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Isaan, Amphor Sahatsakan, Kalasin Province

The town of Sahatsakan in the Amphor of the same name is located about 30
kilometers north of the town of Kalasin in the province of the same name.
Not much more than a wide spot in the road, in a province that doesn’t even make it into the “Lonely Planet Guide” This amphor is well worth a mornings visit if you are ever in the area.

On top of the hill overlooking the town sits an enormous Buddha image with a span of nearly 11 meters across the knees.

Also right in town is wat Sakawan and an attraction signposted as Isaan Juraic Park. This small attraction has an excavation showing some of the dinosaur bones found in the area and some intersting displays in the same building. Behind the building you can see dinosaurs models being constucted and a fine little garden with a well tagged collection of local stone. This place is really well done in spite of it’s rather pretencious name.

Travelling north a few minutes brings you to a signpost for a silk village. No the village is not made of silk, but part of the OTOP program in the Province There is some beautiful handmade products here. In the average day a weaver can produce 2.5 centimeters of material. If one of the OTOP managers is around you can get a very interesting explanation of the weaving process and colour and pattern in the finshed piece.

Okay, so now it’s up the road a bit to Phra Buddha Saiyat Phu Khao and the recling Buddha image there. Just before getting to the wat there is an amazing wooden sala made of wood salvaged before the filling of nearby Lam Pao resovoir. The carving and artwork in the sala is quite beautiful, and a real challenge to photograph.

From there you can walk or drive up a Buddha image lined lane to the wat.

In the wat compound are a variety of interesting statuary, a sala lined floor to ceiling with an enormous amulet collection and then down the walkway to the reclining Buddha said to date to the 1600s. The unique feature about this image is that the Buddha is recling on his left side.

Kalasin Province is not big on the “tourist” circuit, but is well worth a visit if you enjoy quiet touring, without the crowds, noise or commercialism of the mainline centres.

Isaan Golf

Isaan does not have the posh golf courses you find in Phuket, Pattaya or Bangkok, nor does it have the prices of those places.

Okay, so there are only two eighteen hole golf courses in Isaan. There is Victory Park, south of Nong Khai and the is the EGAT course at the Ubol Rattana Dam, north of Khon Kaen. Both courses have all the facilities you could want, are inexpensive and well maintained.

There are plenty of nine hole courses spread throughout the region and the range in qauality from brilliant to, well, best of luck.

Now there are plenty of books available that threaten to include the definitive list of golf courses in Thailand, but only one that I have found that comes anywhere close. “The Golf Book” Thailand 2005 published by Bangkok Book House Co., Ltd. is the only one I would spend my money on. It has only missed two coures I am aware of, one a six hole course in Mukdahan and one in amphor Sahatsakan in Kalasin, that may well be closed.

If you are interested in playing golf in Isaan I suggest you play on weekdays and tee-off early. There’s a couple reasons for the early start. First it’s cooler, but still bring your water with in case the refreshment shacks aren’t open yet. Next Thais do not generally start early. Now why is that important, you might ask. Well for some reason Thais like to play in herds of six or so. No if you’re familiar with golf in the west you’ll know this is not on, but it is allowed at many courses on Thailand. I have never found out why sixsomes are poplular here. I think it’s one of two reasons. One they are afraid of the golf phii. And second and I know this is hard to belive but there might be gambling going on out there.

Another thing about Thai golfers is that they must all have drivers with heads, well, as big as a head.

The Thais that play early are usually older guys and quick to let faster players play through, while later in the day it seems more difficult to find anyone who is aware of the rule that allows faster players to play through.

One of my favorite 9 hole courses is the one at the army base, next to the airport in Khon Kaen. Mornings it’s not rare for a Thai player to ask if you want to play along. They are the most friendly plaayers I have met in all of Isaan.

Anyhow if you do play golf don’t rule out Isaan.

Mukdahan Night Food Market

Arguably the best night food market in isaan opens about 1700h in Mukdahan each evening. The road is closed off to both car and motorbike traffic, providing a carbon-monoxide free dining experience. Both sides of the road are lined with stalls selling Vietnamese, Isaan and Thai treats. Behind the stalls are tables and chairs for those who want to enjoy their meal al-fresco.

I usualy make a 7-11 stop to pick up a few cans of beer then work my way to a shady table to enjoy a 2 to 3 hour dining orgy. If I plan carefully I can graze off 4 or 5 stalls with minimum movement. My usual modus operandi is to begin with Vietnamese spring rolls both fried and fresh, pork and fried rice-balls.

A bit of a rest, some crowd watching and maybe a bit of ratnah or phad thai and another beer, for sure. By then there’s been a bit of a chat or two with other diners, and oh well another beer.Fresh fruit or a variety of desserts are available for those so inclined.

A stroll around to check on lottery tickets, clothing, sunglasses and other necessities might build up the need for a beer for the road.

All in all it’s a great way to spend an evening in Mukdahan.

Kalasins Museum

Let’s go to the museum, oh what a lovely idea. One step better than the dentist office or I’d rather have a lobotomy.
“Oh, look the shard is from a 1,000 year old pot that who cares what was stored in it”. And how do they really know, anyhow?
“Oh, look an obsidium arrow head used by pre-nasal man to kill whatever animal was on the menu”.
Also for a kid it’s wonderful,”don’t run. don’t make noise, don’t tuch that”
Museums with narrow aisles jammed with display cases aren’t my cup of tea, nor the ones where the lighting is terrible and I can’t see in their display cases for the reflection from the sun or flourescent light.
Museums can be one royal bore.
Museums should be educational, interesting, comfortable and fun all at the same time.

The Museum in Kalasin fills that bill in spades.
If you want to learn ablout life in Isaan this is the place to come. Even if you don’t care about life in Isaan this place is brilliant and I bet you get interested or at least enjoy the place. Lifelike plaster figures depict scenes of Isaan life, from a woman gving birth, morlom, monks and people in their homes, to death.

Tools and musical instruments are on display, and you can even touch them. Dioramas or vignettes or whatever they are called lifelike and well presented.

The display rooms are bright and spacious, and spread nicely over the whole first floor of the old sala khan (2d floor for Americans).

If you’re ever in the area this is the place stop. Kalasin has tonnes of stuff to see and do, from dinosaurs to the best silk in Thailand. More about the province in the future.
The pictures tell a better story than me, so enjoy.


It’s about Isaan

Before I go any further in Thai Blogdom I ought to explain a few things.
I’ve been here for more than 10 years and although I live in the political borders of the Kingdom of Thailand I have spent 99% of my life here in an area known as Isaan

rice planting

Geographically Isaan begins at Korat, east to the Mekong, north to the Mekong, with Loei as its western border. It consists of 19 provinces. The southeastern provinces (Korat, Buriram, Surin, Sisaket and Ubon) have a mixed Khmer and Lao influence, while the rest of Isaan is Lao. For practical purposes while Korat is geographically part of Isaan the modern province has little in common with the remainder of the area.

The daily lives of the majority of the people in the reqion revolves around the village, the wat and the village school. All rites of passing from birth to death including graduations, marriages and anything else of any significance are celebrated with a baci (pronounced “basee”). More about the baci in a future blog.

The village wat or wats are still a major part of life and where the young men go to spend their time in robes before adulthood.

Everyone has a child, or niece or nephew or some type of relative in the village school, and school events bring the whole village out.

Isaan festivals reflect their Lao sources and show a people comfortable in ther own skins. I am always amazed to watch central Thais at events such as candle festivals, or even at That Phanom for Magha Puja. They generally wear clothes that cost more than many Isaan people earn in months, but walk around looking terribly uncomfortable and unsure of what to do or how to do it. For Isaan folk all these events no matter how auspicious are simply part of the cycle of life that they are part of every day.

women in pa sin at the wat

Most meals at home include khao ngiao (sticky rice) and are eaten family style on a mat on the floor. As a matter of fact most old style homes contain little furniture at all.

The pa sin (Lao full length wrap around skirt) is still seen regularly on women and with great frequency at functions and festivals.

The language of the day is Lao. Amongst themselves and at home it is the way people talk to each other. Thai is taught in schools and is used at formal times, but is most heard when Thai television is playing.
More about Isaan coming…

To see more of Isaan