Proverb Murals at Wat Nong Wang

people doing different things

The fifth-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple tell forty Isan proverbs about living a happy, successful, and moral life that monks sometimes mention in their sermons. Many of these English sentences are clunky, but they read more poetically in the original Isan. Explanations are given when needed, though a few are self-explanatory. Many of them are no longer widely used and some of… Read More

Khon Kaen City Bike Routes

map showing a bike route

If you were to be plopped right down in the middle of Khon Kaen you would never guess what a great city it is for cycling. You don’t need to ride very far to leave the busy main roads behind and find quiet low-traffic realms with rice paddies and villages. All four routes (really, it’s eight since each has a long and short option – the purple line is the… Read More

Wat Jomsri Bottle Temple

entrance with naga

To the disapproval of the abbot, but with the support of many people in the community, a renegade monk at Wat Jomsri (วัดจอมศรี) who is focused more on magic than dharma has created his own little domain at the back of the temple. Here he has built a mock-cave shrine using old beer and energy drink bottles. Hidden behind foliage, this small, unique sanctuary is built of concrete, stone, and… Read More

Sri Than Ancient Community

aerial view of town and moat from 2021

Founded in 1789 (or 1838, depending on your perspective) Khon Kaen is anything but ancient. But long before the city began there was another significant settlement here. The Sri Than Ancient Community (เมืองโบราณศรีฐาน), named after the modern village that now occupies the same space, sits on a moat-ringed oval mound a bit west of the city center. It covers about twenty-five hectares and rises up to ten meters above the… Read More

Ku Ban Ton Khmer Ruin

abbot standing with bai sema

The meagre remains – mostly a broken pedestal and three laterite blocks – of Ku Ban Ton (กู่บ้านโต้น) are displayed in a small garden in front of the ubosot at Wat Si Pimon on the north side of the village that the Khmer ruin was named after. The actual site is out in the rice paddies a bit northwest of Wat Si Pimon, but the abbot told us there is… Read More

Ku Non Thaen Khmer Ruin

front view of Khmer ruin with Buddha in back

The little bit of Ku Non Thaen (กู่โนนแท่น) that remains sits under a big roof at the back of Batdibattam Don Thaen Temple (สำนักปฏิบัติธรรมดอนแท่น), also known as Samnak Song Ku Non Thaen (สำนักสงฆ์กู่โนนแท่น). All that’s left of this Khmer temple is a small (6x8m) laterite platform at least partially assembled in modern times. The Fine Arts Department has no solid clue about its age, only giving the broad range of… Read More

Ku Prapha Chai Khmer Ruin

view of prang seen through opening in outer wall

Sitting between Phrathat Kham Kaen (7.5km away) and the King Cobra Village (12km), two of Khon Kaen’s most popular tourist destinations, you’d expect Ku Prapha Chai (กู่ประภาชัย) to attract a fair number of visitors, but you will usually have this small Khmer ruin all to yourself. Made mostly of laterite, Ku Prapha Chai was built by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) as a temple for one of the 102 arogayasala… Read More

Khmer Artifacts in the Khon Kaen National Museum

many Khmer stone carvings on display

The Khon Kaen National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ ขอนแก่น), opened in 1972, has four small but interesting historical galleries with artefacts from around Upper Isan and is worth a look for anyone visiting Khon Kaen. Its most famous object, standing in the center of the Dvaravati wing, is a bai sema boundary stone of the Buddha’s wife, Princess Yasodhara (aka Bimpa Devi) cleaning the Buddha’s feet with her hair that was found… Read More

Biography of Luang Paw Koon Kantigo, a Former Abbot of Wat Nong Wang

painting of people getting on and off a very busy train

The idea for Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa, the famous centerpiece of Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city, came from the highly respected Phra Tama Wisut Tajan, the then abbot of the temple. Usually called Luang Paw Koon Kantigo, his life story is told in these mural paintings on the stupa’s fourth floor. It begins in the northeast corner, next to the main stairs. อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to… Read More

The Buddha’s Life Story (Part 1) at Wat Nong Wang

woodcarving of Prince Siddhattha seeing an old man and a sick man

The carved wooden doors on the sixth floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang tell many of the main episodes from the Buddha’s life up to and including his enlightenment. The artist was Tawon Gonkaew. The story begins at the northeast corner on the east wall (in front of the stairs) and is told counterclockwise around the stupa. The Buddha’s life story continues down below on… Read More

The Buddha’s Life Story (Part 2) at Wat Nong Wang

woodcarving of the Buddha walking with many disciples

The carved wooden doors and window shutters on the fifth floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang tell some episodes (the story is far from complete) from the Buddha’s life following his enlightenment. The story begins at the northeast corner on the east wall (in front of the stairs) and is told counterclockwise around the stupa. The first half of the Buddha’s tale is told up… Read More

Mahanipata Jataka at Wat Nong Wang

woodcarving of a giant naga and a man threatening two others with a sword

The carved wooden doors and window shutters on the seventh floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang tell the last ten Jataka tales. The artist was Tawon Gonkaew. อ่านภาษาไทยที่นี่ (Click here to read a Thai version.) The Jataka tales (chah-dok in Thai) are a collection of 547 birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting pre-enlightenment lives of the Bodhisatta (what… Read More

Boon Khao Jee Photo Essay

women making khao jee at the temple

These photos are from the Boon Khao Jee (บุญข้าวจี่) ceremony in Ban Hua Na, Amphoe Nong Ruea, Khon Kaen province on February 7-8, 2020. Thanks to Pra Kru Sathaphon Thammasan, Mae Turian, and Khun Pam for helping me out. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Khao Jee and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions. Preparation The day before Boon Khao Jee was a mostly… Read More

Gods of Directions and Celestial Bodies at Wat Nong Wang

painted doors

The paintings on the window shutters and doors on the fourth floor of Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang feature four separate but related things – gods of the celestial bodies (เทพนพเคราะห์), daily Buddhas (พระประจำวันเกิด), the guardians of the directions (เทพประจำทิศ), and animals of the directions (สัตว์ประจำทิศ) –all in groups of eight. For religious purposes Wednesday is split into daytime and nighttime resulting in eight days in… Read More

Wat Nong Wang

stupa seen from across a lake

Wat Nong Wang (วัดหนองแวง) is Khon Kaen city’s biggest, most important temple, and also its one must-see tourist attraction. It was founded in 1789, the same year the city was settled, though there are no old buildings left. It became a royal temple in 1984. About 55 monks and 225 novices live here. It’s ordinary in most regards, except for the stunning nine-story Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon, a stupa unlike… Read More

Boon Samha Photo Essay

women bringing food to shrine

These photos are from the Boon Samha (บุญซำฮะ) ceremony in Ban Thung Mon, Amphoe Ban Phai, Khon Kaen province on June 5, 2019. Here, as in many places in Isan, locals use the name Boon Berk Bahn (บุญเบิกบ้าน – “Opening the Home”) instead of Boon Samha. Thanks to Catherine Stebeleski for the invitation and Lung Sura Laebong for answering all my questions. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Samha and… Read More

Boon Bang Fai Photo Essay

rocket launching

These photos are from the Boon Bang Fai (บุญบั้งไฟ) celebration in Ban Nong Na Kham, Amphoe Nong Na Kham, Khon Kaen province on May 24-26, 2019. Thanks especially to Suriya Wongjum for answering my questions, Somporn Poltham for showing me around, and the owners of Sarali Resort for driving me into town. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Bang Fai and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve… Read More

Boon Pha Wet Photo Essay

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

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

Page 1 of 2
1 2