Muang Boran Dong Lakhon

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

How to Identify Thailand’s Egrets

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

The Kacchapa Jataka (#273)

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

Khmer Artifacts in the Maha Viravong National Museum

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

Prang Phakho Khmer Ruin

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

Boon Kathin Photo Essay

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

Boon Ok Phansa Photo Essay

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

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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

Prang Sra Pleng Khmer Ruin

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

Prang Ban Prang Khmer Ruin

piece of pediment at Prang Ban Prang Khmer ruin

The ruins of Prang Ban Prang (ปรางค์บ้านปรางค์) are in an inconspicuous grove of trees in the middle of a little village. Driving past you’d pay it no mind if it weren’t for the two large signs marking it as a historic site. The temple had a single prang built of sandstone and brick on a laterite base. While most of it lies buried in dirt, many pieces (mostly sandstone, but… Read More

Prasat Nong Phak Rai Khmer Ruin

sandstone statue base at Prasat Nong Phak Rai Khmer ruin

Almost nothing is known about Prasat Nong Phak Rai (ปราสาทหนองผักไร). There’s nothing visible that reveals the history (Perhaps an excavation would shed some light – but not necessarily because holes dug by looters have been reported.) and it isn’t even registered by the Fine Arts Department. Prasat Nong Phak Rai is in a small grove of trees on a low mound amidst rice paddies. It isn’t truly remote, but it… Read More

Ku Kaew Chaiyaram Khmer Ruin

two yoni and lotus bud top at Ku Kaew Chaiyaram Khmer ruin

Ku Kaew Chaiyaram (กู่แก้วชัยราม) was once a single prang with a mandapa at the front, but it collapsed completely and the remains now lie almost entirely buried under a large concrete base. The ruins sit on an east-west axis and so the temple almost certainly faced east. Someday this base will hold an ubosot, but for now there are twin shrines on top. In front is an ordinary Buddha shrine and behind… Read More

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Siamese Senna

Siamese Senna flowers and seed pods

Thai Name – Kee-lek (ขี้เหล็ก)Scientific Name – Senna siameaFamily Name – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)Other English Names – kassod tree, cassod tree, Siamese cassia, Thai cassia, yellow cassiaFlowering Season – Year-roundNative to Thailand – YesTypical Height – 10-20 meters Siamese senna has beautiful bright yellow flowers with five scoop-shaped petals that burst out of a pea-sized bud. When viewed from up close, the long (15-25cm) flat seed pods stand out almost as… Read More

Boon Khao Sak Photo Essay

woman wrapping fish in a banana leaf

These photos are from the Boon Khao Sak (บุญข้าวสาก) celebration in Ban Khok Sawang, Waeng Yai district, Khon Kaen province on September 24, 2018. Special thanks to Yai Lune and Mae Saithip for taking such good care of us in the village. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Khao Sak and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions. Early morning activities at the temple were no different than those… Read More

Boon Khao Pradap Din Photo Essay

taking food to the temple at night for Boon Khao Pradap Din

These photos are from the Boon Khao Pradap Din (บุญข้าวประดับดิน) celebration in the little village of Ban Kham Pia, Khon Kaen province, on September 8 and 9, 2018. Locals here call it Boon Khao Noi (“Little Food”) and the similar Boon Khao Sak ceremony that follows two weeks later is called Boon Khao Yai (“A Lot of Food) since more food is given at the latter. Thanks to Mae Teem and her… Read More

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Lanete

lanete tree flower

Thai Name – Mok man (โมกมัน)Scientific Name – Wrightia arboreaFamily Name – ApocynaceaeOther English Names – Ivory, tree, dhudhi, woolly dyeing rosebayFlowering Season – April-AugustNative to Thailand – YesTypical Height – 8-20 meters Not a showy tree, lanetes have small (4-6cm) white widely spaced flowers; subtle but beautiful. It begins with five simple outer petals curving backwards and then later a small yellow-ish or pink-ish inner flower emerges. The flowers… Read More

Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady” (Long Version)

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

This version of the Nang Phom Hom folktale is based on the paintings on the third-floor window shutters and doors of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city. (The lead painter was Uthaitong Jantagon from Kalasin.) It’s much longer than the story as it’s normally told, but overall the plot is the same. And though I wrote it following the outline provided by… Read More

Boon Khao Phansa Photo Essay

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

These photos are 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. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Khao Phansa and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions. Boon Khao Phansa, the first day of the Buddhist… Read More

Ground-Floor Isan Culture Murals at Wat Nong Wang

mural of fifth khong

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) 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. — — — Northeastern Way of Life (24) Land of the Kaen.Khon Kaen is known to some… Read More

Ground-Floor Khon Kaen History Murals at Wat Nong Wang

mural of bueng bon lake

อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The ground-floor murals inside Wat Nong Wang‘s Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa show both Khon Kaen history and Isan culture. This twin theme was suggested by the abbot, Luang Paw Koon Kantigo, and the murals were painted by local artist Kru Thammarong Kaewboran. My thanks to Kru Thammarong for discussing the meanings of the pictures, and pointing out some of the specific… Read More

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