Historically, Khon Kaen is quite a new town, established a little over two centuries ago during the reign of King Rama I. But prehistorically, this town on the plateau has involved various natural phenomena and cultures. Artifacts have proven that millions of year ago the area was ruled by dinosaurs. People in various cultures then occupied the plateau during the pre-historical period until the ancient Khmer Empire expanded its presence into the area in the 12th century. These cultures, traditions, and historical sites have all contributed to shaping the Thai people and Thailand.
Geographically, Khon Kaen plays an important role as the centre of the Northeast region. Furthermore, the province, thanks to Khon Kaen University, is a major hub of education and technology. A major source of local wisdom in silk production is in Amphoe Chonnabot where excellent Mudmee silk is delicately woven by hand using the tie-dye technique.
Thai Airways  flies from Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok to Khon Kaen and back again five times a day. Nok Air  flies three daily flights from Bangkok Donmueang Airport. Air Asia  flies from Don Muang, Bangkok to Khon Kaen and back again two times a day.
Kan Air [] flies to Khon Kaen from Chiang Mai two times a week, on Tuesday and Thursdays evenings. After refueling, the plane heads right back to Chiang Mai.
Khon Kaen airport is a friendly little thai airport.
Getting from the aiport to the city:
As of April, 2015 there is no public transport at the airport. No buses, no songthaews. The entire airport seems to have just one entrance and is completely geared toward private cars and taxis. It was possible for me to find the way out through a parking garage, but there was absolutely noone outside. The nearest songthaew is a 2 kilometer walk away, if you really want to do it you can walk the 2 kilometers to Maliwan road where you should find the little vans full of people heading downtown. You will have to flag them down to stop. The only other option is to take the metered taxi at the airport and pay the 50 baht airport surcharge, or be lucky and start walking and have a friendly local pick you up and take you downtown in the back of his pickup truck, as it happened to me. Best option is to find someone to share the taxi with if you're alone.
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 Nakhon Chai Air (384 baht, highly recommended) Nakhon Chai Air Website has nice VIP buses which are cleaner (meals, drink, in-coach toilet) than Chan but, with small seats. Both companies also have their own terminals about 1 km away from Mo Chit where you can wait for your bus in air-conditioning.
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 plying Khon Kaen. Signs are in Thai only.
Ordinary Bus Station (BKS or Baw Kaw Saw in Thai) is the nexus for all songthaew routes.
There is a route for a van from Khon Kaen University (KKU) to Central Plaza. It is easy to get to the shopping mall if you are in KKU so you don't have to take a minibus(Songtaews), because it will take a bit longer, about half an hour. In contrast, driving with a van takes just about 5 to 10 minutes. A van is available from 10 A.M. to 9 P.M. It costs 15 baht for one way ticket.
From KKU to Central Plaza:
There are 2 places you can get a van in KKU 1) In front of Kangsadarn Market 2) Next to KKU Complex Center
From Central Plaza to KKU:
You can get a van in front of the mall. You can also ask a driver to atop anywhere along the way.
In addition, there are also vans to other districts and provinces around Khon Kaen. For example, at Central Plaza, there are vans to Chumphae, Phukaew, and Udonthani. The cost of ticket is up to the distance. A van is available from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. There is also a service for sending letters and packages and the cost is up to the distance too.
Art and Cultural Centre (หอศิลปวัฒนธรรม) Located on the compound of Khon Kaen University, the Issan barn-style building interprets local arts and culture. The centre can be accessed via Si Than Gate.
Bueng Kaen Nakhon (บึงแก่นนคร) A lake occupying an area of 603 rai. By the lake is a monument to Chao Phia Mueang Phaen, founder of Khon Kaen. The shady park around the lake dotted with sculptures always attracts people at leisure.
City Pillar Shrine (ศาลเจ้าพ่อเทพารักษ์หลักเมือง) The sacred shrine is located in front of Sala Suk Chai, on Thepharak Rd on the compound of the Khon Kaen Municipality Office. A famous monk and former governor of Khon Kaen placed a stone inscription from an ancient site in Amphoe Chum Phae here for a Buddhist rite and set up the city pillar shrine.
Khon Kaen National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ ขอนแก่น) Located on Lang Sun Ratchakan Rd, the museum exhibits antiques and precious art pieces from pre-historical to historical periods as well as a skeleton of the New Stone Age man and tools found at Ban Chiang.
Visitors should not miss seeing the sandstone Sema boundary markers from the Semas Dvaravati period. The boundary markers were delicately carved, featuring the life of the Lord Buddha. These were discovered at Fa Daet Song Yang ancient city in Kalasin Province.
Other interesting exhibits include stone lintels from Khmer ruins in the region as well as art pieces from other periods namely, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, and native tools. These exhibits well facilitate study in history, archaeology, and the lifestyle of Isan. The museum is open Wednesday - Sunday from 09:00 to 16:00. Admission is 20 THB for thai people and 100 THB for foreigner. For more information, call Tel. +66 43 246 170.
Khon Kaen University (มหาวิทยาลัยขอนแก่น) Located on the hill called ‘Mo Din Daeng’ on a 5,000+ rai plot of land, the university is the largest education centre in Issan, particularly in the disciplines that directly involve and benefit the people of Issan. To get there, visitor can travel via Mitraphap Rd (the Khon Kaen-Udon Thani route) or via Pracha Samosorn Rd (the Khon Kaen-Loei route). The university is located 4 km from downtown Khon Kaen.
Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon or The 9-storey stupa (พระมหาธาตุแก่นนคร หรือพระธาตุ ๙ ชั้น) Located in Wat Nong Waeng, a royal temple on Klang Mueang Rd, the Phra Mahathat houses relics of the Lord Buddha and important Buddhist scriptures. Doors and windows of the 9 storeys of the stupa are beautifully carved, featuring the life and former reincarnations of the Lord Buddha, 16 classes of visible deities in the Brahma’s world, and Buddhist rites. Murals within the stupa feature the history of the town. The top floor, the 9th storey, houses relics of the Lord Buddha. Visitors can view the panorama of the town from there.
Sim Isan (Wat Pa Saeng Arun) (สิมอีสาน) Sim Isan – a term for northeastern ordination hall or Ubosot, is situated within Wat Pa Saeng Arun, Tambon Phra Lap, Amphoe Mueang, approximately 3 km from Khon Kaen City Hall on the Khon Kaen–Kalasin route. The Sim Isan’s outstanding features are its typical shape and style and solidity, as well as the beauty of its murals of Mudmi patterns of the region’s famous tie-dyed silk.
Treasure Hall (โฮงมูนมังเมืองขอนแก่น) Established to strengthen local identity and serve as a study centre, the local museum exhibits the history of the city. The exhibits include Khon Kaen town history, historical culture dating back over 5,000 years, and the Khon Kaen lifestyle historically and at present. Open daily from 09:00–17:00, except Sundays and public holidays. Admission is 90 baht.
Wat Chai Si and Its Murals (วัดไชยศรีและฮูปแต้มสินไซ) The temple is located at Ban Sawathi, Tambon Sawathi. Deemed to be of archaeological, historical, and social importance, it was declared a national ancient monument in 2001. The ordination hall—Sim or Ubosot—of this temple houses magnificent mural paintings, both inside and outside, by a folk artisan from Maha Sarakham known as Thong Thipcha. The building originally had a northeastern roof style with an extended roof on each side. Later, a new roof of the Rattanakosin style replaced the old dilapidated one. In 1993, the Fine Arts Department had the roof extended to provide the murals shelter from sunlight and rain, as well as the surrounding landscape improved. There is also a folk museum nearby where rare folk artifacts of the Northeast are collected. The museum is open daily from 08:00-17:00.
Every night at the City Pillar Shrine, free movies are shown on large screens outside at around 20:00. Most, however, are dubbed in Thai.
Take a day trip (or stay overnight) to Phu Kradung, around halfway between Khon Kaen and Loei. Popular with young Thais, the mountain is a pleasant climb with cliff views and waterfalls (depending on the time of year) on the plateau. Camp or stay in a lodge overnight if you don't want to do it in one day. See Loei for more information.
Isan Explorer, ☎ 087-6439018, . This local tour company (firstname.lastname@example.org) has day and overnight trips in and around Khon Kaen. They follow a slow travel approach and include stops at villages, temples, and markets on all tours to allow people to truly experience the local culture.edit
Across the road from the Roma Hotel in downtown, there is a cheap breakfast restaurant. A lady pulls up in a car and unloads her Thai silk wares on the footpath. Prices are excellent, and can be bargained down if you buy in quantity. Initial price for one item was 500 baht; four items were 1,500 baht total.
There is a food market in the centre of the town.
There are two shopping centres: TukCom (formerly Oasis Plaza) and Fairy Plaza, (Big C, Tesco Lotus and a Makro). Other major stores include Global House, Homepro, and Index Living Mall. Central Department Store (Central Plaza), located just beside the City Gate, is the largest shopping complex and hosts an 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 food: 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.
Je Ruch (เจ๊รัช) 廖兰姐 54/22 Klang Muaeng Rd, Tel. +66 43 237 787, offers preserved pork, sour pork, Chinese-style pork sausage, and dried crispy sliced pork.
Walking Street (ถนนคนเดิน)
Walking Street is one of a very interesting shopping place. Both Thais and foreigners like to go there for shopping, eating, and taking photos. There are a lot of creative products such as handmade bags, shoes, T-shirts, household and so on. There are many shows along the street like B-Boy dances, singing, Thai classical music shows, Isaan Folk music and many other performance from youths. Moreover, you can find and try many different kinds delicious food here such as Thai dessert, local food, and so on. Walking Street will be held on Saturdays evening around 5 P.M. till 11 P.M., and it is located on street next to a bus station or in front of the government center.
Beegin Restaurant, (100 m down the side of the Pullman Hotel, close to the popular U Bar). Serving mainly Thai dishes.edit
Didines Restaurant. European-owned, serving Western and Thai food.edit
Kai Kratah, (opposite Roma Hotel.). Vietnamese-style "eggs in a pan" breakfast.edit
Khao Soi Chiang Mai, (along Prachamosorn Rd, east of downtown.). Northern Thai food.edit
Pomodoro Italian Restaurant, (at the side of the Pullman Hotel). Specializing in pizzas and pasta.edit
TastyChocolat, (in RAM hospital), . Real Belgian chocolate shop. They offer a running chocolate fountain, hand-made pralines and truffles, sugar-free Belgian chocolate, cakes, famous ice cream and are also the Belgian chocolate wholesaler for the Isaan region (chocolate for baking and cooking included).edit
Along the road from the Roma Hotel (same side of the road), there are several street eateries which are quite cheap and offer a good range of food. There is also a cheap Internet cafe in the area. A 7-11 is nearby to buy beer if you want to drink this with your meal. Ask them to open it for you before you leave the 7-11.
Opposite way of the eateries there is a place called kin no buta. You make the soup at your table very delicious high quality ingredients.
Keep in mind that you cannot by law buy alcohol in Thailand except from 11:00 to 14:00, and 17:00 to midnight. The 7-11's enforce it. The ma' and pa' shops next to 7-11 and elsewhere don't enforce it.
The Club, (in the Hotel Charoen Thani Princess). A popular nightspot for music and dancing.edit
The Rad Club. Consistently the most popular nightclub in Khon Kaen with a selection of rooms to suit your taste. Live music, disco and coyote girls.edit
Sync, 43/2 Pimpasut Rd, Na Mueang Rd (beside the Khon Kaen Hotel). edit
Tawandang Khon Kaen, (Chalermprakiat Rd near intersection with Ammat Rd), . Huge indoor beer garden/concert venue with live guest acts, house band and dancers, performing regional luk thung- and mor lam-influenced rock. You'll find university students, middle-aged locals, and families sharing in the mirth all at once. This feels like Isaan. A must-visit.edit
There are several other popular nightclubs near the Pullman Hotel (formerly 'Sofitel') in the downtown area, including the well-known Rad Pub and U-bar. Both feature live music and bands.
B and B Apartments, (on the edge of Lake Kaen Nakon in the city centre). Daily and monthly rates available.Rooms from 550 baht per night or 5,000 baht per month.. edit
Baan Sasithorn Resort, (3 km from the city centre in a rural setting.). On-site restaurant and snooker room. Free Wi-Fi.Several chalets styles ranging from 900-1,600 baht. edit
Chareon Chit Apartments. Located right in the town centre within walking distance of shops restaurants and night life. Daily and monthly rates available.Rooms from 400 baht per night or 4,500 baht per month.. edit
The Grand Leo Hotel. On Sri Chan Rd close to all the shopping and night life.under 400 baht. edit
Khok Pia Village Homestay, . An authentic village experience (you spend the day with a local resident who shows you village life) rather than just a place to sleep. It's in a village outside the city, but transportation to and from downtown is included.edit
Khon Kaen Orchid, 149/96 Soi Wat Pachaiyawan, Mittraphap Rd, Nai Muang (200 m from Central Plaza shopping), ☎ +66 43 334 000, . Thai/European-managed hotel/serviced apartments.700+ baht. edit
Lakeside Condominium, (on Beung Kaen Nakorn.). Luxury 1 and 2 bedroom condos for rent on a daily or monthly basis.Condos from 1,800 baht. edit
Nan's Hotel, . A quality budget hotel in the quiet Bangkok district of Khon Kaen with fully furnished rooms. A/C, fridge, cable TV, Wi-Fi. Includes copious free continental breakfast.400+ baht. edit
The Piman Garden Hotel, ☎ +66 43 334 111, . A luxury hotel in city centre. Free Wi-Fi and off-road parking.850-1,650 baht. edit
Phu Inn Hotel. In the middle of the city within walking distance of the Khon Kaen bus terminal (300 m) with a selection of local restaurants outside. Rooms from 350 baht. edit
Ponginn Mansion, (same road as Roma hotel, same side as Roma Hotel, 200 m to the bus station). 250 baht. edit
Hotel Pullman Khon Kaen Raja Orchid, 9-9 Prachasumran Rd, . 3,000+ baht. edit
Rim Beung Hotel, (on Beung (Lake) Kaen Nakorn about 1 km from the city centre.). Very basic but great location.from 200 baht. edit
Roma Hotel. 500 baht gets you a decent air-con room with TV. 230 baht for a fan room with hot water, TV and Wi-Fi. There is also in-house laundry service at a reasonable price. Some English is spoken depending who is on duty at the time. Breakfast not included, but can get it directly across the road very cheaply.230-500 baht. edit
Samsunren Hotel, (on Na Muang Road between the two city centre bus stations.). Very basic fan rooms but good location.from 200 baht. edit
Sawasdee Hotel, (on Na Muang Road). Safe option if you need a room for the night that covers all basic amenities, this is a large full service hotel with many rooms. The rooms are old, but have everything you may need, aircon, large windows, cable tv, wifi, fridge, and mine was clean too. Basically a budget full service hotel for those that like the comfort of hotel amenities but don't want to pay a regular hotel room.450 baht aircon room as of April, 2015. edit
Thong Apartments. Low-cost accommodation in the city centre. Daily and monthly rates available.from 350 baht per night or 4,000 baht per month. edit
Tonwa Residence and Resort, 88/103 Laonadee Ave, Soi 10/11, ☎ +66 43 322 614, . They provide two types of accommodations: villas and terraced houses, 54 rooms, all surrounded by natural beauty and assorted scented trees. Some of its amenities are free Wi-Fi, car rental, and dry cleaning/laundry.start at 800 baht. edit
There are two bus terminals in town and one new one outside of 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-conditioned buses, but the big one also has some non-airconditioned ones to nearby provinces. New bus terminal 3 is about eight kilometers south of the other two terminals, on the ring road. As of winter of 2014 it is operational but a little sparse. This is not surprising seeing as how it's out in the middle of nowhere. Of course this makes it more difficult to get to as well. A taxi or tuk tuk will cost 100-150 baht to get there. The main reason for going there is that the direct bus to Vientiane (see below) now departs from this terminal.
Nakhon Chai Air Bus - to Bangkok (6 hours), 384 baht, departs hourly from the Air-con Bus Terminal (Prab-argat). Highly recommended, though their staff speaks Thai only.
Thai-Lao International Bus - to Vientiane (Lao PDR), 180 baht, departs 07:45 (usually delayed till 08:00) and 15:15 daily from the new Air-con Bus Terminal (Bus Terminal 3), which is eight kilometers from the center of town. Passport (with current Laos visa) must be produced when purchasing ticket. If you do not have a Laos visa you cannot buy a ticket, as the bus will NOT wait for passengers processing their visas on arrival (citizens of few countries outside Southeast Asia who can enter Laos visa-free, notably Russians, may have to insist on that fact and/or to show some solid proof they will not need a visa-on-arrival, like existing Lao visa-free entry stamps). Tickets can only be purchased on the day of travel.
If you want to get a Laos visa in advance so you can ride the bus directly to Vientiane, you can do so at the Laos consulate in Khon Kaen. As of January 2013, the consulate has moved to Mittraphap Road (the highway heading north to Udon Thani). It is no longer on Prachasamoson road.
To get there from the city center, you can catch songthaew number four (green color) at the non-AC bus station, or on Na Muaeng road (one road west of Klang Muaeng). The consulate is quite far away north, past the Khon Kaen University campus. Look for the Tesco Lotus Extra on your left, which is 500m south of the consulate. The consulate itself is on the east (right) side of the highway, across from Raja City. Look for the big Laos flag. The songthaew ride will cost you 10B one-way.
At the consulate, simply fill a form, give 2 passport pictures, and ask for express. You'll pay a little bit more but it'll be ready in less than fifteen minutes unless it's a busy period.
This method is a bit of a hassle, but it will allow you to ride the bus all the way to Vientiane instead of switching modes of transportation at the Friendship Bridge. This method is now slightly more of a hassle since the departure point has moved to Bus Terminal 3.