Pat Mee Khorat

pat mee khoart

Common in its namesake province, and rare everywhere else, most Thais have heard of pat mee khorat (ผัดหมี่โคราช), but few have ever eaten it. It’s a spicy stir-fried rice noodle dish often compared to pat thai. Popularized during a period of nationalism and rice shortages in the 1930s, pat thai’s origin story is well-documented, but just who created the dish and how is unknown. While pat thai’s Chinese influence is… Read More

Phu Pha Phueng Ancient Quarry

blocks in quarry

On the edge of the Phu Phan Mountains 23km from Sakon Nakhon City, the Phu Pha Phueng Ancient Quarry (แหล่งหินตัดภูผาผึ้ง) is assumed to have provided most of the sandstone for the Khmer temples built in the city and around Nong Han lake. While the Doi Hin Ngam quarry west of the city is much closer, rock from Phu Pha Phueng could be easily rafted down the nearby Nam Phung River… Read More

Phra That Narai Jeng Weng Khmer Ruin

side view (southeast) of the temple

Sakon Nakhon was a key Khmer outpost in the far north of the empire from the late 10th to early 13th centuries. And while Phra That Choeng Chum (You can read a little more information about Sakon Nakhon’s Khmer history there.) was the city’s principle temple for much, if not all of that time, Phra That Narai Jeng Weng (พระธาตุนารายณ์เจงเวง), built in Baphuon style in the 11th century, likely by… Read More

Wat Pa Eo Kan Khmer Ruin

two laterite blocks at the base of a Phra Siwali statue

This stretch of shore on the southeast end of Nong Han lake was settled since at least the Dvaravati period and once featured a Khmer temple, though very little of it remains. The Wat Pa Eo Kan Ancient Site (แหล่งโบราณคดีวัดป่าเอวขันธ์), as it’s usually called, sits at the heart of its namesake modern temple, and a large, open-air wihan was built right on top of the toppled ruins, meaning the site… Read More

Phra That Choeng Chum Khmer Ruin

closeup of the inscription

The Khmer city that preceded present-day Sakon Nakhon appears to have been the empire’s most important outpost north of the Phu Phan Mountains (Though it was probably not under direct rule from Angkor, rather the leaders paid tribute as a satellite state while retaining a degree of independence.) from around the late 10th century into the 13th; no doubt in large part because the 125-square-kilometer Nong Han lake assured abundant… Read More

Khmer Artefacts in the Sakon Nakhon Museum

five Khmer bottles

The little Sakon Nakhon Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์เมืองสกลนคร) at Rajabhat University has a collection of local art and artefacts from the prehistoric to the present, including several items uncovered at Phra That Choeng Chum. The museum is on the second floor. It’s not normally open, so you need to first stop in the little library next to the museum (in the building’s northeast corner) to get someone to open it. As of… Read More

Phra That Dum Khmer Ruin

lotus-bud tops and pillars

The oldest of the three Khmer temples still standing in Sakon Nakhon city (Phra That Choeng Chum and Phra That Narai Jeng Weng being the others), Phra That Dum (พระธาตุดุม) is a triple-towered temple probably built in the late 10th or early 11th century. It faces east and has been incorporated into the modern Thai temple here by building the wihan directly in front of it. Only the main prang… Read More

Prang Ku Kaew Khmer Ruin

prang tower

Set in a small grove of tall trees, Prang Ku Kaew (ปรางค์กู่แก้ว) is one of the arogayasala hospital temples built by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219). It faces east and follows the standard arogayasala design, although nothing remains of the bannalai, which would have been inside the enclosure, and the sacred pond, which would have sat outside it to the northeast. The laterite prang toppled, and in its place locals… Read More

Sapan Khom Khmer Bridge

view of Khmer bridge in park

Sapan Khom (สะพานขอม), literally meaning “Khmer bridge,” is the only Khmer bridge that has been found in Thailand. It’s a restored 16m-long, 3m-wide remnant of what back then sat just outside the city moat. It was part of a road heading northwest toward Udon Thani and surely passed right by Phra That Narai Jeng Weng and Ku Phanna, plus provided access via a side road to Phra That Phu Phek.… Read More

Proverb Murals at Wat Nong Wang

people doing different things

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The fifth-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple tell forty Isan proverbs about living a happy, successful, and moral life that monks sometimes mention in their sermons. Many of these English sentences are clunky, but they read more poetically in the original Isan. Explanations are given when needed, though a few are self-explanatory. Many of them… Read More

Khon Kaen City Bike Routes

map showing a bike route

If you were to be plopped right down in the middle of Khon Kaen you would never guess what a great city it is for cycling. You don’t need to ride very far to leave the busy main roads behind and find quiet low-traffic realms with rice paddies and villages. All four routes (really, it’s eight since each has a long and short option – the purple line is the… Read More

How Sumana-Setthi Was Converted To Buddhism By A Toothbrush And A Prostitute

historic painting from India of man plowing field with two oxen

A little-known peripheral figure in the Buddha’s life story, Sumana-Setthi’s (สุมนะเศรษฐี) conversion is one of many great folktales in ancient Buddhist texts. This one is found in the non-canonical Dhammapadatthakatha, the commentary on the Dhammapada book of the Pali Canon. My version here is abridged and, I think, improved from the original. Once he became a Buddhist, Sumana was an ardent supporter of the Buddha. And because of the vast… Read More

Phadaeng Nang Ai

shallow lake with lots of grass growing in it

One of the best-known folktales in Isan, the romantic legend of Prince Phadaeng (ผาแดง) and Princess Nang Ai (นางไอ่) explains the formation of Sakon Nakhon province’s Nong Han (หนองหาน) lake, the largest natural lake in the northeast. Some people in Udon Thani tell the same tale about their famous “Red Lotus Lake,” which is also called Nong Han. This version of the story was written by my friend Amaralak (Pim)… Read More

Wat Jomsri Bottle Temple

entrance with naga

To the disapproval of the abbot, but with the support of many people in the community, a renegade monk at Wat Jomsri (วัดจอมศรี) who is focused more on magic than dharma has created his own little domain at the back of the temple. Here he has built a mock-cave shrine using old beer and energy drink bottles. Hidden behind foliage, this small, unique sanctuary is built of concrete, stone, and… Read More

Sri Than Ancient Community

aerial view of town and moat from 2021

Founded in 1789 (or 1838, depending on your perspective) Khon Kaen is anything but ancient. But long before the city began there was another significant settlement here. The Sri Than Ancient Community (เมืองโบราณศรีฐาน), named after the modern village that now occupies the same space, sits on a moat-ringed oval mound a bit west of the city center. It covers about twenty-five hectares and rises up to ten meters above the… Read More

Ku Ban Ton Khmer Ruin

abbot standing with bai sema

The meagre remains – mostly a broken pedestal and three laterite blocks – of Ku Ban Ton (กู่บ้านโต้น) are displayed in a small garden in front of the ubosot at Wat Si Pimon on the north side of the village that the Khmer ruin was named after. The actual site is out in the rice paddies a bit northwest of Wat Si Pimon, but the abbot told us there is… Read More

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