Explore Khon Kaen: Cool Isan comes to life

Khon Kaen
Khon Kaen is transforming into a destination that is helping boost Isan

When the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) first launched its Cool Isan campaign, it wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm. A lack of development, a scorching hot season and really wet, wet season were just a few of the reasons people opted to look elsewhere when planning trips.

However, the times are changing and more visitors are now flocking to Isan. Perhaps nowhere is more chic at the moment than Khon Kaen. The city is popular due to a mix of interesting heritage sites, trendy cafes and a vibe that makes it feel like a less pretentious Chiang Mai.  

And Khon Kaen’s popularity is likely to grow. The new terminal at Khon Kaen Airport is expected to be completed next year with work on renovating the current terminal to start shortly after that. These improvements will increase capacity allowing the airport to bring in more flights.

Additionally, the Thai government continues to invest in the city as it sees Khon Kaen as a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) hub for Isan. This investment includes infrastructure projects, such as a proposed light rail, designed to attract private investment. 

If you haven’t visited Khon Kaen or it has been a few years since your last trip, it’s worth checking out. Here are just a few places you may want to stop by when you explore Khon Kaen.

1) Tibbetts Coffee House

Tibbetts Coffee House Khon Kaen
Tibbetts Coffee House

Khon Kaen has a surprisingly robust coffee scene with local roasters and skilled baristas found throughout the city. However, Tibbetts Coffee House is the one place you must visit in Khon Kaen. It has a Kees Van Der Westen Spirit Duette espresso machine, one of less than ten in Thailand, along with beans from around the world. These are used to create a range of signature drinks that are out of this world. Do yourself a favour and pair your beverage with one of the cakes at Tibbetts Coffee House.

Gustoso Desserts and Pastries
Gustoso Desserts and Pastries

2) Gustoso Desserts and Pastries

Keeping things sweet, Gustoso Desserts and Pastries has been serving up the most popular cakes in Khon Kaen for nearly four years. A ketogenic brownie is among the most in-demand treats. That’s because diet conscious people can regularly visit the quaint café without needing to feel guilty.

3) Wat Thung Setthi

Wat Thung Setthi
Wat Thung Setthi

Wat Thung Setthi is still relatively young, it was completed in 2012, but the special design and peaceful surroundings has made it a popular spot in Khon Kaen. The temple is surrounded by rice fields and overlooks vast swathes of openness where you can feel a gentle breeze from the outside. Inside, you will find gold statues dedicated to deities as well as glass window etchings and both English and Thai explanations. 

4) Avani Khon Kaen Hotel & Convention Centre

Avani Khon Kaen Hotel & Convention Centre
Avani Khon Kaen Hotel & Convention Centre

Formerly under the Centara brand, a major renovation saw a rechristened Avani Khon Kaen Hotel & Convention Centre open in 2018. The property is primed to take advantage of the MICE boom with numerous event spaces. Meanwhile, tourists can enjoy a central location. It is one of only a limited number of luxury hotels in Khon Kaen, but Bangkokians will find the prices to be a relative bargain. The Avani Khon Kaen Hotel & Convention Centre boasts several bars and restaurants as well as a superb spa and fitness centre. 

5) Bueng Kaen Nakhon

Bueng Kaen Nakhon Khon Kaen
Bueng Kaen Nakhon at night

Bueng Kaen Nakhon can be found near the Khon Kaen city centre and is been the place to visit in the evenings. The large park that surrounds the water features a walking/jogging track, temples and several dining options. However, most people just come for a vibe that embraces the slow life.  

Ultimately, this list is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can find during a trip to Khon Kaen. If you really want to see what makes the city and region as a whole cool you should head there for yourself, rent a car and explore.

And if you’re looking for properties in Khon Kaen, start your search on Thailand Property!