Darkest Isan (where decent thais fear to tread), Part Five
Leaving Buriram and southern Isan it was time to head north towards the centre of the region and Dinosaur country. Kalasin is famous for having not only the most Dinosaurs in Thailand after the Bangkok British Club but the world’s smallest dinosaur, Siamosaurus. Siamosaurus is apparently a crocodile like beast, so no opportunity for satire about the Thai government there. The best thing about Kalasin is it’s not like Buriram, which I kind of expected it would be like. It’s also not difficult to find a place stay as the town is geared up for the influx of Dinosaur museum tourists and as they are virtually all Thai, the hotels are great value. The Sirindhorn Museum is the reason to visit the town, a kind of one dinosaur town. This surprisingly quite excellent educational museum mixes theatre with fact and delivers in both departments whether wandering amongst the models in the dinosaur park or looking at the fossils themselves in the sand beds.
Roi Et meaning One Hundred is just an hour’s bus ride from Kalasin. The very neat provincial town which is the springboard to visit a province boasting such tourist delights as……. um…. well………… Ok maybe you should just stay in town, I did for four days and it is officially the place I fell in love with Isan (staying in love until I reached Nong Khai) and was never bored for a moment.
Roi Et has an almost southern European feel to it, as this clean, litter free and laid back town lounges around the lake watching the day go by. Despite its size the town has thus far managed to avoid having a monstrous department store plonked in the centre, instead a rather tiny old two story sixties affair is all that exist and its one fast food shop a miniscule KFC is all but bereft of customers as the market stalls surrounding sell chicken for half the price.
The town has plnety to do and see, a huge centrepiece lake and landscaped park, full of adventure playgrounds, dinasaurs, swan peddle boats, pagodas, free fitness machines. Around the park stunning temples and a 1000 year old chedi.
I was their for Buddhist lent but no-one seemed to tell the locals it was happening as only the expensive restaurants closed, and upmarket bars stopped selling booze. The locals committed to some serious boozing in the downmarket establishments and the monks very definitely didn’t stay in their temples. Good to see none of this, Bangkok, actually enforcing the law nonsense has infested the civilised provinces yet.
The town’s free aquarium is a nice touch, allowing whole poor families from the countryside to come in. Giving the attraction a feel like no other in Thailand.
The annual Thai Candle Festival held every rainy season to announce the beginning of Buddhist lent is best seen in Isaan. The festival consists of a parade of locals in elaborate costumes, floats and then climax’s with giant wax sculptures the size of trucks fabulously carved into the shapes of Buddhist Gods and Demons. Unfortunately the festival was a washout after 15 minutes as a monsoon hit and I went from having to fight my way through the crowds to take my first photo to being the only person standing on the street 20 minutes later.
See the video, Roi-Et Candle Festival vs The Rain Gods.