Angkor Wat may be the largest and greatest
of the monuments to the ancient Khmer, but
Thailand, too, possesses a wealth of temple
ruins that boat attest to the architectural
genius of the Khmer and are also readily
its capital at Angkor in Cambodia, the Khmer
civilization flourished from AD 802 to 1431,
when Angkor was abandoned after being defeated
by the Thais. At the height of its power,
the 11th century to the early 13th century,
the Khmer Empire extended well beyond the
borders of present-day Cambodia and included
large areas of what is now Thailand.
our knowledge of Khmer history beyond Angkor
is still incomplete, there is sufficient
evidence to suggest the considerable importance
of the territory today encompassed by Thai
borders. It is estimated, for example, that
more than 300 stone temples were erected
in the Moon River valley alone, where the
main temple, Phimai, was linked to Angkor
by a 225 Km. " Royal Way ", which
was punctuated by ornately decorated rest
Bungfai Rocket Festival
is an ancient local festival,
which is associated with Thai traditional
beliefs in the supernatural powers
that help promote the production of
rice crops for the coming planting
season. During the event, the beautiful
rockets in different styles are paraded
to the launch site. The local people
dress in colorful traditional costumes
and dance to accompany the procession.
The highlight of the festival is the
fired rockets launched from their
platforms one by one. Noisy folk music
and cheers can be heard for each liftoff
and the rocket that reaches the greatest
height is declared the winner...
Festival or "Boon Bang Fai"
in Thai is usually held in the second
week of May of each year, at the beginning
of the rainy season. The farmers are
ready to cultivate their paddy fields.
The festival is popularly celebrated
in ISAN. The celebration is an entreaty
to the rain god for plentiful rains
during the coming rice planting season.
festival itself owes its beginning
to a legend that a rain god named
Vassakan was known for his fascination
of being worshipped with fire. To
receive plentiful rains for rice cultivation,
the farmers send the home-made rockets
to the heaven where the god resided.
The festival has been carried out
till these days.
the guidance of Buddhist monks, it
takes the villagers weeks to make
the rockets, launching platforms and
other decorations. An average rocket
is some nine metres in length and
carries 20-25 kilogrammes of gunpowder
the afternoon of the festival day,
rockets are carried in the procession
to the launching site. Villagers dressed
in colourful traditional costumes
attract the eyes of the onlookers,
who line up along the procession route.
ignition of the rockets, there will
be more singing and dancing to celebrate
the festival. The climax of the festival
is the ignition time. One by one the
rockets are fired from the launching
platforms. Each liftoff's greeted by
cheers and noisy music. The rocket that
reaches the greatest height is the winner
and the owner of this rocket will dance
and urge for rewards on their way home
while the owners of the rockets, that
exploded or failed to fly, will be thrown
into the mud. The celebration is a communal
affair of the villagers who come to
share joy and happiness together before
heading to the paddy fields where hard
work is waiting for them...
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival, the
most elaborate of the traditional parading
of candles to
is held in Ubon Ratchathani, Isan @
Thailand, around the days of Asanha
(which commemorates the Buddha's first
and Wan Kao Pansa.
the start of the Lenten period, it
is traditional in preparation for
the rainy season for the devout to
donate to items for the personal use
of monks, and of candles to dispel
gloom in their quarters and elsewhere
within the Wat. The latter is often
the core event of many village celebrations,
but is at its most elaborate in the
Ubon Ratchathani version, which nowadays
is a major event both for residents
and for tourists: giant candles are
paraded through the town, each representing
a local temple, district or other
institution. The more elaborate versions
are accompanied by scenes of Hindu
and Buddhist mythology sculpted in
wood or plaster and coated with wax.
Of course, these candles are never
candles are carved a couple of days
before the procession.
Asanha Bucha day, the candles are
taken to Thung Si Mueang, a park in
the middle of the city, where they
are decorated and then exhibited in
the evening. On the same evening,
there are small processions with lighted
candles at several temples.
procession takes place on the morning
of Wan Kao Pansa. The candles are
paraded through the city centre on
floats, accompanied by representatives
of the public and private sectors.
These are normally dancers or musicians
in traditional dress...
Toom @ Surin
Organized in October every year. Four
types of racing for the royal trophy
and the contest of boat beauty parade
will be organized on Maenam Moon (
Moon River ) in front of Wat Pho,
Amphoe Tha Toom (District), Surin
It is organized annually on the first weekend
of November when the MOON River is high. Oarsmen
from Buriram and other nearby provinces would
gather to join the boat racing which is held
in front of Amphoe Satueks district office.
Each year, there are about 40 to 50 boats
in the competition. There is also a parade
of fancy decorated boats during the event.
Boat racing was once a traditional festival
celebrated among friends and relatives to
pay homage to Chaopho Wang Krut, a spirit
named after a whirlpool in the Moon River.
Since 1986, it has become a festival of Buriram
Lam is a traditional of
song in Isan (Esan). Mo Lam means expert song,
or expert singer, referring to the music or
artist respectively. In Isan (Esan), the music
is known simply as Lam; Mo Lam refers to the
characteristic feature of Lam singing is
the use of a flexible melody which is tailored
to the tones of the words in the text. Traditionally,
the tune was developed by the singer as
an interpretation of glawn poems and accompanied
primarily by the Khaen, a free reed mouth
organ, but the modern form is most often
composed and uses electrified instruments.
Contemporary forms of the music are also
characterised by quick tempi and rapid delivery,
while tempi tend to be slower in traditional
forms. Some consistent characteristics include
strong rhythmic accompaniment, vocal leaps,
and a conversational style of singing that
can be compared to American rap.
featuring a theme of unrequited love, mor
lam also reflects the difficulties of life
in rural Isan and Laos, leavened with wry
humour. In its heartland, performances are
an essential part of festivals and ceremonies,
while the music has gained a profile outside
its native regions thanks to the spread
of migrant workers, for whom it remains
an important cultural link with home...
Thai Sart Day refers to merit-making
activities in the middle of the
traditiional Thai year, and if
counted by the lunar calendar,
falls on the fifteenth day of
the waning moon of the tenth lunar
month (usually some time during
word "Sart" is derived
from the Indian language, Pali,
and means "season",
while in English it means "autumn".
In fact, the season of Sart
or the autumn is the time at
which food crops begin to ripen.
However, autumn takes place
only in countries which are
situated above the tropical
zone, such as the countries
in Northern Europe, China and
the northern part of India.
Thus, due to Thailand's geographical
location in the tropics, the
Thai Sart Day has no connection
with the autumn or the ripening
season at all. At this time
of the year our rice has not
yet ripened and only some fruits
are mature enough to be eaten.
Meanwhile, the countries which
have the season of autumn will
take this time to joyfully celebrate
the occasion as their crops
bear their first yield and a
wide assortment of fruits and
vegetables are in bountiful
ancient times, people of all races
believed that the first harvest
of rice, fruit and all other forms
of food, including the first catch
of fish or any other animal, should
be offered to the holy spirits
which, they believed, were the
creators of food crops and animals.
As a result, by appeasing the
spirits, in theory the people
were protected from starvation.
However, during years in which
there were bad harvests or food
shortages, they believed that
this was caused by the indignation
of the holy spirits who might
have been angry with human actions.
Therefore, the ancient people
were very much afraid of these
invisible beings and to please
them, people made offerings and
sacrifices in their honour.
which means food for the Sart Rite is
prepared from rice, bean, sesame and
sugar cooked into a sticky paste and
then wrapped with a banana leaf. After
making Krayasart people would take it
to the temple to be offered to the monks
on Sart Day. At the temple, a raised-platform
would be erected in a long line on the
temple grounds and the monk's alms-bowls
would be placed on it. People would
then put Krayasart in the alms-bowls
till they were full of Krayasart. Then
the Krayasart would be transferred into
a bamboobasket by the temple boys. At
the same time, food and dessert would
be separately offered to the monks at
their lodging. At the end of the offering
ceremony, people would perform a ceremony
of pouring the water of dedication,
in order to transfer merit to other
beings, as people believed that if they
did not offer Krayasart to monks, their
dead relatives would have nothing to
eat and thus they would be condemned
as having no gratitude towards their
benefactors. After finishing their meals,
the monks would consume Krayasart as
their dessert, since on that day people
had noting to offer apart from ripe
dainty bananas and Krayasart.
Naturally Krayasart is very sweet,
thus it is recommended to be eaten
with bananas, especially dainty bananas.
After making merit, people would exchange
the remaining Krayasart among themselves.
In so doing, they could have the opportunity
to test Krayasart cooked by others.
As a result, anyone whose Krayasart
had an excellent taste would have
his good name spread from mouth-to-mouth...
those days, people prefered to prepare
Krayasart by themselves and it was
not available in the market. Thus,
when one made something to eat, he
would give it to his neighbours free.
Above all, if someone had work which
required a huge amount of labour,
his neighbours would come forward
to help at once. This brought about
unity and strengthened friendship
among local residents. Meanwhile,
the focal point of the community was
the Buddhist temple, which symbolised
the Buddhist religion and acted as
a major unifying element, especially
during festivals and merit-making
ceremonies. The temple was used as
a place of learning, where people
came to perform various activities
and at the same time took an opportunity
to wear new clothes to show off to
their friends, as in those days, people
had hardly any other chance to do
so. Evidently, people's lives have
always been associated with the temple
which has served as the core of village
unity. People in the past observedthe
Sart Rite with much enthusiasm and
it is still one of the most valuable
Buddhist festivals to be observed
on ISAN land...
most popular of Northeastern festivals with
foreign tourists is the Surin Elephant Round-up
which is held annually in November. The
people of Surin have long been renowned
for their skill in capturing and training
wild elephants and the round-up. In the
past wild elephants lived in the forest
areas of nearby Cambodia. Unfortunately,
these areas have been inaccessible due to
civil war in Cambodia, and at the same time,
the elephant population is markedly decreasing
thus the elephant catchers must now make
a living by taking their charges around
the country giving shows.
greatest event of the Surin round-up is a
beautifully organised display of the talents
and abilities of these superb beasts. The
round-up first look place in 1960. It begins
with a mass procession of all the elephants
taking part, usually 120-150, ranging from
calves only a few weeks old to the well-trained
elephants with many decades of experience.
the show, hundreds of the huge animals demonstrate
their prowess at moving logs, playing soccer
and winning a tug-of-war against human teams.
Other demonstrations are designed to show
not only the great strength of the elephants
but also show they can be very intelligent,
gentle and obedient. The show concludes with
a mock battle illustrating what was formerly
an important part of their duties.
round-up in those days was an annual state
ceremony presided over by the king himself.
There were prayers and citations devised
for the ceremony and for the taming of captured
elephants afterwards. In recent times, the
event has been revived and has become a
major tourist attraction for the country,
with the province of Surin as the main centre
of activities. The event draws more and
more visitors each year.
event is the occasion for great fun in which
the visitor is welcome to join. It also
offers superb opportunities for learning
about the distinct folk culture of the Northeast...
a type of masked procession celebrated on
the first day of a three-day Buddhist merit-making
holiday known in Thai as "Boon Pra Wate".
The annual festival takes place in May - June
or July at a small town of Dan Sai in the
northeastern province of Loei.
of the festival dress up like ghosts and
monsters wearing huge masks made carved
coconut-tree trunks, topped with a wicker-work
sticky-rice steamer. The procession is marked
by a lot of music and dancing.
precise origin of the Phi Ta Khon is unclear.
However, it can be traced back to a traditional
Buddhist folklore. In the Buddha's next
to last life, he was the beloved Prince
Vessandorn. The prince was said to go on
a long trip for such a long time that his
subjects forgot him and even thought that
he was already dead. When he suddenly returned,
his people were overjoyed. They welcomed
him back with a celebration so loud that
it even awoke the dead who then joined in
all the fun.
that time onward the faithful came to commemorate
the event with ceremonies, celebrations
and the donning of ghostly spirit masks.
The reasons behind all the events is probably
due to the fact that it was held to evoke
the annual rains from the heavens by farmers
and to bless crops.
the second day, the villagers dance their
way to the temple and fire off the usual
bamboo rockets to signal the end of the
procession. The festival organisers also
hold contests for the best masks, costumes
and dancers, and brass plaques are awarded
to the winners in each age group. The most
popular is the dancing contest.
comes the last day of the event, the villagers
then gather at the local temple, Wat Ponchai,
to listen to the message of the thirteen
sermons of the Lord Buddha recited by the
it is time for the revellers to put away
their ghostly masks and costumes for another
year. From now on, they must again return
to the paddy fields to eke out their living
through as their forefathers did.
are 15,000 Km. of highway, centred on the
Thanon Mitraphap ("Friendship Highway")
built by the United States to supply its
military bases in the 1960s and 1970s. A
road bridge (the Saphan Mitraphap or Friendship
Bridge) jointly built by the Australian,
Laos and Thai governments forms the border
crossing over the Mae
Nam Khong River on the outskirts
of Nong Khai to Vientiane, the capital of
Laos, about 25 Km. away.
roads in Isan are paved. All major roads
interconnecting the province capitals are
in excellent condition for driving, and
most are centrally divided four or six-lane
highways. Many roads connecting province
capitals to larger district towns are also
currently being widened to four lane highways
with median strips. The paving on some very
minor roads in the poorer districts may
be navigable with difficulty, due to large,
deep potholes. Unpaved, graded roads link
some of the smaller, more remote villages,
but they are comfortably navigable at normal
driving speeds for wheeled vehicles. Most
of the stretches of paved roads through
villages are lit at night, many with powerful
sodium lighting, some of which are on independently
solar-powered masts. Reflecting 'cats-eyes'
marking the central line of two-lane roads
are a common feature. Crash barriers are
installed along the sides of dangerous bends
and precipitous verges. Signposting is excellent
and follows international style. All signs
are bilingual in Thai and Roman script,
although the spellings in Roman script may
defy the logic of English pronunciation,
and vary significantly.
main highways have frequent, Western-style
rest and refuelling stations which accept
payment by major credit/debit cards. All
fuel stations sell 91, 95 ,E20 , E85 , LPG
(Liquid Petroleum Gas) , NGV (Natural Gas
for Vehicles) and diesel fuel.
Railway of Thailand has two main lines
in Isan, both connecting the region to Bangkok.
One runs east from Korat,
the other runs north through Khon
Kaen and Udon
Khai. A newly completed rail link from
Khai came into operation. It crosses
the Friendship road bridge into Laos territory
to a terminus a few kilometres north of
the land border crossing. It remains unclear
whether this line will be extended the remaining
20 kilometres to Vientiane, the capital
provide the mass transport throughout the
region. All province cities are connected
to Bangkok by daily and nightly, direct,
air-conditioned bus routes. All district
amphoe towns operate at least one similar
nightly route to and from Bangkok ( Mor
Chid ). All towns and villages are
interconnected with frequent services of
Songthaew a covered truck-style bus
or covered pick-up trucks with bench seats
in the cargo bed.
are airports at Korat
(no scheduled services due to its proximity
to Bangkok), Khon
Kaen (domestic), Ubon
Ratchathani (domestic), Udon
Thani (international), Nakhon
Phanom (domestic, scheduled services),
Nakhon (domestic, scheduled services),
Et (domestic, scheduled services), Buriram
(domestic, scheduled services) and Loei
(domestic, scheduled services). Domestic
air travel between the capital and the region
is well developed, and has become a viable
alternative to rail, long-distance bus and
self-driving. Fares are cheap and Udon
Kaen which both opened brand new airport
terminals, are served by many daily flights
and also have routes connecting other major
destinations in Thailand with some companies
operating wide-bodied aircraft. Most domestic
flights to and from Bangkok operate to and
from Don Muang, the original Bangkok international
airport, while Thai
Airways and Air
Asia flights serve Bangkok
International Airport at Suvarnabhumi.
this region, rapids and variable flow make
navigation difficult on the Mae Nam Khong
River, so large boat traffic is limited
in connection with downriver areas. Bridges
are rare because of the high cost of spanning
the wide river; numerous passenger and vehicle
ferries link its two sides. The Second ThaiLao
Friendship Bridge, spanning the Mae Nam
Khong between the cities of Mukdahan
(Thailand) and Savannakhet (Laos).