The NE of Thailand is called Isaan (ee·săhn) in Thai, it translates phonetically into English so sometimes it Isan, or Issan, or Issaan. It is the rural backwater of Thailand and only 1% of foreign travellers come here, but it's the authentic Thailand where you can experience the real culture of this magic country.
Spend even just a little time in this colossal corner of the country and you'll discover as many diﬀerences as similarities to the rest of Thailand. The language, food and culture are more Lao than Thai, with hearty helpings of Khmer and Vietnamese thrown into the mix.
And spend time here you should because it’s home to some of Thailand’s best historic sites, national parks and festivals. Thailand’s tourist trail is at its bumpiest here (English is rarely spoken), but the fantastic attractions and daily interactions could end up being highlights of your trip
The social history of this enigmatic region stretches back some 5600 years, to the hazy days of the Ban Chiang culture, which, by at least 2100 BC, had developed bronze tools to till fields. Though Ban Chiang was a very advanced society, the Khorat Plateau, over which Isan spreads, was a sparsely populated region for most of its history due to poor soils and frequent droughts, and no major powers were ever based here – it was usually under the control of empires based around it.
The name Isaan comes from Isanapura (now known as Sambor Prei Kuk), the 7th- century capital of the Chenla kingdom, which at the time included what is now northeast Thailand and is now the general term used to classify the region (pâhk ee·săhn), people (kon ee·săhn) and food (ah·hăhn ee·săhn) of the northeast.
Evidence shows that the Dvaravati held sway here and then the Khmers came in the 9th century and occupied it for some 500 years. After the Khmer empire waned, Isan was under the thumb of Lan Xang and Siam kings, but remained largely autonomous.
But as the French staked out the borders of colonial Laos, Thailand was forced to define its own northeastern boundaries. Slowly but surely, for better and worse, Isan fell under the mantle of broader Thailand.
Long Thailand’s poorest area, the north- east became a hotbed of communist activity. Ho Chi Minh spent some years proselytising in the area, and in the 1940s a number of Indochinese Communist Party leaders fled here from Laos and helped bolster Thailand’s communists. From the 1960s until an amnesty in 1982, guerrilla activity was rife across Isan. But the various insurgencies evaporated as the Thai government, with considerable help (and most of the money) from the US, began to take an interest in developing the region, resulting in an improved economy and increased opportunity. Despite rapid improvement since then, the per capita income here remains only one- third the national average.
The full description of Isaan is available from the Lonely Planet website and I strongly recommend getting copies of their wonderful travel guides for your holiday at Thailand Painting Holidays