Hello everyone, it's Sirinya here and today I want to take you on a journey to the northeast region of Thailand, Isaan. This region known as the "rice bowl" of the country, is a cultural treasure trove with a rich history and mystical legends that are just waiting to be uncovered.
Isaan is often overlooked by tourists who tend to visit the more popular destinations in the south such as Phuket or Krabi. However, Isaan offers an authentic experience that cannot be found anywhere else in Thailand. The region boasts a distinct culture and way of life that has been preserved for centuries. From the unique language, music, dance, and food, this region is a true representation of Thai culture.
In this article, we will be exploring the mystical legends that have been passed down through generations in Isaan. These legends are not only fascinating stories but they also serve as an insight into the beliefs and customs of the people in this region. Furthermore, these legends provide a glimpse into the historical events that have shaped the culture of Isaan.
So, grab a cup of Thai tea, sit back, and allow me to take you on a journey through the mystical legends of Isaan. Get ready to be transported to another world, where magic and reality intertwine, and where the line between myth and history is often blurred. Let's uncover the secrets of Isaan together.
The Region of Isaan
Isaan, also known as Northeastern Thailand, is a landlocked region that makes up almost a third of Thailand. This area is rich in history, culture, and diversity. Thai history boasts that the kingdom of Isaan dates back to the 7th century when it was known as the kingdom of Sri Canasa. Once a hub for international trade, Isaan has a fascinating history influenced by neighboring giants like China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
This region serves as a clear reminder of the old, authentic Thailand which contrasts sharply with the fast-paced urbanism of Bangkok and other metropolitan areas. The sprawling rice fields, ancient temples, and the naturally beautiful landscapes in Isaan, make this place a must-visit destination for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the Thai way of life.
Khon Kaen's Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon
One of the most magnificent examples of Thai Buddhist architecture is the Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa. Located in the lively city of Khon Kaen, it is 80 meters tall and is made of pure white marble. Visitors can ascend to the top of the stupa and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city. The intricate details of the stupa, the sheer size, and the incredible craftsmanship are extraordinary.
According to Thai folklore, the stupa's pillars are thought to penetrate the underworld and reach the heavens, allowing prayers to be heard and answered. The highlight of this temple is the holy relic, the Buddha's hair that is enshrined in a chamber at the very top of the stupa, which is only accessible to monks.
Dan Sai's Bun Luang Festival
The Bun Luang Festival, known for its spooky yet captivating allure, is an annual event that takes place in the sleepy town of Dan Sai in Loei province, every year in June. The festival typically lasts for approximately three days and celebrates the hometown of the famous ghost legend, Phi Ta Khon. This legend is a popular ghost story among the people of Isaan, and it is believed that this festival brings Phi Ta Khon back to life for a short while every year.
The festival is a lively, colorful event; adorned with vibrant costumes, masks made of coconut tree leaves, and excellent music. Revelers parade along the streets playing drums, cymbals, and other traditional instruments. The highlight of Bun Luang Festival is the procession of Phi Ta Khon and other ghostly beings.
The Mekong River & Nong Khai's Spirit Shrine
The Mekong River is the primary water source that sustains Isaan lifestyle and is an integral part of the region's identity. The river is also considered sacred, and it is believed that spirits inhabit it. A visit to Nong Khai, a serene town located on the banks of the Mekong River, is not complete without a visit to the city's Spirit Shrine.
The Spirit Shrine is a beautiful site where residents of Isaan go to pay respect to the spirits they believe inhabit the river. The shrine was constructed using stones of all shapes and sizes, which visitors can pick up and stack as they offer their prayers. The Shrine's mystical atmosphere is further heightened by the magnificent sculptures of mythical creatures like the Naga, a serpent creature that locals believe protects the Mekong River.
Udon Thani's Ban Chiang Museum
The Ban Chiang Museum, located in Udon Thani, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Thailand. The museum showcases exhibits from ancient settlements that date back to 3600 BCE. The discovery of ancient burial sites, pottery, bronze articles, and other artifacts has helped historians and archaeologists gain insights into how the inhabitants of Isaan lived back then.
The museum is a top destination for anyone keen on exploring Thai time and learning about the country's history. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the different exhibits and learn fascinating stories that accompany each artifact.
Korat's Thao Suranaree Monument
Korat, also known as Nakhon Ratchasima, is located about 250 km northeast of Bangkok and is the gateway to Isaan. The city has a long and rich history and was an important hub for transport and defense during ancient times. One of the most iconic landmarks in Korat is the Thao Suranaree monument, which celebrates a legendary heroine who played a crucial role in defending the city against the invading enemy armies in the early 19th century.
Thao Suranaree, also known as Lady Mo, was a wise and brave woman who became the commander in chief of the city's army after her husband was taken captive by the enemy. Visitors can learn more about her heroism and contribution to the region of Isaan by visiting the statue in person, which is located in the heart of the city's downtown area.
The Ancient City of Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima
Located in the heart of Nakhon Ratchasima province is the historical wonder of Phimai. This mysterious and ancient city was once the capital of the ancient empire of the Khmer. The city is surrounded by magnificent sandstone walls and has several fascinating architectural sites.
The Phimai historical park is the city's most popular attraction, and it is home to the ancient Khmer temple, which has been carefully preserved and restored. Visitors can walk around the temple grounds, explore its intricate details, and find themselves transporting back in time to the era of the Angkor Empire.
Isaan is an incredibly diverse and culturally-rich region of Thailand that's packed with tales and legends, breathtaking landscapes, and ancient temples. It's the perfect destination for adventurers and daring explorers who want to immerse themselves in authentic Thai culture. From spooky ghost festival celebrations, majestic Buddhist temples, and ancient archeological sites, Isaan is a big bag of surprises waiting to welcome you.