Khon Kaen city center lies roughly 450 km north of Bangkok. For most tourists in Thailand, this is the cosmopolitan gateway to the Isaan region. Beyond the fact that there are few big cities in Isaan, Khon Kaen is also of interest to tourists because it’s proof that there is more going on in Isaan than agriculture.
Most of the hotels in the city center are near Highway 2, which runs through the town in a north-south direction. Many of these comfortable hotels are relatively new, and they include upscale options in addition to budget guesthouses. This same area is where Khon Kaen Hospital is located. Expatriates in Isaan rely on this modern hospital, and a few medical tourists come here for open-heart surgery each year.
Orchid Shopping is one of many centrally located complexes in the city center that deals in Thai silk, handicrafts and more practical merchandise. After hours, an exciting nightlife picks up, with several modern dance clubs and karaoke bars catering for a mix of young Thais and foreign tourists.
Most tourists only spend a night or two in Khon Kaen before heading out to experience rural Isaan. Beyond this, much of the traffic that passes through accommodation in the city center is due to regional business conventions and trade shows that attract Thai professionals.