beans, and roasted inside hollow sections of bamboo cane. The Isan sticky rice or Khao Niao (ข้าวเหนียว) is also delicious, usually found anywhere it’s the most popular rice in the region.
Kantharalak natives, as many other people in Isan chew Betel nut (areca nut) which is carcinogenic and consequently dangerous to your health, it also causes teeth staining and creates addiction, so avoid this practice. Areca nuts are chewed with betel leafs for their stimulant effects. Also many villagers are engaged in drinking behaviors, even in the everyday life. The most consumed alcoholic beverages in the area are the Sang Som, a rum distilled from sugarcane, the widely spread Mekhong whisky that cost around 80 THB, and the Lao-lao and Lao-hao, two homemade rice whiskey varieties. You can find such drinks in any village shop or at the big Liquor & Tobacco store located in Kantharalak town.
Being one of the poorest areas of Thailand, Sisaket province has a lot to offer to visitors. As I said earlier, the inhabitants of Northeastern Thailand are so amiable, they will give you a warm welcome and offer you great hospitality, rarely found in other countries, as well as you will enjoy uncommon holidays in an incomparable setting on this wonderful region.
Welcome to Kantharalak in Sisaket, welcome to Isan, just be careful with mosquitoes!
Adventure in Thailand offers a different view from the traveler: sometimes wild, with wide-open beaches, blue waters and white sand, lakes, islands, high mountains, wildlife, temples, monuments and a hands-on experience of the real Thailand. Get to know the gentle people and the wonderful Land of Smiles.