Nature

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Indian Cork Tree

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Indian cork tree flowers

Thai Name – Pip (ปีบ), Gasalawng (กาสะลอง)      Scientific Name – Millingtonia hortensis       Family Name – Bignoniaceae      Other English Names – Tree jasmine      Flowering Season – September-May      Native to Thailand – Yes      Typical Height – 10-20 meters       The Indian cork tree is a tall, typically rather narrow tree with distinctive long (5-10cm) white fragrant flowers that bloom straight out and then later hang down. At a quick glance the flowers appear to have four petals, but it’s… Read More

Nature

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Pride of India

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Pride of India tree flowers

Thai Name – Intanin Nam (อินทนิลน้ำ)Scientific Name – Lagerstroemia speciosaFamily Name – LythraceaeOther English Names – Crepe Myrtle, Rose of IndiaFlowering Season – March-MayNative to Thailand –YesTypical Height – 10-20 meters A very common street-side ornamental tree in Thailand, the Pride of India is unmistakable when it’s flowering. It has long (up to 40cm) pointy flower clusters ranging purple to pink; in Thailand they’re frequently a pale lavender. The distinctive cluster shape makes… Read More

Nature

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Rain Tree

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rain tree flowers

Thai Name – Jamjuri (จามจุรี)      Scientific Name – Albizia saman (some organizations continue to use the former Samanea saman)      Family Name – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)      Other English Names – Monkey Pod      Flowering Season – February-May and September-November      Native to Thailand – No      Typical Height – 15-30 meters       Rain trees are very common in Thailand and are easily identified by their wide umbrella-shaped crowns supported by massive branches. Their unique flowers look like little pink and white brooms… Read More

Temples

Wat That Khon Kaen

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cloister around the stupa at Wat That

While Wat Nong Wang is Khon Kaen’s largest and most interesting temple, and the city’s only must-see attraction, Wat That (วัดธาตุ) at the other end of Bueng Kaen Nakhon lake is also worth visiting. Its soaring stupa and ubosot, which make a beautiful backdrop to views from across the lake, are frequently described by travel writers as classic Isan/Lao design, but both are actually Central Thai style. Wat That was founded in… Read More

Nature

Flowering Trees of Thailand – Golden Shower Tree

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golden shower tree flower

Thai Name – Ratchaphruek (ราชพฤกษ์), Khuen (คูน)      Scientific Name – Cassia fistula      Family Name – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)      Flowering Season – March-May      Native to Thailand – Yes      Typical Height – 8-12 meters       The golden shower tree is one of the most popular decorative trees in Thailand due to its massive hanging flower clusters that grow 30-50cm long and up to 7cm wide. At peak bloom you can barely see any green leaves. From a distances it… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Wat Phra Phai Luang Khmer Ruin

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pediment on north tower of Wat Phra Phai Luang Khmer ruin

The largest of the three Khmer-era temples still standing at Sukhothai, Wat Phra Phai Luang (วัดพระพายหลวง) lies north of the old city walls, about 700 meters east of Wat Si Chum’s iconic giant Buddha image. It was built in the early 13th century by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) and this area appears to have been at the core of the Khmer city; it would have remained so for the… Read More

Khmer Ruins

San Ta Pha Daeng Khmer Ruin

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San Ta Pha Daeng Khmer ruin

San Ta Pha Daeng (ศาลตาผาแดง) is the oldest and smallest of the three surviving Khmer temples at Sukhothai Historical Park (the others are Wat Si Sawai and Wat Phra Phai Luang); and thus the overall oldest monument there. It is Bayon/Lopburi-style and probably dates from the late 12th or early 13th century as a project of King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219). Some sources date it to the reign of Suryavarman… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Wat Si Sawai Khmer Ruin

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entrance to Wat Si Sawai Khmer ruin

Wat Si Sawai (วัดศรีสวาย), located within the old city walls about 200m southwest of Wat Mahathat, is one of the most visited ruins at Sukhothai Historical Park. At its core is a main sanctuary with three prang towers built by the Khmer in the late 12th or early 13th century. Despite this being the reign of Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219), a devout Buddhist, it appears that it served as a Hindu temple… 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

Buddhism

Buddhist Flags in Thailand

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Thai Buddhist flag

The Thai Buddhist Flag Nearly every temple in Thailand flies the yellow and red tong dhammachak (“Thai Buddhist flag”) which was officially introduced by the Thai sangha in 1958. The red circle is a dharma wheel (dhammachak in Thai) and it represents dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. Also known as the “wheel of law,” it was metaphorically set in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon, known as… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Phra That Phu Phek Khmer Ruin

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Phra That Phu Phek Khmer ruin

Phra That Phu Phek (พระธาตุภูเพ็ก), about 22 kilometers west (32 kilometers by road) of Sakon Nakhon city, crowns a mountain about 520 meters above sea level. There’s a simple, modern Buddhist temple near the ruins, so you can drive most of the way up the mountain, but the final approach to the summit is along a 494-step staircase. You should probably be in reasonably good shape to visit since besides… Read More

Folktales

About the Legend of Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady”

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Nang Phom Hom story painting at Wat Nong Wang

The Isan-Lao folktale of Nang Phom Hom (นางผมหอม) is about a girl whose father is the king of elephants and who is later turned into a monkey by a ghost before she and her family are finally able to live happily ever after. As with most ancient folktales there are many versions told across the region with the same overall plot, but different details. The story is well known. It… Read More

Folktales

Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady”

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Nang Phom Hom story painting at Wat Nong Wang

This is a typical version of the Nang Phom Hom legend. I’ve also written a long version of the story as told in the paintings at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city. These photos on this page were taken there too. — — — Nang Sida was a beautiful and beloved princess from Nakhon Sri Ratchathani, the greatest city in the land. One day she went to find… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Kaew Khmer Ruin

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shrine inside library of Ku Kaew Khmer ruin Khon Kaen

Ku Kaew (กู่แก้ว) is a far cry from Prasat Puay Noi, Khon Kaen’s best preserved Khmer ruin, but there’s still enough standing to make a visit interesting. It was built in the early 13th century by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) as a temple for a hospital (arogayasala). All buildings are made of laterite and none retain their tops, and though the sandstone frames remain around the doors, there are… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prasat Phra Yuen Khmer Ruin

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Prasat Phra Yuen khmer ruin

There’s no structure remaining from Prasat Phra Yuen (ปราสาทพระยืน), which is just called prang ku (ปรางค์กู่) by locals, but a pair of shrines have been made from the remnants. The main shrine is a small modern building with four old Buddhas. Legend says Phra Yuen town was founded by the leader of Chonnabot in 1863 because he found the two standing Buddhas in the ground here after dreaming of two… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Ban Non Ku Khmer Ruin

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large buddha image at Ku Ban Non Ku khmer ruin

All that’s left of Ku Ban Non Ku (กู่บ้านโนนกู่) are some laterite blocks that have been piled up to make an 8×16-meter platform for a four-meter tall Buddha image built in 1995. The only estimate for an age is late-10th to early-13th century, though because of the location, later dates are most likely. Two of the small stairs each include a broken sandstone slab and these appear that they could… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Prang Wat Chulamani Khmer Ruin

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Prang Wat Chulamani khmer ruin

The only Khmer ruin in Phitsanulok province, Prang Wat Chulamani (ปรางค์วัดจุฬามณี) is part of its large namesake temple. It’s six kilometers southwest of the modern city center near the Nan River and this was probably the city’s original location. It’s not worth making a long trip, but it’s quite fun to visit if you’re already in Phitsanulok. All that remains from the Khmer era is an east-facing (it’s actually off… Read More

Buddhism

Corpse Meditation Murals at Wat Um Long

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Wat Um Long corpse meditation mural

The small old ubosot at Wat Um Long in Thoen, Lampang province, is interesting and unusual in many ways. The most interesting for me is that the majority of interior wall space is covered with murals of a monk doing corpse meditation. (The rest are scenes from the life of the Buddha.) This is not an uncommon subject matter for inclusion in temple paintings, but it’s rare for it to… Read More

Travel Advice

Thailand Travel Tips You Won’t Find in a Guidebook

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shoes and please take off your shoes sign at shrine in Thailand

If you need to find someone who can speak English and you’re not in a tourist area, go to a pharmacy. Pharmacies are almost always staffed by licensed pharmacists and you can’t graduate from pharmacy school in Thailand without using English. If you read or hear “lemon” or “lemonade” in Thailand, then 99.9% sure it’s a lime, not a lemon. For some reason, most Thai dictionaries and schoolbooks teach the… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Buamat Khmer Ruin

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central tower and library of Ku Buamat Khmer ruin

Ku Buamat (กู่บัวมาศ) is in pretty bad condition overall, with no complete structures remaining, but there’s enough left to give an overall idea of how it used to be. And, surrounded by rice fields, it’s a peaceful place. Possibly built in the 11th century and later modified, it now has the bottom two meters of a single brick tower, although maybe there either were, or were going to be two… Read More

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