Category Archives: Kalasin

Guide Book to Darkest ……. erm!….. Isan?… Issan? ….. Isarn, Isaan, Esan, Esarn, Eesarn? ….. whatever!

When I set out to explore Isan I looked for a guide book, but found none. The few mainstream ones had a remarkably short section on the place, missing out half the provinces and barely covering the others. It was as if they were acknowledging that it wasn’t a place for tourists. After a month here I’m convinced of that too, it’s a place for people that want to visit Thailand.

Part 1 – Templed out in Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima)
Part 2 – Khorat to Phimai
Part 3 – Buriram to Nang Rong and Phanom Rung
Part 4 – Around Phanom Rung
Part 5 – Kalasin to Roi Et
Part 6 – Mukdahan
Part 7 – The Ban Song Khan Catholic Massacre Monument
Part 8 – Nakhon Phanom (City of Mountains)
Part 9 – Ho Chi Mihn’s House in Thailand
Part 10 – Buddha Park and Nong Khai
Part 11 – Nong Khai to Udon Thani & Ban Chiang
Part 12 – Chaiyaphum in my Tardis

I called my travels Darkest Isan, where decent Thai’s fear to tread, rather jokingly for the Thai stereotype of this Lao speaking region is as a rundown backwater populated by peasants completely unThai. In reality the traditional Thailand these stereotypers are talking about no-longer exists and hasn’t for a decade. After a month in Lao the previous year, my favourite place on earth, where I travelled to the unspoilt east, I embarked on my trip the Isan half hoping the stereotype was true and I would recapture the Lao experience. What I discovered should have disappointed but didn’t, Isan is like in the stereotype not unThai backwater but rather the lost old Thailand instead. Isan has become not so much what Thailand used to be, but what it could have become if it had gone another direction. What would Chiang Mai or Phuket could be like had not one tourist set foot there, and not an undeveloped backwater, but a place that has retained its identity and is designed for locals.

Never having really taken to the north and south of Thailand, I’ve always been an east, centre and west sort of person. What my Isan trip did was make me an Isan or Nakhon Nowhere as many ex-pats like to call it, sort of person. In fact in April 2011 I moved here. I’m not sure whether anyone has used the term before but from now on when I talk of the people and place it’s, we Isanites.

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.

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.