Maha Sarakham (also spelt Mahasarakham) is a city in Central Isaan.
Maha Sarakham means "city of great education" and is aptly named considering it hosts seven institutions of higher learning, such as the Mahasarakham University, Mahasarakham Vocational College, and Mahasarakham Technical College.. Hence, it is called the Takasila of Isaan (Takasila was a learning centre of India in ancient times). Maha Sarakham is actually the Buddhist centre of Isaan, as many Buddhist archeological artifacts are found here, which include a relic of Lord Buddha in Na Dun district. Such evidence leads to the theory that this place once was the location of an ancient kingdom dating back to 1,500 years ago. Thus, a pagoda is built there to mark the glory days of Buddhism and to serve as a venue for important rites of Buddhism.
Because the city is primarily a college and university town, costs for food and housing are quite low. A large part of the resident population are teachers and staff of the many schools in the city. As expected, the population also grows and shrinks with the annual academic calendar cycles of semesters and summer breaks as students flow into and out of the city and its environs. Mahasarakham University alone boasts nearly 50,000 students, recently surpassing the student population of Khon Kaen, a nearby much larger city with Khon Kaen University. Literally hundreds of dormitories are scattered throughout the city and its environs.
Mahasarakham's central location is a convenient base from which to explore Thailand's nearby neighbors of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Directly west is Friendship Bridge Two, spanning the Mehkong River at Mukdahan, where one can cross a narrow section of Laos and be in Hue, Vietnam by the end of the day. One can also travel south to Sisaket where it is now easy to cross over into Cambodia, relatively close to Seam Reap and the famed Angkor Archaeological Park. Four hours north, one can cross the original Friendship Bridge into Laos, just a dozen kilometers from the capital city of Vientiane.
Maha Sarakham is also at the very geographic center of Isaan, making it a decidedly convenient base from which to explore all of Isaan.
Most sightseeing destinations in Isaan are no more than a three to four hour bus ride in nearly every direction from the city. This includes the Mehkong River communities to the north and east (Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, etc.) and the famous ancient Isaan temple ruins to the south and southeast (Phanom Rung, Khao Phra Vihan, etc.). Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), three hours to the southwest, is the gateway to the spectacular Khao Yai National Park which showcases Southeast Asian flora and fauna, where elephants and tigers roam free.