Pensuk Great Western Resort (pensuk.com; 011-662-530-7111), probably the best—and the weirdest—place to sample Thailand’s cowboy culture, is about four hours northeast of Bangkok by car. The highway is wide and well paved, and there are interesting stops along the way. Reservations are a good idea, but getting them may take some persistence: Pensuk’s staff tends to be disorganized and can be hard to track down. Rooms start at about $40 a night.
Yana Farm (yanafarm.com) and Farm Chokchai (farmchokchai.com/en/chokchai_main.asp), both on the way from Bangkok to Pensuk, are worth a visit. Yana lies in the heart of Thailand’s cattle country, where you’ll pass not just herders and cowboys but also Buddhist shrines. At Chokchai, sign up for the farm tour, the only way to see the entire operation.
Isan, the region where Pensuk is located, contains many legacies of the Khmer, the master builders who in the 12th century created the Angkor Wat temple in what is now Cambodia. Their most spectacular structures in Thailand include Prasat Hin Phimai, a towering 11th- and 12th-century Hindu/Buddhist temple of soft, pink-and-white sandstone, and Prasat Phanom Rung, which has Angkor-style sculptures and striking orange-and-pink reliefs.