Tag Archives: Isan

New gateways

For a long time I used to walk into a monastery compound without taking much notice of the gateway I had just walked through. Much like most other people, I suspect. But nowadays I am possibly as interested in the gateways as I am in what lies beyond them.

So as this blog (or at any rate, this new incarnation of an old blog) has a special page allocated to gateways, and as gateways may be the first we know of the presence of a temple or monastery, I am going to begin with a post about gateways. A post about new gateways, in fact.

The first is one I discovered in a nearby village just a few days ago and I re-visited it with a camera earlier today.

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Wat Saeng Thong, Ban Na Sabaeng, Phana District,

Amnat Charoen Province

The gateway itself is impressive, but I particularly like the way that it frames the large Buddha image at the far end of the compound.

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There is another side gate still uncompleted, very close to this main one. Here are the craftsmen at work completing the decoration .

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So today I was lucky to see a gateway newly completed and another being worked on by a friendly gang of craftsmen. A few days ago I stopped on  my way to Ubon Ratchathani tp photograph a new gateway that has been standing in the same unfinished state for more than a month now. I suspect that more money is needed here!

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Wat Pharoj, Ban Pharoj, Muang Samsip District

Ubon Ratchathani Province

Phra That Yakhu, Kalasin

Only a kilometer or two from Wat Po Chai Semaram is a large open space dominated by this chedi known as Phra That Yakhu. When the ancient city of Muang Dafaet Songyang was destroyed, this chedi was left standing, suggesting that it was particularly revered. The assumption is that it contains the ashes of an important monk or perhaps of more than one person.

As the Tourist Authority suggests in the notice pictured above, the chedi displays evidence of being built in three quite distinct periods.

There are the remains of other chedi in the area around, all of them within the boundary walls of the ancient city.

This shrine is of a much more recent date. It is quite typical of the sort of ‘clutter’ that accumulates at popular shrines.

But this old tree is also revered.  Ancient trees such as this, or the remains of such a tree, are often decorated like this and people come to pay respect to the spirit that is thought to reside here.

There are visitors here on any day, mostly families who have driven here. The large open space in front of the chedi is also used for certain ceremonies, and the annual rocket festival in May is held here by the villagers, attracting visitors from nearby towns and provinces.

Temple Museum at Kasemsima

The temple museum at Kasemsima was a real find, though we didn’t find  it ourselves. A Phana friend who lives and works in Trakan Phutphon (Ubon Ratchathani Province) took us there.

The temple-museum is located in the village of Kasemsima Muang Gow, in Tambon Kasem, Amphur Trakan Phutphon, Changwat Ubon Ratchanthani. From Trakan, drive 3 kms north-east on route 2050 towards Khemmarat, then fork left towards Kut Khao Pun. Drive through Ban Kasemsima, cross the small river and turn right into Ban Kasmsima Muang Gow.

Wat Kasemsamran, Development Wat of the Year 2540 (1997)

 The wat itself is very modest. The kutis are old and wooden like this group of three:

Kuti, Wat Kasemsamran

The ubosot is very old,  faded, almost neglected in appearance. Yet it is also very unusual. Despite the name of the village, this ubosot has no sima  or boundary marker-stones. When I mentioned this to the abbot he said they had ‘disappeared’ many years ago. I said that presumably the luk nimit were still in place, but he surprised me by saying that this was a Lao temple and the custom of burying luk nimit was Thai. The temple was founded in BE 2291 (1748) so it is old but not as old as Wat Phra Lao Thepnimit in Phana.

Ubosot, Wat Kasemsamran

But it is the museum that people come to see and that is housed in a magnificent new purpose-built building.

Museum entrance, Wat Kasemsamran

 Some of the exhibits in this excellent museum will appear in a slideshow in the next post.

Daytime Rail Travel between Bangkok and Ubon

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Ubon Ratchathani Railway Station, a pleasant place to arrive

Ubon Ratchanthani Railway Station is a little unusual in that it is not located in the Provincial City. Instead it is found south of the River Mun in Warin Chamrap,  a District Town (amphur/อำเภอ) in Ubon Ratchathani Province. White bus (songthaew) #2 serves the Ubon railway station , running along Chayangkul Road and Upparat Road and then crossing the Ratanakosin Bridge over the River Mun , so it is convenient for all the hotels except perhaps the Laitong and the Tohsang, which are further off the main streets. It is a pleasant place to arrive or to depart from if you have to head towards Bangkok.

British-built steam engine formerly used on the Bangkok - Ubon line

Ubon Ratchathani Railway Station

Ticket counter Ubon Railway Station

The railway station itself has a range of useful facilities and there are plenty of helpful signboards in English. On the platform there is a range of refreshment available, mostly noodles but also grilled chicken on sticks and sticky rice as well as small bags of sharp, sweet, sticky tamarind, fruit, ice creams, bottled water, soft drinks, beer and Thai whisky. There are more food stalls outside, across the road and to the right as you leave.

Waiting in the shade at Ubon Railway Station

Also on the platform is a magazine stall which usually has copies of the Bangkok Post plus cigarettes and toiletries. In the main entrance lobby there is an ATM.

Leave the main building and turn right and you will find the toilet block which is fairly basic but kept clean by the attendant who collects 3 Baht for use of a toilet and 10 Baht for a shower. She also sells toilet paper at 10 Baht a roll, and toiletries. Close to the toilet block is a room with the sign ‘Leave Baggage’ which is open from 06.00 to 19.00 daily, charging 10 Baht for each piece of baggage left there. There are coin-operated telephone call boxes close by and another line of them on the other side of the main entrance, but none of them seem to be set up for international calls.

As well as the songtaew, there are tuk-tuks waiting at the station and unmarked taxis. Usually the men offering you ‘taxi’ will in fact mean a tuk-tuk.

Iconic imge of Ubon outside the railway station

Sleeping by train to and from Ubon Ratchathani

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Ubon Ratchathani National Museum

The Ubon Ratchathani National Museum is located on the corner of Khuanthani Road and Upparat Road, adjacent to the Tung Sri Muang park. The building itself was built in 1918 and was originally used as the offices of the Governor of the province. A new Sala Klang (Provincial Hall) was built in 1968 and in 1983 the then Governor presented the original building to the Fine Arts Department for restoration and use as a museum. HRH Princess Sirindhorn presided over the inauguration ceremony on 30th June 1989.

Ubon Ratchathani National Museum

The building itself is most attractive. A series of rooms surrounds a large central hall containing Buddha images, which is used on occasion as a lecture hall. Either side of this hall are two rectangular garden areas. An internal verandah separates the rooms from the central hall and gardens. This layout results in a shady, cool, quiet ambience that suits very well the new purpose of the building, and the polished teak and fretwork designs that decorate the top of door-frames and pillars are themselves significant cultural artefacts.

Wooden bell in internal garden area

Outside the main building is an open-sided sala housing three large sema stones dating from the 8th—9th centuries AD, a long dugout boat, and a huge iron ‘road-scraper’ from the late 19th century.

Everyone will have their own idea as to the highlights of the main exhibition, but there are some particularly important exhibits, all of which were found in Ubon Ratchathani Province (although some were found in what are now Amnat Charoen and Yasothon — provinces which were created at a later date).

Sandstone Buddha Image with gilt lacquer

Amongst the most important items on view here are a bronze kettle drum that is more than 2,000 years old, pottery found in Amphur Phana that is more than 1,500 years old, sema stones from the 8th and 9th centuries, an image of Shiva mixed with his consort Uma (9th century AD), a sandstone Ganesa image from the 10th century AD, delicate Buddha images in the Lao style from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as  photographs from the end of the 19th century.

Ganesa (Ganesh), sandstone image

 

The museum is open on Wednesdays through Sundays, but closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and national holidays. Opening hours are from 9am to 4pm. The admission fee is 30 Baht.

Photography is not allowed inside the museum, but if you  wish to take photographs you can apply to the Director by asking at the ticket counter. Permission will be allowed or refused  immediately and involves a certain amount of form-filling.

Sadly, the National Museum here is not as well patronised as it deserves to be, but the upside of that is that it is a quiet, restful place where you will find it easy to spend time looking at the nicely varied exhibition.