Chaiyaphum is a Northeastern Province of Thailand and is bordered to the west by the North-Central province of Phetchabun. Although it’s at the edge of Issan, it is still solidly within the region culturally and most people speak Lao (Issan) as their first language. Lao is closely related to Thai but is a separate language. Nearly everyone can speak Bangkok Thai as well. English is not widely spoken and even some more modern restaurants and coffee shops don’t have English menus.
Chaiyaphum is located mainly on the Korat Plateau and is cut through by the Phetchabun mountain range in the west. The province is mainly agricultural. Because the major highways and rail lines miss Chaiyaphum, it is not a place that is visited often but there are definitely a few worthwhile attractions. The Province has four national parks, and a wildflower blooming season in May and June each year that is the main attraction for the (mainly Thai) tourists who visit here.
- People who like to get off the beaten path and into local culture
- Anyone doing a road trip through Isaan by car or motorcycle but looking to avoid the main highways
- Nature lovers looking for national park attractions that often have few other visitors
Chaiyaphum is a four and a half hour drive from Bangkok if going by personal car, and around five and a half hours by bus. There is no airport or train station although there is an option to go by train.
By bus – A number of different bus companies offer frequent service to Chaiyaphum from Morchit Bus Terminal in Bangkok for a few hundred Baht. You get what you pay for on these buses so a few extra bucks should get you a more comfortable ride. The VIP buses from NakhornChai Air company are usually the best buses for Issan inter-city trips. You can also find buses to Chaiyaphum from most other Issan cities though many of these are quite slow and make frequent stops.
By train – To get to Chaiyaphum by train, catch a train from Bangkok on the Northeastern Line toward Nong Khai. After you pass through Nakhon Ratchasima, exit at Bua Yai Junction (ชุมทางบัวใหญ่). From there you can catch a bus or taxi for one hour to Chaiyaphum. Trains on the Eastern Line to Ubon Ratchathani do pass through Nakhon Ratchasima but then split off before reaching Bua Yai. You could take one of these trains but getting off at Bua Yai gets you closer to Chaiyaphum and will give you more options for transportation.
Where to stay
We stayed at Dee Prom Hotel and were reasonably happy with it. Our 800 Baht room was cheap enough, although it felt like a room that might cost 500 in other similar cities.
We find our accommodation on Booking.com by first searching for the town or province and our dates, we then filter out any rooms with a score lower than 7 or 8 (depending on availability) as well as any rooms out of our budget. After this, we open the map and hover over all of the pins in the rough location we already decided we want to stay in. Hovering over the pins gives us the price for x nights plus the review score. We click on each pin to open those hotels in a new tab, review them and book our favorite.
Motorbike – You can rent motorbikes from The 1 Bar opposite the night market. Call ahead to check availability 090 398 0341. Your hotel may also be able to assist you.
Tuk Tuk / Taxi / Songtaew – A variety of taxi options are available. Your hotel is usually able to call one in advance, though we prefer to flag one down and negotiate a price.
Like pretty much all small-to-mid-sized Issan cities, Chaiyaphum definitely has some nightlife options but they’re very much Thai-style and you won’t see many foreigners there. There is one farang expat restaurant and pub called The 1 Bar, located opposite the night market. They do drinks, food, and motorbike rentals. For Thai nightlife, T-Bar is a nice place a few minutes drive out of the center of town with good prices on drinks and good food. There was a DJ spinning when we were there but it looked like the type of place that normally has live acoustic music.
Later in the night, Thais head to nightclubs. You can find a local branch of Tawan Daeng (a chain of nightclubs) in town at this location. There are a few other bars on the same road. If you really want to get wild, head to New Oasis Dance Pub. It’s down this tiny road that you’d never expect is hiding a nightclub, but it’s there. They trade between a pretty solid live band, and a DJ playing thumping beats as six “coyote” dancers in bikinis shake around on stage.
Fitness & gym
TG Fitness is a huge gym in town. It’s very well equipped with cardio and weight machines and free weights. It is not air-conditioned but has a lot of fans. A day pass costs 70 Baht. We were pretty impressed with the space and value here. Protein shakes are a bit steep at 80 Baht so better to pick one up at 7-11.
Chaiyaphum is on the edge of Issan so you can continue into the Northeast, or head into Central-Northern Thailand.
Phetchabun – Phetchabun is a really nice province with some great activities like white water rafting, trekking, a stunning temple, and mountaintops with cold weather and views over the clouds.
Nakhon Ratchasima – Nakhon Ratchasima is one of Issan’s major cities and lies south of Chaiyaphum. It will lead you toward Eastern Thailand, or toward Southern Issan.
Khon Kaen – Khon Kaen is one of Issan’s most import cities and its most central. From there you can easily travel to any other part of the region.