Category Archives: 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

That Phanom

According to the That Phanom Chronicles, eight years after the Buddha’s death 500 Arahants and five lords of the five states headed by Maha Kassapa constructed the reliquary in the shape of a four sided kiln, eight to ten meters tall, and in it placed the breast bone relic of the Buddha. Over the past 2500 years the shrine has been restored several times and now stands 57 meters tall overlooking the town of That Phanom.

The That

People visit the shrine throughout the year, but the most moving and auspicious time to visit That Phanom is during the festival that marks Magha Puja. This small town on the Mekong River, half way between Mukdahan and Nakhon Panom grows from a few thousand, to the size of major city, as tens of thousands arrive each day to make merit and worship at the shrine. This was my 5th visit to the festival.

Circumambulating the That

The first place to stop is the museum. It houses some quite interesting artifacts and information about the history of the shrine. There is also a set of murals that explain Buddhism in Isaan. From there, west of the shrine about 50 meters is a Bo-tree that is a branch of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment and was brought here in 1952. Now it’s on toward the shrine. As you pass through the first door-way you’ll enter the cloister that makes up the outer wall where many of the monks at the festival will spend the night and in front of you will be the inner wall that surrounds the shrine. This wall has first built in the second century B.C. and has been rebuilt numerous times. Remember to take off your shoes when entering the inner wall. The That itself is surrounded by statues of past abbots and sometimes Buddha images from the cloister are placed around the That.
More about That Phanom and other Isaan places in following entries.