the Khorat Plateau, which takes up most of the northeast, is mostly barren scrubland; its main focus is the city of Khorat (nakhon ratchasima). to the north and east of this region and separating it from neighboring laos is the Mekong river Valley. along the thai side of the river lie small villages, some with small docks and beaches. Known locally as isan, the northeast has an extremely rich history. one of the first areas in the world where rice was cultivated, silk woven, and bronze produced, it fell under Khmer rule in the 9th–13th centuries. isan’s proximity to laos and Cambodia and its largely infertile land mean that it is seen by many thais as a poor relation. Most of its people are ethnically lao and are known for their friendly openness.