Culture

Boon Samha Photo Essay

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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… Read More

Culture

Boon Bang Fai Photo Essay

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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

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… 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.… 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… 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 in Khon Kaen city 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… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Kaew Chaiyaram Khmer Ruin

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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… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Sak Photo Essay

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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 are… Read More

Culture

Boon Khao Pradap Din Photo Essay

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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… Read More

Folktales

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

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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. It’s much longer than the story as it’s normally told, but overall the plot is the same. And though I wrote it strictly following the outline provided by these 88 paintings and the brief poem… Read More

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Culture

Ground-Floor Isan Culture Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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mural of fifth khong

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

History

Ground-Floor Khon Kaen History Murals at Wat Nong Wang

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mural of bueng bon lake

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, Phra Tama Wisut Tajan, and the murals were painted by local artist Kru Thammarong Kawboran. My thanks to Kru Thammarong for discussing the meanings of the pictures, and pointing out some of the specific things depicted in them – many have fun… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Ku Ban Nong Ranya Khmer Ruin

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Buddha and goddess statues inside Ku Ban Nong Ranya Khmer ruin

No original structures from Ku Ban Nong Ranya (กู่บ้านหนองร้านหญ้า) remain, but in 2017 locals took the old blocks (mostly laterite, but a few sandstone) that had been scattered around the area and stacked them up into four short walls on a concrete base. It’s not a restoration, but it was done in spirit of a Khmer sanctuary. The interior of this shrine holds a Buddha image and a local goddess… Read More

Khmer Ruins

Non Thaen Phra Khmer Ruin

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Vishnu and dvarapala statues in shrine at Non Thaen Phra Khmer ruin

There are no ancient structures left at Non Thaen Phra (โนนแท่นพระ) anymore, just a few dozen scattered blocks, mostly laterite, laying around in the dirt plus a few sandstone carvings; and you probably can’t see the later. In or around 1914 a hunter chasing a deer found a Buddha image in the forest here. Later locals uncovered many more ancient artifacts, such as statues, pedestals, pottery, stone grinders, and a… 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… Read More

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