Culture

Boon Khao Phansa Photo Essay

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monk walking on front of a Khao Phansa candle parade float with the Thao Suranari Monument and Chumphon Gate on it

This is a photo essay from the Boon Khao Phansa (บุญเข้าพรรษา) celebration in Khorat city on July 27 and 28, 2018. Most of the parade float-making photos were taken on July 19. Thanks to Ajahn Mai at Wat Nong Bua Rong for answering so many questions. A full explanation of Boon Khao Phansa and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions, are found on other pages. Boon… Read More

Culture

Ground-Floor Isan Culture Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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mural of fifth khong

This is the second of two pages explaining the ground-floor murals inside Wat Nong Wang’s Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa. These murals are all about Isan culture. Murals #1-23, about Khon Kaen history and the general introduction about the murals are on the first page. อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (click here to read a Thai version)   Northeastern Way of Life (24) Land of the Kaen. Khon Kaen is known to some as… Read More

Culture

Boon Kathin

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mural of Boon Kathin tradition

Boon Kathin (บุญกฐิน) is Month #12 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Kathin is a robe-offering ceremony celebrated nationwide, not just in Isan. Communities lead processions to their local temple to give the monks complete three-part robe sets (trai jeewawn), as well as other necessities like soap and razor blades. In the past, before ready-made robes were sold in shops, people made their own using a wooden… Read More

Culture

Boon Ok Phansa

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mural of Boon Ok Phansa tradition

Boon Ok Phansa (บุญออกพรรษา) is Month #11 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Ok Phansa (“Leaving the Rains Retreat”) is the final day of the three-month Buddhist Rains Retreat, which is fully explained with Boon Khao Phansa, the retreat’s first day. Monks have special meetings with their abbot to discuss the rules of monkhood, while for lay people it’s a day for making donations, listening to sermons,… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Sak

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mural of Boon Khao Sak tradition

Boon Khao Sak (บุญข้าวสาก) is Month #10 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Boon Khao Sak is the follow-up to Khao Pradap Din from the previous month, and the two are very similar. Boon Khao Sak is also a ceremony for the ancestors, but this time it’s a farewell since it is time for them to return to the spirit world. In the morning, good food, such as… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Pradap Din

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mural of Boon Khao Pradip Din tradition

Boon Khao Pradap Din (บุญข้าวประดับดิน) is Month #9 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Khao Pradap Din means “food placed on the ground” and it’s a ceremony to honor people’s ancestors. Before dawn, people take foods like sticky rice, fruit, fish, and sweets, plus betel and cigarettes, all served on or wrapped in banana leaves to the temple. Usually they are laid on the ground (hence the… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Phansa

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mural of Boon Khao Phansa tradition

Boon Khao Phansa (บุญเข้าพรรษา) is Month #8 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. In the Buddha’s time, most monks did not stay in monasteries for long periods, they traveled town to town spreading his teaching. During the rainy season in India, travel was very difficult, so monks (of all religions, not just Buddhists) tended to stay in one place during this time. This was also appreciated by… Read More

Culture

Boon Samha

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mural of Boon Samha tradition

Boon Samha (บุญซำฮะ) is Month #7 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Samha means “washing,” and this tradition is the Isan version of spring cleaning, but on a spiritual as well as physical level. Also called Boon Berk Bahn (“Opening the Home”) people not only clean out their houses, but also temples and shrines. Ceremonies are done to bless the good spirits and drive out any bad… Read More

Culture

Boon Bang Fai

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mural of Boon Bang Fai rocket festival tradition

Boon Bang Fai (บุญบั้งไฟ) is Month #6 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Known as the Rocket Festival in English, Boon Bang Fai (literally “fiery tube”) is one of the iconic elements of Isan culture. The largest rockets are four meters long (plus a longer tail section), hold 120 kilograms of gunpowder and climb several kilometers high (an airplane pilot once claimed to see one at six… Read More

Culture

Boon Songkran

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mural of Boon Songkran tradition

Boon Songkran (บุญสงกรานต์) is Month #5 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Songkran is the Thai New Year, and it’s by far the most important holiday in all parts of Thailand. Because of the enormous number of migrant workers who leave their homes to work in Bangkok and other cities, for many families in Thailand, Songkran is the only time they can be together. So everybody who… Read More

Culture

Boon Pha Wet

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mural of Boon Pha Wet tradition

Boon Pha Wet (บุญผะเหวด) is Month #4 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. The being who would eventually become the Buddha lived, he tells us in the Pali Canon, over 100,000 lives before reaching enlightenment. As the Buddha he recounted many of his past lives (called “Jataka” in English; chadok in Thai) and 547 stories about them have been formalized into their own chapter in the Pali… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Jee

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mural of Boon Khao Jee tradition

Boon Khao Jee (บุญข้าวจี่) is Month #3 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Khao jee is grilled sticky rice battered with egg and salt and sometimes stuffed with pieces of cane sugar. It’s a common Isan food sold by many street vendors and in every morning market. During Boon Khao Jee everyone gets up early to grill them for the monks’ morning meal. Then when they’re done… Read More

Culture

Boon Khun Lan

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mural of Boon Khun Lan tradition

Boon Khun Lan (บุญคูณลาน) is Month #2 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Boon Khun Lan is a celebration of the rice harvest, and a thank you to all the spirits who helped. And since rice is life in rural Isan, this post-harvest blessing is one of the most important annual village events. At the start, all villagers come together at some spot, usually either out by… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Kam

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mural of Boon Khao Kam tradition

Boon Khao Kam (บุญเข้ากรรม) is Month #1 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Once a year the monks of every temple gather together to confess minor transgressions of the vinaya pitaka (the set of rules for monks laid out by the Buddha) and receive a penance. Khao kam (called pariwatkam in Central Thai language) is a period of self-purification for the monks, and transgressors will stay in near… Read More

Culture

Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions

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preparing food for ancestors during Boon Khao Pradap Din

These twelve heet (“traditions” or “rituals” that help you to have a good life) are practiced across Northeast Thailand (the region known as Isan) and lowland Laos. City folk have mostly abandoned some of them, but there are very few Isan villages where they don’t all remain important events. Some are Buddhist celebrations observed around the globe while others originated with local pre-Buddhist beliefs, though all of the later now… Read More

Culture

Narathiwat City Museum

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model of traditional boat in Narathiwat City Museum

Opened in February 2018, the Narathiwat City Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์เมืองนราธิวาส) is a better than average local museum and anybody visiting Narathiwat city should take an hour to visit it. The staff will be surprised and very pleased to welcome non-Malay foreign travelers; and I’m not just assuming this, they told us when we showed up. Four wings on two floors of the old provincial hall cover the history, culture, and ecology… Read More

Culture

Wat Pho Ban Nontan Meditation Hall Art

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picture of turtles carrying books on their back on Wat Pho Nontan meditation hall

Nobody knows when Wat Pho Ban Nontan began, but the many clay Buddhas found here show that it is very old. It was upgraded around 1789, when Khon Kaen city was founded on the other side of the lake. Up until the mid-20th century, it remained surrounded mostly by wilderness. Though the city has now engulfed it, the temple retains the wilderness connections as best as it can with some… Read More

Thai Street Signs

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Naga street sign from Phetchaburi city

This is a photo gallery of street signs from around Thailand. Not only are street signs in many Thai towns beautiful, their creative designs are based on local landmarks, history, culture, legends, industries, etc. Click on each photo to see it large.   Central Thailand   Eastern Thailand No photos at the moment.   Northeastern Thailand     Northern Thailand     Southern Thailand  

Culture

Mural Paintings of “Kalam” at Wat Nong Wang

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Buddhist temple mural painting of woman tying a mut mee silk pattern.

Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang (วัดหนองแวง) is Khon Kaen’s one must-see. Each of the nine floors has something on display. One of my favorite things there are the murals on the second floor which show kalam (คะลำ), an Isan word meaning “things people should not do.” Many of these social rules are about showing proper respect to those with higher status than you, but others cover… Read More