Culture

Maha Sarakham’s Many Museums

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display cases with mushrooms

Maha Sarakham city is never going to become a top tourist destination, but if you do find yourself here, there’s an abundance of museums that can keep you occupied. None are worth a special trip – in fact, several are so small they hardly qualify as museums – but each has its own appeal.   Boon Tam Tan Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์บุญตามทัน) This small private museum on the southern outskirts of the… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Wat Mahachai Northeastern Local Culture Museum

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five broken Khmer statues

In 1964 Dr. Phra Ariyanuwat Khemacharee, the former abbot of Wat Mahachai, saw foreigners coming to Isan to buy ancient artifacts – Buddhas, Khmer stone carvings palm-leaf manuscripts, etc. – so he requested people bring these things to the temple to protect them. Later the two-story Northeastern Local Culture Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์วัฒนธรรมท้องถิ่นภาคตะวันออกเฉียงเหนือ วัดมหาชัย) was built to house the diverse collection that had resulted, including a lot of Khmer-era sandstone statues and… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Khu Khat Khmer Ruin

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bricks under a tree

At first glance, all you’ll see of Ku Khu Khat (กู่คูขาด) is a large Buddha on a small, tree covered hill. But get closer and you’ll find that the hill is a pile of laterite and brick covered almost completely by dirt and leaf debris. Some laterite blocks are still visible and a few bricks can be seen sticking out at two places under the big tree.

Folktales

King Culani-Brahmadatta’s Wise Mother

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This fantastic short story is taken from the Maha-Ummagga Jataka Tale (#546), but it’s not actually a part of it. It’s a footnote in the book The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births (E. B. Cowell ed., Cambridge University Press, 1895-1907) and is told by one of the ancient scholiasts to demonstrate the exceptional wisdom of Queen Talata, who is smarter than all ten of the royal advisers.… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Khao Hin Tat Ancient Quarry

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algae covered pond with cutting marks visible

Virtually unknown, Khao Hin Tat Ancient Quarry (แหล่งตัดหินเขาหินตัด) lies a kilometer away as the crow flies (by road it’s either two or three kilometers, depending which direction you’re driving due to needing to U-turn on the Mittraphap highway) from the well-known Si Khio Ancient Quarry, and naturally they share similar characteristics and histories. The grey sandstone is of the Phu Phan Formation, which is around 120 million years old. The… Read More

Culture

Boon Samha Photo Essay

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women bringing food to shrine

These photos are from the Boon Samha (บุญซำฮะ) ceremony in Ban Thung Mon, Amphoe Ban Phai, Khon Kaen province on June 5, 2019. Here, as in many places in Isan, locals use the name Boon Berk Bahn (บุญเบิกบ้าน – “Opening the Home”) instead of Boon Samha. Thanks to Catherine Stebeleski for the invitation and Lung Sura Laebong for answering all my questions. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon… Read More

Culture

Boon Bang Fai Photo Essay

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rocket launching

These photos are from the Boon Bang Fai (บุญบั้งไฟ) celebration in Ban Nong Na Kham, Amphoe Nong Na Kham, Khon Kaen province on May 24-26, 2019. Thanks especially to Suriya Wongjum for answering my questions, Somporn Poltham for showing me around, and the owners of Sarali Resort for driving me into town. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Bang Fai and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve… Read More

Culture

Boon Songkran Photo Essay

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woman putting flowers on sand stupa

These photos are from the Boon Songkran (บุญสงกรานต์) celebration at Wat Phothiwararam in Udon Thani city in April 2019. Thanks to everyone for making us feel welcome and especially to Khun Mon for answering my many questions. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Songkran and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions. While Songkran, the Thai New Year, is famous for its water wars that… Read More

Miscellaneous

The “Thai” Alphabet

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mortar and pestle

Inspired by the amazing butterfly alphabet, here is my “Thai” alphabet. I know some of these “letters” are a real stretch, but they’re the best I’ve found so far. This project will probably be perpetually in progress since I’ll add add new, better letters and numbers as I find them.  

Culture

Boon Pha Wet Photo Essay

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people carrying Pha Wet banner through a rice field

These photos are from the Boon Pha Wet (บุญผะเหวด) festival in Ban Lan, Amphoe Ban Phai, Khon Kaen province taken on March 26-28, 2019. Thanks to everybody we met at the temple, especially Phra Tao, Paw Jan Sanit Khemla, and P’ Kruea for answering so many questions. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Pha Wet, a short version of the Vessantara Jataka (wetsandon chadok in Thai) folktale from… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Don Ku Khmer Ruin

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part of platform

Don Ku (ดอนกู่) consists of a jumble of laterite blocks mostly buried in a two-meter-tall hill. The only structure still visible is a bit of the platform under a tree on the west side. Although no proper excavation has been done here, the shape of the mound leads to the assumption that it was a single tower facing east (tilted off-center to the south by about 15 degrees) since not… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Si Khio Ancient Quarry

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sandstone blocks not yet removed

Si Khio Ancient Quarry (แหล่งโบราณหินตัดสีคิ้ว) is in the Phu Phan Formation, which was laid down about 120 million years ago. The sandstone here is grey and rather course but lacks conglomerate, making it good for carving. For unknown reasons, work here stopped abruptly so various stages of the cutting can be seen, from the beginning of carving the grooves to make the blocks to a field where all the stone… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prasat Ban Bu Yai Khmer Ruin

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stone that appears to be part of pediment

Although Prasat Ban Bu Yai (ปราสาทหินบ้านบุใหญ่) lies in total ruin and most significant carvings are gone, when you see the size of the lotus-bud top (several pieces of it are visible in the rubble) you can tell that this was once a large temple. It had a single sandstone tower that can only be said to have been built in the 11th to 13th centuries. There is a second, smaller… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Wat Chao Chan Khmer Ruin

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prang and mondap

Much smaller than nearby Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Chaliang (read about the history of ancient Chaliang town on that page), Wat Chao Chan (วัดเจ้าจันทร์) is, however, interesting in its own right. The Khmer portion that remains is a single all-laterite prang with redented corners and a triple-tiered roof topped by a lotus-bud finial. It opens to the east and has tall Buddha image niches on the other three sides.… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Chaliang Khmer Ruin

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side view of prang and wihan

The impressive temple ruin of Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Chaliang (วัดพระศรีรัตนมหาธาตุเชลียง) lies in the heart of the ancient city of Chaliang and is the largest and most impressive site in Si Satchanalai Historical Park. People often call it the northernmost Khmer ruin, though this title actually belongs to Ku Phanna in Sakon Nakhon province, which is 0.9 minute longitude further north. This narrow, naturally fortified spot inside a huge… Read More

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