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 last at least three… 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 the Pali Canon that… 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. At first glance these… 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 bend of… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Sawanvoranayok National Museum

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12 antefix tiles in a glass display case

The small Sawanvoranayok National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ สวรรควรนายก) began as the private collection of the local monk, Phra Sawanvoranayok, abbot of Wat Sawankharam, the temple in front of the museum. Besides a small collection of Thai Buddhas of various artistic styles, the majority of the museum’s items are Sangkhalok pottery and stucco from Si Satchanalai. Very little is from the Khmer era. As of February 2019, the only Khmer artifacts from… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum

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headless and limbless deity stone carved statue

The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ รามคำแหง) is in Sukhothai, and naturally its principal focus in the ancient Sukhothai kingdom. Khmer items make up a very small part of the collection, but three of the ruins in the ancient city were originally built by the Khmer and later adopted and modified by Sukhothai kings, so there are some. As of February 2019, these are all the Khmer artifacts from a known… Read More

Culture

Boon Berk Bahn Photo Essay

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clay figurines for Boon Berk Bahn

These photos are from the Boon Berk Bahn (บุญเบิกบ้าน) ceremony in Ban Kham Aw village, Udon Thani province on February 7, 2019. Thanks to Mae Wong and her family for being great hosts. This village doesn’t celebrate either Boon Khun Lan or Boon Khao Jee as individual ceremonies, but this event (aka Boon Duean Sahm, the “Third Month Merit-Making Tradition”) includes features from both. For more information see the overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Muang Boran Dong Lakhon

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urn under stupa at Muang Boran Dong Lakhon

Muang Boran Dong Lakhon (เมืองโบราณดงละคร) was an important Dvaravati town dating back to 6th or 7th century. Pottery and other artefacts (including bronze bells, Baphuon- to Bayon-style Buddha images, and gold leaf, which the Khmer used during ceremonies) uncovered during excavations show that around the middle of the 10th century the Khmer came. There are no remains of temples, kilns, or anything else they built, though the town probably remained… Read More

Nature

How to Identify Thailand’s Egrets

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little egret

Because of their all-white color, there’s never any doubt that a bird is an egret. But Thailand’s five egret species are all quite similar in appearance so you have to remember certain distinctive features to tell them apart. Luckily, if you have a clear view it’s usually quite easy to do so. Remembering is the hard part, which is why I made these notes. Little, Intermediate, Great, and Cattle egrets… Read More

Buddhism

The Kacchapa Jataka (#273)

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scene from the Kacchapa Jataka, a turtle biting a monkey's penis as the Bodhisatta watches

In the late 19th century, the first team to translate the entire collection of Jataka tales into English felt this story was so indecent that they published it only in Latin so only scholars could read it. Here is a short version of the story in English. After the Buddha ended a bitter feud between two of the king’s military officers by preaching about loving-kindness, he told some of his… Read More

History

Khmer Artifacts in the Maha Viravong National Museum

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hand from statue from Phanom Wan Khmer ruin at Maha Viravong National Museum

Probably the smallest national museum in Thailand, the Maha Viravong National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติมหาวีรวงศ์) occupies one little room on the grounds of Wat Suttha Chinda in central Khorat city, 350 meters south of the Thao Suranari Monument. Most of the artifacts come from the private collection of Somdej Phra Maha Viravong (Oun Tisso), the temple’s former abbot. And since they were generally just given to him by locals, most of the… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prang Phakho Khmer Ruin

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front view of library at Prang Phakho Khmer ruin

Casual travelers probably won’t be too impressed by the modest remains of Prang Phakho (ปรางศ์พะโค), but it has some unusual features that Khmer enthusiasts will definitely want to see. Built in the 11th century, it presently consists of just two buildings: an east-facing central prang and one bannalai in front. However, the ruins showed there was a second bannalai across from the surviving one, and since three lotus-bud tops were found, there probably were (or were… Read More

Culture

Boon Kathin Photo Essay

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front of procession going to temple for Kathin celebration

These photos are from the Boon Kathin (บุญกฐิน) festival for Wat Pa Ming Muang on the south side of Khon Kaen city on November 26-28, 2018. (Note that, despite the name, this is a regular maha-nigay temple, not a thammayut forest temple.) Thanks to Paw Sawai and Mae Nuwiang, who organized this event, Luang Ta Tawee Rattanabunyo for answering my many Kathin questions, and everyone else for being so welcoming. For more information, there’s… Read More

Culture

Boon Ok Phansa Photo Essay

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candles lit around the temple during Ok Phansa

These photos are from the Boon Ok Phansa (บุญออกพรรษา) celebrations at Wat Pho Sri, Ban Sila village, Amphoe Mueang, Khon Kaen on October 23 to 25, 2018. Thanks to Phra Maha Rueangrit Patara Muni and many other people at the temple for helping me out. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Ok Phansa and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions. The Day Before Ok Phansa The day before… Read More

Buddhism

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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Vessantara Jataka mural of gods caring for Prince Vessantara's children while Jujaka sleeps in a tree

The third-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple tell the story of Prince Vessantara (Phra Wetsandon in Thai). It’s the last of the 547 Jataka tales, a collection of birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting some of the Buddha-to-be’s pre-enlightenment lives. The Jataka tales are, for the most part, morality stories in which the Buddha-to-be somehow overcomes… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prang Sra Pleng Khmer Ruin

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Prang Sra Pleng Khmer ruin

Not much of Prang Sra Pleng (ปรางค์สระเพลง), now sitting in a small grove of trees surrounded by rice paddies, remains standing, though there is just enough to give visitors an impression of how this Khmer ruin used to be. Based mostly on the style of the sandstone doorframe, Prang Sra Pleng appears to have been a Hindu shrine from the 11th or 12th centuries. It’s built mostly of laterite and… Read More

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