Isan, in Thailand's northeast, is the country's agricultural heartland. Though there are some large cities in the area, Isan is mostly known as a farmland. The region's largest sector is agriculture, and rice cultivation is the main crop that's grown there. Though Isan feels distinctive from the rest of Thailand, in many ways it embodies what the country is best known for. Isan is known as one of Thailand's friendliest regions and in addition to the friendly people, it's also known for the best, and spiciest food! in fact Isan food, which is influenced by neighboring Laos, is found all over Thailand and is what many people consider quintessential Thai food.
Although most tourists who visit Thailand spend their time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and, of course, on the beaches, Isan does offer some fun, interesting and unique experiences. Thailand's largest national park, Khao Yai, is in Isan and just a couple of hours from Bangkok by car and it's a wonderful park to visit if you want to enjoy some hiking, view some striking waterfalls and spot some wild animals.
Isan is also home to some of the region's fascinating and beautiful Khmer ruins, such as Phanom Rung and Phimai. Though they're quite small in comparison to Angkor Wat and the other ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia, they are still impressive and worth visiting for anyone interested in ruins and Khmer culture. The region's most popular tourist event is probably the elephant roundup, which takes place in Surin every November. Isan is home to over 20 million people (almost 30% of the country's population) and aside from vast tracts of land for farming, there are also many small cities and urban areas, including Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Roi Et, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani. Though they aren't exactly tourist destinations in their own right, if you happen to be passing through or in the region, each does offer some interesting sights. Because it's so dependent on agriculture, the economy is also very sensitive to drought (a near annual event in Isan) and it's also Thailand's poorest region, with average annual wages just over half of the country's average as a whole. There is a huge diaspora of Isan workers who have left the region to work in more affluent parts of the country. In Bangkok many workers (including taxi drivers and bar workers) come from Isan and are working in the capital on a temporary basis.