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 confess any rules they broke during the Phansa period, while for lay people it’s a day for making… 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 (usually, though some places do it in the daytime), 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.… 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. Sometimes 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 people get up early to grill them for the monks’ morning meal. (Not everyone does khao… 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 often one of the most important annual village events. At the start, all villagers come together at some spot, usually either out… 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. Boon Khao Kam is a period of self-purification for Thai monks who broke serious monastic rules. Formally known as pariwatkam (khao means “enter,” so Khao Kam means to “join a pariwatkam assembly”), it’s a chance to confess these transgressions to an assembly of monks and do penance. Boon Khao Kam is specifically for failures… 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 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 from local pre-Buddhist beliefs, though all of the later now have… Read More

Buddhism

The Nandivisala Jataka (#28)

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scene from the Nandivisala Jataka, the Bodhisatta as an ox pulling loaded carts

A clique of the Buddha’s monks taunted and insulted other monks when they disagreed with them on something. When the Buddha was told about their behavior he scolded them and then told them this story of one of his past lives so they would understand that speaking with kindness rather than hostility is beneficial. — — — The Buddha-to-be was born as an ox. His owner named him Nandivisala and… Read More

History

Tham Sam Rock Art

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wall of paintings at Tham Sam cave

A very unusual rock art site, Tham Sam cave (ถ้ำซำ) has a long wall covered with large paintings of people. These have no connection or resemblance to the many ancient cave paintings found around the region except that both are made with natural pigments – probably derived from tree sap. These consist entirely of red, white, and black and the lively results from the limited palate are a testament to… Read More

Temples

The Luang Por Phra Phut Buddha Image

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Luang Por Phra Phut Buddha image

A very ordinary Thai temple in most regards, and not high on the list of Phuket’s main tourist attractions, Wat Phra Thong (วัดพระทอง) is nevertheless a great detour for temple enthusiasts. People come to the “Temple of the Golden Buddha” (named by King Rama VI while he was still just a prince) to see its unique namesake Buddha image, which is usually called Luang Por Phra Phut (the “Emerging Buddha”)… Read More

Temples

Wat Khuat Mak Dhamma Siri

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Wat Khuat bottle temple's wihan and stupa

Wat Khuat Mak Dhamma Siri (วัดขวดมากธรรมศิริ) is the eighth “bottle temple” that I have found in Thailand. It’s quite large and the bottle decoration (mostly from beer and energy drinks) is used throughout the whole temple, not just on a few buildings. It’s definitely worth the trip. Almost always referred to as just Wat Khuat (วัดขวด), which means “Bottle Temple,” it’s less than an hour from both Hat Yai and… 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

History

Kao Kuha Caves

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both Kao Kuha Caves

In ancient times, Indian merchants managed much of the trade in the parts of the Malay Peninsula that are now part of Thailand, including trans-shipment routes through Songkhla, and there were many Indian settlements. One of them was at the foot of Kao Kuha hill, between the ocean and Songkhla Lake, where two Hindu “cave” shrines were carved into an east-facing cliff. Evidence is scarce, but it’s assumed that they… Read More

Nature

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Flame Tree

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flame tree flowers

Thai Name – Haang-nok-yuung farang (หางนกยูงฝรั่ง)Scientific Name – Delonix regiaFamily Name – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)Other English Names – Flamboyant, Royal poincianaFlowering Season – April-JuneNative to Thailand – NoTypical Height – 6-12 meters Not only are flame trees one of the world’s most beautiful flowering trees, the individual flowers, which look sort of like orchids, are also strikingly beautiful. At peak bloom, a flame tree’s crown will be full of these blazing… Read More

Nature

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Pink Shower Tree

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pink shower tree flower

Thai Name – Gan-la-pa-pruek (กัลปพฤกษ์), Ga-la-pruek (กาลพฤกษ์)Scientific Name – Cassia bakerianaFamily Name – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)Other English Names – Wishing tree, Pink cassiaFlowering Season – February-AprilNative to Thailand – YesTypical Height – 6-12 meters Although the flowers are almost completely different, the pink shower tree is quite closely related to the golden shower tree and both are very showy with long lasting blooms. These open pink and fade to white. From… Read More

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