Friday, December 28, 2012

Mekong River's ecology and its influence on livelihoods

Most small riverside communities along the Mekong River rely on mixed economy of agricultur and fisheries. These two subsistence activities dominate the  live along the river; and are directly linked to the Mekong's ecology.

Families and livelihoods along the river depend on the river and its resources. Families need the income and food generated through activities such as fisheries and gardening. For most people in the Mekong basin, livelihoods are complex, and often include a mixture of employment income, as well as subsistence farming or fishing activities such as growing food or fishing.

The activities undertaken by households vary seasonally. The Mekong River ecology, and in particular the seasonal flood-pulse and the dry season, determines how these activities vary throughout the year. At times rice-farming dominates the activities, while at other times, fishing is more important.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nong Khai's Naga - a strong symbol and deity of the Mekong River

Guardian deity of the Mekong River and its people. Rooted in many legends and stories from the past, the Naga is still one of the most important symbols of the Lao and Isaan culture.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lam Thakong Dam

Lam Takhong Dam was constructed in 1974 and is an embankment dam on the Lam Takhong River. 

The dam is situated between Pak Chona and Sikhiu districts in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Isaan.

The dam's purpose was to retain water for irrigation and water supply. After 2002 the stored water also serves as the reservoir for the Lam Takhong Pumped Storage Power Plant, the first plant one of this kind in Thailand.

Along the highway number 2 there are a few restaurants overlooking the dam. They offer typical Isaan food such as gai yang (BBQ chicken), somtam (papaya salad) and all sorts of fish.... of course served with khao nio (sticky rice).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Revered Buddha Phra Serm at Wat Pathumwanaram Rajaworavihara

Wat Pathumwanaram Rajaworavihara (Wat Srapathum ) is situated on Rama I Road in Bangkok, between the Central World Shopping Mall and the Siam Paragon Shopping Center. The Wat was build during the same time as the Srapathum Palace. King Rama IV ordered the construction of the temple as a gift for Queen Thepsirin.

Wat Pathumwanaram houses important Buddha images - the revered Phra Serm and Phra Saen.

Legends say that the three daughters of Setthathirath (*), the King of Lane Xang, commissioned three personal Buddha images. Theses images were believed to reflect the faces of the three daughters of the king. All of them were given names relating to the names of the three princesses, Phra Serm, Phra Souk and Phra Sai.

The three revered Buddha images were originally housed in Vientiane, Laos sleepy capital on the opposite Mekong Riverside, around 20 km of Nong Khai. However, around 200 years ago, the images were brought to Thailand during the invasion of Laos through the troupes of Rama III, King of Siam.

In a stormy night, Phra Souk fell in to the Mekong River while in transit to Nong Khai. The two surviving and remaining Buddha images were placed in Nong Khai's Wat Pho Chai and Wat Ho Klong. King Rama IV ordered, that the image of Phra Serm should be taken to Bangkok.

While Phra Sai was left at Wat Pho Chai in Nong Khai, Phra Serm was placed at Wat Pathumwanaram Rajaworavihara in  Bangkok. A visit to this most revered Buddha is rewarding and interesting alike. Wat Pathumwanaram Rajaworavihara is on the Rama I Road, near Siam Square...

More info: The story of Phra Sai, a much revered Buddha image in Nong Khai

* Setthathirath (Lao: ເສດຖາທິຣາດ; 1534–1572) is one of the greatest leaders and kings in Lao history. He successfully defended the kingdom of Lan Xang against the Burmese conquerors.

Setthathirath erected many Buddhist monuments in Laos and Isaan, including the famous Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang and the Phra That Luang stupa in Vientiane.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Four airlines serve the city-pairs: Thai Airways, Lao Airlines, Lao Central Airline and Bangkok Airways

Bangkok Airways intensifies race on Vientiane route -

Normal round trip fares between Bangkok and Vientiane cost around 12'000 Baht, or if one wants to fly cheaper and doesn't mind to do some parts of the trip on the road, Thai Air Asia offers several daily flights to Udon Thani. Thai Air Asia offers round trips around 3'500 Baht.

A bus to the border at Nong Khai or even Vientiane is between 200 and 300 Baht... A good, reliable and low cost option...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ceremony to mark progress on 4th Thai-Lao Friendship bridge

4th Mekong River bridge between Laos and Thailand - Ceremony marks bridge progress :

Friday, December 7, 2012

Northeastern Thai Buddhist Art

The Pullman Hotel G at the Silom Road in Bangkok presents Northeastern Thai Buddhist Art from Songrit Muaiprom. This is the artists first exhibition.

Songrit Muaiprom grew up in Thailand's Northeast also known as Isaan, an arid area with great historical value. This area of Thailand is well known for its welcoming and friendly people.

About the Artist
Songrit Muaiprom as many Thai males was an ordained and practicing Buddhist monk for more than 8 years. When he discovered his talent for arts he decided to choose a path where he could express the cultural heritage of Buddhism. Songrit graduated with a Master’s Degree in Thai Art from Silpakorn University.

You can visit the exhibition, without charge. Located at Gallery 36 on the 36th floor of Pullman Bangkok Hotel G, Silom Road. Open daily from 10:00 – 19:00 hrs.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Controversial dam project in Laos

Laos has approved a controversial dam project to dam the Mekong River near Xayaburi - even though the project has been widely criticized by environmentalists, neighboring countries, especially Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam who fear that the dam will negatively affect downstream riverside communities and their livelihoods.

Laos project is the first one to dam the lower Mekong River. China put already 4 dams in place in the upper Mekong River area.

There are 10 more dams planned so far on the lower Mekong River basin. The Mekong River is Southeast Asia's longest river and a rich source of fish, a cultural inspiration, way of transportation and source of life.

My own blog entries on the Mekong River:
Nong Khai's aquarium - a closup look at the Mekong River fish
Going Upriver and Back in Time in Laos
Mekong Sunset... in Pak Khat
Khonephapheng waterfall in Southern Laos Sipandone area
Lush river life... some impressions...
Mekong Sunset... Luang Prabang
Mekong River bank erosion in Vientiane
Sunrise over the Mekong
Naga Fireballs in Laos and Isaan along the Mekong...
Mekong "Mae Nam Khong" - the Mother Khong

Article on Bangkok Post from 06/11/2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Buriram back on Nok Air's flight map

During last year's flooding of parts of Bangkok and Don Mueang Airport Nok Air stopped its services to Buriram. Nok Air announced that they will start again to operate 3 flights a week (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday).

Other destinations in Isaan operated by Nok Air are:
Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani

Nok Air operates also flights to Vientiane, Lao PDR capital.

For more information on Nok Air's schedule and to book flights, please go to

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Som tam - Thailand's Green papaya salad

Spicy green papaya salad or "som tam" is a typical Isaan or northeaster Thai dish - loved by locals for its delicious, refreshing spiciness. The dish is well know in neighboring Laos as 'tam mak hoong' and as 'bok l'hong' in Cambodia. 

Som Tam is listed as number 6 on World's 50 most delicious foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.

The spicy green papaya salad combines all for different tastes - sour (lime), spicy (dired chili), salty (fermented fish sauce) and sweetness (sugar and sometimes fruits).

All ingredients are chopped in pieces and added to a mortar where they are pounded and mixed - "som tam" translates as "sour pounded" while the Lao and Khmer name translates into pounded papaya.

As green papaya is used for the dish, the overall taste is rather sour than sweet with a lovely crispy and crunchy texture - a dish like heaven in the tropical climate of Southeast Asia...

It is not uncommon to be asked or offered to try a little in order to prepare the dish to your liking. While in central Thailand locals referred to the salad as "som tam Thai" or "som tam" in Laos or Isaan people use the term Lao. But careful - unlike "som tam Thai" - "som tam Lao or tam mak hoong" comes with an additional ingredient - fermented fish sauce - a taste of its own.

True lovers would not dare to eat this salad without fermented fish sauce, but for beginners the taste might be  strong and take a while to get familiar with to say the least...

While in Bangkok's restaurants customers will usually get "som tam Thai", in Bangkok's road it is better to expects it's Lao/Isaan variation - usually prepared by immigrants from upcountry. This traditional Lao/Isaan style green papaya salad is a good as it can get. Beware of chili's! Expect lots of them...


  • the most important one : fresh, raw and green papaya
Add to the papaya slices some or most of the following items, make sure you pound them well:
  • Chili
  • Sugar (traditionally palm sugar)
  • Garlic
  • Lime
  • Fish sauce
  • Crabs
  • Shrimp paste
  • Pla ra / padaek (fermented fish sauce)
  • Tomatoes
  • Yardlong beans
  • Hog Plums
  • Raw Thai eggplant

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bueng Kan connected - 5th Mekong bridge planned

Bung Kan will get connected to Laos Bolikhamsay province through a 1.5 kilometre, 1.5 billion baht Friendship bridge..

According to Bung Kan's Governor Pornsak Jearanai, should the construction of the bridge begin within the next three years. "The Thai cabinet has approved the project and the governments of both countries have agreed in principle to have the fifth bridge built."

The 5th Friendship bridge will be built about 12 km east of the center of Buneg Kan and will link the province with the capital of Bolikhamxay Paksan.

It is expected, that once the bridge is open trade will increase between the two countries from the present 5.4 billon baht to some 24 billion baht. This would be a similar level as the trade volume of the 1st Thai - Lao Friendship bridge in Nong Khai and Vientiane.

The Bung Kan Friendship bridge will shorten the traveling distance from Thailand to Vietnam considerably, thus also boost cross border, holiday and business traffic between the three countries: Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

This will allow Bung Kan to become a bridge head into Indochina and Chine.

Other Friendship bridges are:

  • 1st Thai - Lao Friendship bridge: Nong Khai (TH) - Vientiane (LAO), 1'170m (0.73 mi) long, the bridge has two lanes, two footpaths and a single 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) gauge railway line in the middle of the bridge.
  • 2nd  Thai - Lao Friendship bridge: Mukdahan (TH) - Savannakhet (LAO), 1'600 meters (1.0 mi) long and 12 meters (39 ft) wide, with two traffic lanes.
  • 3rd Thai - Lao Friendship bridge: Nakhon Phanom (TH) - Thakhek (LAO), 1'423 m long and 13 m wide.
  • 4th Thai - Lao Friendship bridge: Chiang Khong (TH) - Houay Xay (LAO), proposed bridge...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stay in Style - The One Hotel in Bueng Kan

During the yearly renewal of my Visa Extension I had the opportunity to stay at The One hotel - Muang Bueng Kan's most recent hotel addition.

The five-story hotel offers 74 superior and deluxe rooms along with 5 The One Suites, right at the entrance of the town, close to the new Tesco Lotus shopping mall and the City Hall of Bueng Kan.

The brand new modern rooms are spacious, bright and nicely decorated and offer all required amenities. The One Hotel has a restaurant, fitness center, meeting facilities, pool, poolside bar and garden.

The One Hotel is an ideal place to stay while in Bueng Kan.

The One hotel is at 59 moo1 Bueng Kan - Nakhon Phanom Rd., Bueng Kan, Muang Bueng Kan, Bueng Kan, Thailand 38000

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bueng Kan - 77. and newest province of Thailand - my home province

Bueng Kan (Thai: บึงกาฬ) is the 77th province of the Kingdom of Thailand, established last year 2554 (2011) on and from March 23, 2011. The province of Bueng Kan, consisting of the districts partitioned off from Nong Khai Province, is situated along the Mekong River in the northeastern region of the country, called Isaan. The province is named after its central district, Mueang Bueng Kan.

The province is subdivided into 8 districts (Amphoe). The districts are further subdivided into 54 subdistricts (tambon) and 599 villages (muban).

The districts are:
  • Mueang Bueng Kan
  • Phon Charoen
  • So Phisai
  • Seka
  • Pak Khat
  • Bueng Khong Long
  • Si Wilai
  • Bung Khla
Tourist attractions include:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Phimai Historical Park - Isaan's Khmer Trail

The Phimai Historical Park (Thai: ปราสาทหินพิมาย)  located in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima province hosts one of the most important Khmer temples of Thailand.
The temple is believed to be build on the ends of an ancient Khmer highway from Angkor, nowadays Siem Reap in Cambodia, leading to the Khorat plateau.

The temple ruin area of Wat Phimai is similar in size as that of Angkor Wat. Phimai was an important temple, build in the late 11th to the late 12th century. In the same era temples as Baphuon, Bayon and Angkor were build. Interestingly, even though the Khmer were Hindu, Phimai was built as a Buddhist temple, as Buddhism in the Lao dominated Khorat area dated back to the 7th century.

The French geographer Etienne Aymonier was the first one to make an inventory of the temple in 1901. Later Phimai became a Historical Park, managed by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand. The Park was opened by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on April 12, 1989.

To reach Prasat Hin Phimai from the city of Khorat, head north along Highway 2 for 50 kilometers. Turn right and follow a sign to the Phimai Historical Park. 10 kilometers further down the Highway 206, you'll arrive at the town. From Khon Kaen it's about 120 kilometers south on Highway 2, take a left turn and follow Highway 206 until you reach Phimai town.