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Khon Kaen and its surroundings, Issan’s culture

Khon Kaen and its surroundings, Issan’s culture

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Khon Kaen

To go to Khon Kaen, i took a night bus leaving Uttaradit at 10:30 pm to arrive at 5 am, it’s a dynamic city in the region of the Issan, the heart of Thai agricultural / culture. Pox a friend, born here, joined me two days later. The town itself is nothing special, it is located at the edge of a lake, a pyramidal temple stands on the river’s bank, the Phra Mahathat Khaen Nakhon. The wind jingles thousands of bells, hanging on throughout the whole structure.

Suan Mon, the turtles’ village

Approximately 60 km far from Khon Kaen, the village of Suan Mon, also called “Turtle Town” is a peaceful place, over 2000 of these charming terrestrial reptiles wander there, grazing foliages or vegetables given by the locals. During the day, they avoid exposure to direct sunlight, but still, you can easily see them. The village is very flowery, some gardens show efforts of aesthetics, not so common in Thailand. BUT … the most important : here, the dogs are smiling, too …………

At the entrance of the village, a revered temple is dedicated to turtles, a mixture of Animists and Buddhism, prevalent in Thailand.

Two days at Aom’s place.

It’s time to join Aom, a friend who lives in Kham Muang, a village 100 km north of Khon Kaen. She is a “craftsman”, and she makes traditional dresses with cotton and silk. She and her family live in a modest/small farm, her father cultivates rice around the place.
It’s with a tremendous pleasure that i finally meet her, along with Pox. The accommodation and life, on the ground, is both simple yet pleasant, no frills … and removals in this country must be a real blessing !!!
Here is a classic interior, with the inevitables photos of King Rama IX, displayed on the wall, he is just below revered Buddha, by almost 100% of Thais, the regime has allowed the country never to be colonized, a great pride for all the people. He is now 85 years old and is the world’s richest king.

Early in the morning, it’s the preparation of Khin Khao (Khin = eat and Kao = rice), we will take it to the rice fields and will enjoy eating it with the family. Sausages, cut and grilled, fried vegetables, various herbs and sauces will go with the rice. Well .. it did blaze seriously !

Dawn’s glimmers wake up the little village, it does not take long to come alive, it’s time for the Monks’ alms, people expect their passage on the road to give them their daily food. Pox waters Aom’s organic vegetable garden before and because the sun hits so quickly the area.

A man goes by and releases two roosters in the courtyard opposite Aom’s house, he takes time to ckeck on the two “lads”, they are fit for a fight of ten minutes. For me, it’s the first time, ever, and i have just enough time to grab my camera, their gesture really makes you think of two men fighting, it is both fascinating and cruel, the eyes become fixed and sweat an infinite hatred.


We join Aom’s father, crossing fields of sugar cane. He is busy binding the harvested rice in small bundles, this allows another group to pick them up to take them to the shelling machine (seen before in the post: “Around Umphang”). The rice is then dried up 2 or 3 days in the sun on some very large nylon cloths, then it is put in big bags before being taken to the place where it will be stored.

It’s now 8 am, breakfast time ! Most Thais do not eat when waking up, only a few hours later. We taste Aom’s cuisine in the bamboo shelter, near the rice field.

In the afternoon, we go with Aom, to Dong Mueang Am, another village, and with it’s chief, we discover the local breeding of silkworms, the famous mulberry (bombyx du murier). Two sweet old ladies are focusing on raising caterpillars, from eggs, after 4/5 moultings, the caterpillars will spin a cocoon and pupate comfortably. The local species weave bright orange cocoons, in the first stage, the caterpillars are simply placed in a large wicker tray, a larger one after the third moulting, it’s a large wicker spiral with demarcations, a true “Olympic field”. They are stored away from the light and the place is well protected by large screens/mosquitos nets, to avoid predators especially birds, of course. The cocoons are collected and immersed in boiling hot water in a metal jar, topped with a summary spinning wheel to obtain silk balls.

In Issan, they also manufacture reeds’ mats from what we call en France “false papyrus”( Cyperus Alternifoliusane), aquatic grass, often seen in florist shops and garden centers.

Aom’s aunt uses her loom, daily.

Late afternoon, Aom poses with humor and self-deprecating in the village’s train station, in a zoo and in the rice fields, wearing a cotton outfit of her own design.

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One comment

  1. I love turtles…. a village dedicated for turtles…. shows love and compassion in the hearts of the people….

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Khon Kaen and its surroundings, Issan’s culture

par Stéphane Bidouze time to read: 6 min