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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tourism in Thailand Isaan or is it?

Thirawat Hospital
I am doing a bit of preliminary work on some things I will be doing soon in Kalasin.
So doing a search for "Arts, Culture and Tourism Promotion Centre Kalasin", I came up with a large number of hits, my favorite being this one "This is an information centre in Thirawat Hospital and provides knowledge to those interested in local arts and culture of Kalasin. There are displays of the way of life of locals and people in the Northeast, as well as local products for sale." that can be found here. Now I know that tourismthailand is another name for TAT. Here boys and girls comes the, oh well, sort of, point of this whole thing "IT HAS BEEN CLOSED FOR YEARS" Take a look at the number of places that still list the thing.
Thepsuda Bridge
This bridge has been there for,. Never mind you try to figure it out, go ahead do a google search. It is the LONGEST BRIDGE IN THILAND. Does everyone out there only copy and paste. Have any of those people ever been in the field. Look here. My point is "IS anyone out there really interested in promoting tourism in thailand. My "Welcome to Mahasrakham" (a travel guide will be out shortly and everyplace has been visited by me. When I felt more was needed I returned. Whatever I need a beer

Wat Thung Setthi, New Chedi and more in khonkaen

Wat Thung Setthi is in the southeast section of greater Khon Kaen just inside the ring road. It is a little place that is dusty and dirty. I was surprised to see a walking meditation path, but not surprised to see it wad junk on it and had not been used in some time. My question is why is this chedi and other unnecessary "shrinery" going in? I think I have finally come to understand "Thai Buddhism" as opposed to Buddhism., It like the country is all about face and nothing about substance. When I saw the wat where they are building the worlds largest Ajaan Mun statue I was pretty sure the plot was gone here. Driving beyond rural Isaan and finding the huge statues dedicated to a penniless beggar who spent his life explaining suffering, it's causes and the release from suffering I know now that very few have a clue. It's lucky the famous monks are cremated otherwise the noise of them spinning in their graves would be deafening.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baan Phaeng, Mahasarakham, Wat Chaiprasit Murals (mobile)

I Have added The sedge mat village to the Mahasarakham Map. I went to recheck some data and to try to follow a sign just before the lake which points to a "Mat Factory", which I am now 90% convinced does not exist.
I stumbled upon this wat and very congenial Jao a wat (abbot)who they call loong paw (uncle) who is a few years younger than me. On the 3rd floor is a thatched house made of concrete with these murals showing village life centered around, Buddhism, Sedge Grass for the Mats and Silk.
I would suggest that this area is easily a couple hour visit, more if you stop at the lake for a meal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dun Lamphan No-hunting area, Amphor Na Chueak, Mahasarakham, Isaan 23.05.11

Dun Lamphan No-hunting area is also home to the mealy crab and a very interesting nature walk. Part of it is a peat bog forest and part of the area deciduous dipterocarp forest. I know case I read it, so I hope the sign was right. Not like the sign with the North pointing arrow realy pointing west. An yes I need a compass when I go to many of the places I do in Isaan. This wih the Sites in Na Dun make for a nice day trip.
Also click on the title to see the location in Picasa Web

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ku Ban Daeng, mahasarakham, isaan, 23.05.11

Ku Ban Daeng, Amphor Wapi Patum, Mahasarakham, is a Mahayana temple built by the Khmer Empire in the 13th century A.D.. There were 3 laterite buildings facing east, 1 still stands today, with 1 gone and 1 a pile of stones. You can still see the lintel showing Buddha sheltered by the Naga at the middle. Avalokitesvara and Prajaparmita on the left.
The Fine Arts Department declared the registration of Ku Ban Daeng in the Royal Gazette on 8 March 1935 and decleared the territory of the site 4rai 2ngam 15 march 1983.
This site is certainly worth a visit if heading North after a Visit to the Na Dun area.
click on the title to view mapped photos in picasa web.
This is another of those sites that while it might have made the Royal Gazette, is not worthy of a TAT listing

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hin Rong, Khon Kaen 23.05.11

I found this location in one of the many road atlases I have. Nothing about it anywhere. I knew it could not be a tourist destination since our premier, award winning Tourism Association of Thailand aka TAT does not list it anywhere. Anyhow I was amazed. These are really footprints, this is way more awesome than dinosaur footprints. "Hin" is stone and the spelling of "rong" equals crack; rut; ditch; hole or niche; cubbyhole; nook; corner. Wat Pa Hin Rong is a quite place using solar power, whic alone should make this a tourist destination. It is a Mahanikaya Kamatha Wat with obligatory Ajaan Mun images.
You can click on the title of this post to view an album map.

Monday, May 23, 2011

faces of Wat Baan Jaan Samakee, khonkaen, mobile faces, 23.05.11

I have not seen this wat listed anywhere and it has just made number 2 on my list of weirdest wats. I will will be back for a long chat, as I had little time today. It also has a huge Buddha image and more being built, but for now this is about the faces. If anyone has any information about this wat near kranuan in khon kaen please pass it on. also click on the title to see the album geotagged location

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Morning walk, Beung Kaen Nakhon, Khon Kaen, 22.05.11

 You can click on the post title to see the photo locations



 Strolling around the lake this morning I took a different route and one of the first things I noticed wascurb that seems to be a nightly dormitory for a number of beung dogs. I don't know how many dogs live "on the beung", but it is bunches of them. Not 2 dozen bunches, but at leat 1 dozen bunches.

There are a number of sites where early morning aerobics happen. Well maybe not "a number", but 2 for sure. Now as the "warming up" and "cooling down" thingies are such a part of aerobics I would think that these folks could have parked 30 meters away in legal parking areas, as opposed to this illegal area, which is the closest point to park to get to aerobics.


Sunrise is always great, sunrise anywhere at my age

Wow, lovely green water

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Khon Kaen Singha Park Golf 20.05.11

The course can be accessed from Khon Kaen town by driving South to Highway 208, which is the 2d traffic light after the ring road. Turn left and proceed just a bit over 4.5 kilometers. You will pass a small sign on your left saying it is 5 kilometers to the course, which may be correct but from the sign it is only about 3.5 to the turn at the access road to the course. There are small signs, but not the usual bells and whistles. What I am saying is that is not difficult to miss. I you reach a dual carriageway (4 lane) section you will have passed it-U-Turn.
It is a beautiful course will full amenities, but no lodging at this time. To me the best 18 hole course in Isaan remains the EGAT course at Ubol Rattana Dam. THis couse while probably the best maintained and perhaps the most difficult looks boring. No terrain to enjoy. The tee boxes, not the score card show hole diagrams. I like pictures. The caddies well dressed, everything at this course is about face. Their website has a plan of sorts. Click on the title of this post to view me Google Map "Isaan Golf"
Everything about this course shout "FACE" to me  I will do a new EGAT course
post soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mahasarakham Today 20.05.11 and Singha Park Golf too in Isaan

Click on the title to see the album, complete with map locations or just view the album for a first look at my travels through mahasarakham today. This includes a quick stop at the "Singha Golf Park" in Khon kaen before moving on to the geographic center of isaan and more. Coming soon the rest of the story in mahasarakham

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mahasarakham, Isaan, no time to monkey around

Today I traveled only 144 kilometers, in 8 hours. 4 of those hours were moving the other 4 I spent either photographing, lost, or on the side of the road trying to figure out how TAT or other travel blogs got their information from.
As a matter of fact the folks in these photos at Kosamphi Forest Park might well be a bit too bright for the aforementioned sites. These are geotagged so can go to the album and view the location

Mahasarakham off the Grid with TAT, Tourism Authority of Thailand

The Khon Kaen office of TAT is responsible for Khon Kaen, Mahasarakham, Kalasin and Roi-Et Provinces. The produce a brochure or tourist guide for each of these Provinces 10cm wide by 21 cm tall. And signposts throughout the area should help tourists find the sights.
In this post I want to discuss 2 sites and a problem that is endemic to tourism in the Isaan Region. It may be endemic throughout Thailand, but I only travel Isaan.
The embedded album can be seen with in a map by clicking on it to open in Picasa web album or simply click on the title of this post.
The Pottery Village as you can read is a TAT site. Look at the location of the sign pointing to Ku Ban Khwao. THis would be an idea point to put a sign to the Pottery Village. As a matter of fact the lane leading to the village might be a bit of help as well. But, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls , there are NO signs in the area leading to the Pottery Village.
Next TAT lists Ku Mahathat, as you can read, in the brochure, the sign points to  Ku Ban Khwao and, oh by the way it is also known as Prang Ku, which is all rather pointless as there is no sign on the highway to point you down the road to the place.
I will tackle the Phra That Na Dun question in another post.
The point of this whole exercize is yes you can get information from TAT, but of what use is it?
My ebook on Mahasarakham will be out soon will everything geotagged. You decide what is of any use.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vesakha Puja, Khan kaen, Wats Phra Tat and at Mahathat Kaen Nakhon, Wat Nang Waeng

Wat That and wat nong waeng vesakha puja. As I hope you saw, I shot photos at these 2 temples. Here are the DSLR shots from the both of them. Hope you enjoy.
Once again click on the up arrow in the lower right hand corner of the album to view full size

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vesakha Puja, 14 Khong in Isaan

khong means customs, laws, rules
I don't see anything about no beer, but DO NOT have sex today.
It appears that the western bars and restaurants are all closed today and all Thai establishments open.
Me being a good Buddhist will refrain from sex while drinking beer.,



The Fourteen Laws for commoners includes the following:

First, after harvesting new rice or new fruits, offer them to holy personages first before consuming them and distributing them among relatives.

Second, do not cheat the balance of the scale, do not lend money for interest, and do not utter vulgar or indecent language.

Third, after erecting the house posts and walls, build a spirit house to worship guardian deities in all four directions.

Fourth, wash one's feet before ascending to the house.

Fifth, on holy days (the seventh or eighth and the fourteenth or fifteenth days of the lunar month) hold ceremonies to apologize to house bricks, kitchen, ladders, and doors of the house.

Sixth, wash one's feet before going to bed.

Seventh, on holy days, wives should take candles, incense sticks, and flowers to beg
apologies from their husbands and to present worshipping units to the monks.

Eighth, on the fifteenth day of the waxing and waning moon, invite monks to chant in the house and offer food to them.

Ninth, when monks come to take alms, do not let them wait. Do not touch the monks' bowls,do not touch the monks or novices, do not carry children, and do not carry any weapon when offering food to the monks.

Tenth, when monks take an annual penance, prepare trays of popped rice, flowers, candles, incense sticks, and other necessities for them.

Eleventh, when a monk is passing, sit down and wai before and while speaking to him.

Twelfth, do not step on the shadow of a monk or holy personage.

Thirteenth, do not offer left-over food to monks or husbands.

Fourteenth, do not have sexual intercourse on holy days, the first day and the last day ofBuddhist Lent, Songkran Day (Thai New Year's day which falls on April 13), and on one's birthday.

Mahasarakham University Museum 13.05.11

I finally found the Mahasarakham University Museum. As far as I have been able to determine, for some reason, this location has not appeared in any travel blog, or blog or TAT. It is a good stop for a number of reasons; 1st it is interesting and 2d it is never closed. Signs describing the buildings are both in Thai and English. If you are interested in traditional Isaan housing types the place is worth a couple hour visit. The small animal park is a small bonus.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Isaan 12 traditions, heet sipsong 17 May 2011 Vesaka Puja

In the sixth lunar month, the following ceremonies and rites should be practiced. Celebration of  (Thai Wisakhabucha Day) Vesaka Puja(the anniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and nirvana ). The  ceremony of pouring lustral water over revered and learned monks, the ploughing ceremony to mark the beginning of the rice planting season, and the construction of new houses or newlywed housing.Bun Bangfai (the rocket festival or fertility rite). It is believed that the shooting of the local bamboo (nowadays PVC) rockets in the sky is a signal for the rain god, Phya Thaen, to send rain to earth.  In this festival, the story of Phadaeng Nang Ai is told.

Luangta Maha Bua, Wat Tham Nok Aen 14.05.11

After Ajaan Mun died Luangta went off in search of a place to meditate. He arrived in Mukdaham. He arrived in Kham Cha-I District, Mukdahan Province and a few kilometers from town found a hilltop over a rock overhang cave that today is Wat Tham Nok Aen.
I arrived Saturday morning from Mukdahan and was welcomed by th 30 some local supporters. The regular sala is at the lowest level and has a modest car park. There is a stone stairway up to the next level, which is the cave, or rock overhang, which now houses a sala as well. And on top of the hill where luangta had his kuti a new sala is being constucted.
The site of luanta's original kuti is marked by a couple of stones.
There is 1 monk and 1 pakow in residence at this time. At this wat the same as Wat Hin Mak Ping we sat and chanted while the Bhikku Sangha ate the meal. This was really great on my knees, but a tradition that has become more and more rare.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

pottery village mahasarakham 13.05.11

Baan Maw, sign says Ban Mo is the pottery village in Mahasarakham where a particular type of pottey is made. This pot has a rounded bottom. I find some of the other villages in the Isaan area more interesting and producing more diverse set of products. A couple families in the village have branched out and as you can see are broadening their horizons, in the hope of attracting interest. The village, although listed in the TAT guide is not signposted. If you click on the title of this post it will take you to my Mahasarakham map, which includes other sites. The police icon shows sites I have not confirmed as well as locations I have found on other web sites and have found to be incorrect. I leave then there so that if you have seen them on other sites will know that they are incorrect.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Please westerners remember to wear proper attire when visiting religious sites














This sign should be in English as visitors are constantly reminded by Ministries such as Culure and the Interior that we must learn to conduct ourselves and present ourselves properly here in Thailand. Of course westerners cannot fully understand thai culture or Buddhism, guess we are not smart or wise enough
Anyhow the photo below speaks for itself . I f you are going to a temple or religious site follow the lead of the Thai people. And please do not tell me this is the exception to the rule as I see it constantly. Also this is only done with a phone cam and it does not do justice to the cleavage.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

wat udom khongkha kirikhet, khon kaen

Okay before you go any further do a google search for "wat udom khongkha kirikhet". The only entry that does not seem to be copied an pasted from the incorrect original is the one at tourismthailand, latough theirs might be copied from a place I have missed. First of all this is not "an elegant hill-top temple" There is a gaudy building as you eneter the wat, sort of a chedi, pagoda thingy with a big buddha statue in front. I guess you could call this ornate if you are into Elvis on velvet paintings. The wat (entire area inside the walls) is slowly decaying. Building get offered, built and not used. I will post DSLR photos soon. The photos in this post are geotagged
view the album below

TAT Khon Kaen, Area Rocket Festival List

TAT Khon Kaen posted some of the upcoming rocket festivals in the area .
I do know that this list is incomplete and will make updates as available


1. Phayakkaphumphisai Bun Bung Fai Festival, Amphoe Phayakkaphumphisai, Mahasarakham
   27 - 29  May, 2011, in front of the Phayakkaphumphisai District Office.

2. Kranuan Bun Bung Fai Festival, Amphoe Kranuan, Khon Kaen
   28 - 29 May, 2011, in front of the Kranuan District Office.

3.  Pathumrat Bun Bung Fai Festival, Amphoe Pathumrat, Roi Et
    1 - 3  June, 2011, in front of the Pathumrat District Office.

4. Suwannaphum  Bun  Bung Fai Festival, Amphoe Suwannaphum, Roi Et
   4 - 5  June, 2011  at  the Tao  Siang Monument, Suwarnnaphum, Roi Et

5. Phanom Phrai  Bun Bang Fai Festival, Amphoe Phanom Phrai, Roi Et
    16 -17  June, 2011, in front of the Phanom Phrai District Office.

For more information, please contact TAT Khon Kaen
    Tel : 0 4324 4498 - 9

the news inspired bit of spontaneous juggling

Monday, May 9, 2011

Khon Kaen skyline, beautiful from a distance



From Beung Kaen Nakhon the tiny Khon Kaen skyline looks fetching (did I say Fetching).
Wat That with it's huge ubosot and chedi in the foreground .
To the left the Hotel Royal Orchid and to the  right the Charoen Thani Princess.
But you might ask; what is that grand looking building that towers over then all?





Up close like many thing in Thailand this decrepit monstricity stands right smack-dab in the middle of the city. It must be a testament to something, beats the hell out of me what exactly.
Oh well it is the centerpiece of the Khon Kaen skyline like it or not.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tambon Office in Amphor Yang Talat, Changwat Kalaisin

With the opening of the golf course behind this office plenty of people will be getting a look at the new office. The sculptures directly in front of the building  are becoming quite common in the region. The rattan animals out toward the road are good for a laugh. The horses are definitely male. The Pong Lang is a symbol of the Province and this one works as well.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Golf Isaan, Yang Talat, Kalasin

On 21 May 2011 the new 18 hole golf course in the area will open with a tournament sponsored by the PAO (provincial administration office kalasin). As soon as I have contact and additional information I will post it. The course is located behind the new Tambon office,just past the weigh station on the dual carriage way from Khon Kaen to Kalasin. The existing clubhouse is quite small and basic, but may well expand soon.
This brings to 4 the number of 18 hole golf courses serving Khon Kaen, and makes the area the golf course capital of Isaan. I will be posting more on this subject in the near future. The photos in the album show the TAO office and sculptures, the clubhouse, 1st hole and 9th green.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thepsuda Bridge, Kalasin 05.05.11 (geotagged)

The bridge has been in existence for a number of years, but does not appear on any map that I have seen. Also called the Lampao Bridge. Until a veryshort time ago there was not a sign in Sahatsakan marking the road to the bride.For a bunch of photos and drawings "click here" and scroll down. When I get back to a faster connection and desktop I will try to get some of the Thai translated. The old ferries have been converted into restaurants and the folks seemed quite pleased. The bridge also opens up a number of tourist opportunities in the area and I will be posting my finds in the months to come.
"click here" to see the photos and locations in the picasa album and\or just enjoy the slide show here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Village Rocket Festival Parade

Village celebrations are, as I said earlier, Much more enjoyable than the big "sponsored" dog and pony shows. The tourism Authority here in Thailand likes to blame the ignorance of tourists for the degradation of tourist sites. But no one has caused the deterioration of these festivals more than TAT. Overcrowded cities without the infrastructure to service huge crowds become inundated along with price gouging, events that start more than an hour late, eventually drive away tourists and lead to bad PR.
Anyway the video below was filmed a fey years ago and remains a village event enjoyed by all. Hope you enjoy the video, just as I have over the years.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Isaan, Surin, Sisaket, Thailand, Cambodia. Who will report it, who will die.

And this button? Page in BKK
 Back in "The Day" I was fortunate enough to meet up with folks like, Page, Galloway, Halberstam, Katie Webb and more. Who documented war and the truth of war. Over the years the reported more than war, but one thing they had in common was (and in some cases still is) was the ability to keep opinion separate from their reporting. Something I see missing in much reporting today. I really don't give a shit what most reporters think, "I want to simply know; Who?, What? Where? and When?


Anyhow the following was sent to me by Galloway. I found it interesting and useful. I hope you do as well.






there was a discussion on another net group to which i belong, with a
few complaining that the deaths of these two photographers drew mega
media coverage while the deaths of poor libyans drew little or none.
which overlooks the fact that these two shooters and a whole host of
war correspondents are there precisely to report on those libyans and
their struggle.
it got my juices flowing and below is the response i posted last night:


I get your point. Mine would be that we need men and women who have
the courage to risk their lives, and sometimes give up their lives,
trying to get the stories and pictures and film that tells the truth
about that half a war in Libya, and all our wars, and try to inform a
public that seemingly does not care much about the wars today, or
about those we send to fight them.
From your post:

"However, these men were there on purpose and totally on their own volition."

That is pretty much what the people who don't really care about the
wars and who does the fighting say about our military....our volunteer
military. They like to underline that word "volunteer" and say that
whatever they get, including multiple and unending deployments to
combat, they asked for by signing up of their own volition. In other
words, it's okay with them so long as it's not their children or
grandchildren who are called to do so dangerous a job with so little
thanks and so little in the way of material reward. After all...."they
asked for it."

This may be true in both cases--different professions which share some
of the same dangers. Both go in harm's way because they have, in
effect, signed up for it. They have stepped forward with a purpose,
and after that it is a matter of doing your duty whether you are a
soldier or a war correspondent.
However, to me that is a callous way of looking at those charged with
defending our country and safeguarding our national security, as
defined by elected political leaders. It is also callous, in my view,
to similarly view that shrinking number of correspondents who
accompany the troops, or sometimes go ahead of them, in search of
stories and images that we hope will better inform an increasingly
aloof majority of citizens who have no skin in the game of modern war,
and little apparent interest in what happens so far away.
It was another time and the biggest war of all time, but Ernie Pyle
was a volunteer who chose the danger of covering the Infantry from as
far forward as he could get. When he was killed in the final months of
WWII, having shifted to the Pacific from Europe after VE Day of his
own volition, even though he was sick and tired and worn down by war
and its horrors, the entire nation mourned his loss and the loss of
his unique and straight-forward stories of the soldiers and Marines
who were still dying by the thousands.
It was a different country and a different people then. Nearly
everyone had a real stake in the war; nearly everyone had someone
among the 15 million wearing a uniform and fighting that war. They
cared deeply about the troops and they cared deeply about a skinny,
tired old reporter who could with his words make them love and mourn
an Infantry captain from a small town in Texas who died on a rocky
mountainside in Italy in the winter of 1944. Read: The Death of
Captain Waskow, January 1944, if you have never read that.
No one dared suggest that the troops who volunteered by the millions
in the weeks and months after Pearl Harbor were there of their own
volition and therefore we need not care as much about them. They were
there defending much of the world against some men and nations who
sought to dominate and "purify" that world by conquest and murder. No
one suggested that the outpouring of grief at the loss of Ernie Pyle
somehow took something away from all the other soldiers and civilians
who were among the 60 million who died in that war. Ernie was better
known than any other war correspondent of the time, and he was
certainly better loved and appreciated because he loved the Infantry
and took the risks, shared the risks, to tell the stories of ordinary
soldiers doing extraordinary things every day.
I'm glad I am of a generation where, when they said you were doing
something dangerous of your own volition, whether it be soldiering in
a war or reporting on a war, it was meant as high praise--not somehow
perjorative or a sign that your sacrifices were self-inflicted and,
thus, of lesser consequence than if you were accidentally done in on
I-95 by a speeding 18-wheeler. Or, God forbid, if somehow you had been
forced against your will to go fight or cover a war.
There was a time in this country when doing something so dangerous by
your own choice, your own volition, and "of a purpose" was seen as
both honorable and courageous, and something worth doing for the good
of the country.
In WWII, 54 war correspondents were killed out of 500 accredited by
the Pentagon to cover American forces at war. Hundreds more died
covering other armies during the war. They died by all the ways
possible in war: Bullets, bombs, artillery shells, flying on bomber
raids, in naval battles at sea. The only reporter chosen to cover the
Dieppe Raid was in the first wave to land and was among the first to
die.
During the war in Indochina, some 70 correspondents were killed, or
are missing in action and presumed dead, during ten years of the war.
Some, like reporter/photographer Dickey Chappelle, were old hands at
covering war. She died in November 1965 when a Marine in front of her
triggered a booby-trapped shell and a small fragment nicked Ms.
Chappelle's jugular vein. My friend bled to death with her head in the
lap of a colleague and a Catholic chaplain leaning over giving her the
last rites. A stringer new to the business claimed a place on a
dangerous Special Forces insertion of a small team into a besieged SF
camp in October 1965. As the team began a dash through enemy lines
toward the camp the cameraman raised up to film it with his 16mm
camera. An enemy machine gun round tore through the lens of the camera
and through the eye of the journalist who was killed instantly before
he shot a foot of film. If he had lived and gotten the story, and it
was deemed useable, he might have been paid $75 or $100 by the company
which gave him a few rolls of film and told him to go see what he
could get on that film.
By contrast, during the first month of the war in Afghanistan,
November of 2001, a dozen correspondents were killed, most of them
stopped on the roads and executed on the spot, before the American
military suffered its first KIA.
The war in Iraq was clearly the deadliest of all conflicts surveyed.
The death toll among correspondents and local staff in Iraq since 2003
stands at 230 killed and 14 missing in action. At least 43 of those
killed were kidnapped and then executed.
I've gone on far too long but this thread provoked a detailed
response. I covered wars aplenty, from four tours in Vietnam beginning
in April 1965, to my last short tour in Iraq in 2005-2006. Many of the
correspondents killed along the way were good friends who shared
foxholes and watering holes, and I mourn our loss of their talent and
their courageous pursuit of the stories of soldiers, even as I mourn
their deaths and the deaths of brave men and women in uniform all
around us--then, now and in the future.
I always felt we who marched with them had more in common with the
troops than we did with your average American civilian.
In this discussion I am reminded of a conversation with a retired
four-star in which I expressed some wariness about going out to do a
bunch of embeds in Iraq. He responded thusly: "Go on out there, Joe.
We need your reporting. Besides, if you get killed I guarantee the
Army will give you the best funeral we ever put on for anybody. Full
honors. Horse and caisson. Band playing. Bugle blowing Taps. Everybody
will come." I am happy it never came to that, even though I
appreciated the offer.
galloway

Monday, May 2, 2011

Luangta Maha Boowa 100th day observance and some words from a friend

The observance will tak place either the 9th or 10th I have been told.
Here are some thoughts from a friend who is a monk at Wayt Pa Baan Tad
This is the 1st of what will be a number of installments

Wat Pa Baan Taad
Baan Taad
Ampher Meuang
Udon Thani, 41000
Thailand



I've been sending out the below account of  Luangta Maha Boowa, our
teacher's, passing away to a few acquaintances whom I thought might be interested, and hoped you might be
too.

Luangta Maha Boowa being a positive giant in contemporary Thai consciousness, for several issues.
Firstly, being the last remaining disciple of the famous Ajaan Munn, the
popularisor of the Thai forest lineage [in the North East, the Isaan], his teacher being Ajaan Sao.  Secondly his biography of Ajaan Munn did much to bring the Thai forest lineage to the attention of the general Thai public,as also did his collection of bio's, in a separate volume, of the disciples who helped him in this project.Thirdly, what could be thought of as his biggest achievement, the Tui
Chai - Helping the Nation -project.
... "As I grew older, my exposure in Thai public life  continued to expand
with each passing year. When the  economic crisis hit in 1997, [the handover of Hong Kong to China] I
stepped in to help lift the nation  from the depths of darkness: that is, from greediness on one  level of society
and from poverty on the other. I wanted Thais  to focus on the causes of the crisis so that, by knowing the  causes,
they could change their behaviour to prevent such an  event from recurring. So I used the Help the Nation
campaign not to raise gold for the national treasury, but more  importantly as a means to spread the Buddha's teaching
to a  broader section of Thai society in an age when many Thai  people are losing touch with Buddhist principles."

From "Samana", the Cremation Volume for  Luang Ta Maha Boowa.Composed and compiled by TanAjaan Dick Siilaratano.
From page 41 of .pdf version.May be downloaded from www.forestdhamma.org ...

In this he raised the moral of the nation by declaring himself an Arahantwhilst inviting all those who had faith in this

declaration to donate, from personal possessions and savings, ten tons of gold together with ten million US dollars [well

before the current crisis] to go to the Thaicentral bank.  After the economy reestablished itself, the TCB then passed this

on to the IMF so as to be of benefit to developing countries around the world in need of such help.  This must have

contributed to the reputation of the Thai economy as being "buoyant": whichin it's turn, could well have had a knock on -

domino - effect in the recovery of the entire Pacific Rim.  Myself being privileged to have been present at the blessings for

the ninth ton in Bangkok.
But the biggest single factor of his quite remarkable reputation is in his spiritual attainment as a fully accomplished

Arahant.  This, for me, becomes abundantly clear from the
account of his cremation as I've tried to give expression to below.

... Below being brief notes on Luang Ta's passing into Parri Nibbana: at the
dissolution of the body.

30/1/2011 Luang Ta finally passed away this morning at 03:53am.  TanAjaan Dick
Siilaratano [my principle teacher and benefactor] explained to me that his blood pressure was about
half the normal level, when at this time it suddenly fell to half of that value, and over the next hour steadily
diminished to nothing.

Her Royal Highness, the Princes Chulaporn [WatPa Baan Taad's principle
benefactor and protector],was in attendance, together with the senior Bhikkhu Sangha.  There wasn't
any chanting, neither the Sattipathana Sutta nor the Akusala Dhamma.  Luang Ta asserting that this was not
necessary and his request was duly honoured.

Her Royal Highness has taken over responsibility for all funeral
arrangements, to be held provisionally on 5th March 2011/2554. Though this schedule is more likely to
be deferred rather than broughtforward.

31/1/2011
Chanting this evening held in the main sala, TanAjaan Dick giving me permission to skip it.Tomorrow, the coffin/casket is to

be moved to the larger sala in the new grounds.

Much earth moving activity in this area, contractor plant vehicles working in very close synchronisation.  At a guess this

may be the beginning of a super crematorium; or perhaps even a reliquary, though such things are traditionally planned some

ten years ahead, so as to give an arahants ashes time to crystallize, [normal ashes don't].

1/2/2011
The casket move does not look likely to happen today.  The big sala still looking very much like a tent city, supporters

seemingly reluctant to shift.
The earth moving activity is just that.  The plant moving it from an adjacent field, where it had been originally placed so

as to raise cattle to a higher level during the annual flooding of these fields; the cattle since being moved to a fare more

spacious grazing area, similarly raised, just across the road.  The whole operation, plant so incredibly synchronised,

looking like something out of a
pre-fifties sci/fi movie.

4/2/2011
The decision was taken to not move the casket.  The big sala has become an established tent city, at least until the day of

the funeral, which will be when the casket is finally moved.

The earth moving project is quite literally taking shape.  The mound beginsto look convincingly like the base for both a

future reliquary and, the more immediately required, crematorium. ...

2/3/2011
With the following resumption there is less denial of the subjective impact of this event. We are fast approaching the zero

day of Luang Ta's funeral - 5th - and as you can no doubt imagine the monastery has been absolute mayhem.  We are planning on

the basis of a million people turning up, though I suspect the numbers could be very much higher, maybe as many as three odd
megs, say five percent of the Thai population. The entire monastery and surrounding - requisitioned - farm lands have been

converted into a working and catering community; tent cities and clusters of cooking
boutiques every where.  Bottled drinking water is shuttled in on a daily basis, whilst sanitation water is provided
by huge lakes excavated specially for the project.  Though no doubt these will serve as irrigation lakes when things
return to normal: it's the timing of their creation that impresses me, calling it coincidence rather over uses
the word. This isn't just the biggest day in WatPaBaanTaad's history, it is a national event and a large one even in that

league, an early proposal being to stage it in one of Bangkok's largest stadiums.  He has become a national treasure in his own lifetime, from any one of several issues, though the big one is undoubtedly his TuiChai - see above - project.  I reckon the entire Pacific rim benefited from that one. TanAjaan Dick has put together an excellent cremation volume for Luang Ta -
see above - for all of us ferrungs.  He tells me that a consignment has been earmarked for Amaravati
[UK].

4/3/2011
Reflections on the eve of the cremation.
According to the Patimokha formula, 3.6K Bhikkhus were declared as present at the recital this morning [monastic confession and discipline]: though many think the count was too low, marshal Bhikkhus were giving out a match stick to each of us as an attempted reckoning!  A better estimate would be closer to something like 4K in and around the old main Saala.  This evenings chanting had all of these housed under enormous frame marquees around the newer big Saala in the outer area.  I'm dreading
tomorrow when numbers will be even higher.  Pindapaat is literally "every Bhikkhu for himself", each of us
going separately through the boutiques, our bowls rapidly getting overloaded and then emptying out into all kinds of
sacks and large bowls, so as to circulate the offered food back into the community.  It may seem like a strange procedure, but after seven years of this, it finally grows on one and the resulting joy becomes integrated into
the practice and the rest of ones life here. The area around my Kuti - my area - has been kept clear of camping Thai
Bhikkhus so as to beavailable to our own Ferrungs.  A group of whom arrived from WatPa Nanachat [international, i.e. ferrungs].
The meal was quite chummy, almost like a picnic.  Tomorrows will no doubt be similar, after which I get my place all back to myself again.I expect the noise and confusion will continue for a while after the event,
as all these structures are dismantled and taken out, with things returning to an, as yet, unknown normality, at the dawn of a new era for the Thai Forest Tradition.

5/3/2011
00:07am
It is just after midnight at the time of writing and an hour or two after the entry above.  Have just been out for a stroll around the preparation activities.  The finishing touches seem to consist mostly of brilliantly sculptured floral monuments and structures.  There also seemed to be firework parties going on too.  Hot air paper balloons were drifting across the sky in enormous numbers, like star except they were all red and moving in the night breeze.  I took a walk towards where they were coming from and eventually got to see how they were started off.  An object rather like a doughnut of soap was suspended on cross wires at the open base of the paper bags [approx cylindrical 1x4ft].  These would be ignited and the bag/balloon
then had to be held until the air in it was hot enough to carry it up.  The fun is all in the operator not having
the patience to hold it long enough with the thing then drifting unpredictably.  As I walked along someone recognised
me, who was holding onto a balloon just as it was coming up to readiness.  He bade me to hold it and release it
so as to see it's splendid rise.  I got quite a sense of exhilaration and some kind of communion with the deities,
which could be how it all started and would explain the gleeful delight when they went awry.

5/3/2011
10:30am
Pindapaat this morning was very interesting indeed.  I don't ever expect tosee so many people so closely packed and so cool and happy with it, anywhere again in this lifetime.  It was such a joy to be given all this super food, just to give it away again immediately after.  I got so carried away with it, that I completely forgot the need to get back quick, the rapid build up of the crowd, my propensity for getting disoriented and loosing bearings.  When I eventually regained my sense of direction, the temporary bridges across the so called "river" [draining what was swampland in the rainy season] were completelyimpassible.  Those that were opposite the main Stupa were excellent vantage points and people were - quite literally -squatting them, mats spread out and all.  It took some of the extra duty police to persuade them to lean their
backs just so as to allow us to trickle through.  Even then my return trip was rather circuitous, the police guiding
me though all kinds of secret short cuts that required the occasional lifting of barriers, pulling back of razor
wire and just appealing to the crowd for a minimal channel for the Pra Ferrung.Right now am awaiting the main events for this afternoon.  It is off to a brilliant start, in that one rumour says we should be ready for 13:00hr, whilst another says that the actual firing will be at 18:00hr.  If Luang Pow Punya's [my original teacher and benefactor here, died 2004]
funeral is anything to go by and scaling that up at least ten fold, the various procedures of robe offerings;
incense, candle and flowers; plain cloth, plusanything else they may think of; it all could take five hours given the - by
now - very much greater number of Bhikkhus, perhaps 5K, still arriving.

This next piece is written two days retrospectively.
I missed the main events, all of which turned around the Queen her self.  I  was getting rather overwhelmed with heat, whilst noticing that the marque was abundantly ventilated, the sun screening being something like twenty feet above our heads, and a not particularly hot day -old age? - so I slipped away for a rest and shower.  By the time I got back, in the last light, all of her procedures had been completed, though I was just in time to see the Princess come up to the funeral pyre for ignition,
followed be a [traditional] triplecircumambulation.  Having been to the funerals of both my parents as well as
Ajaan Punya's I could easily relate to the release of grief that was then clearly evident.  I will have to catch
up on this part as soon as the DVD's come along: Ajaan Martin [a more junior teacher and enormously helpful to
me] beavering away at this.A few aerial shots showed the size of the crowd.  Using what I recollect of
our own Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 2002 as a kind of a 'yard stick', a carpet of
people from the gates of Buckingham Palace right down the Mall to Admiralty Arch and reported in the press as a
million strong; I was guessing that there must have been something like 3 or 4 million people present on this
occasion; some 5% of the Thai population encircling the big Sala and Chedi mount.  A further unknown
number - hidden from view - would have been on the bridges and fields behind them, watching on giant screens;
so if anyone were to tell me that the final count was nearer to 5megs, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
TanAjaan Dick told me this morning - of the time of writing - that the
Prime Minister and his wife, as also the chief Cabinet ministers with their wives too, had come.  I did not
know of this at the time, but did see some very VIP looking people seated within the Royal enclosure.  As is usual
in any Thai special occasion men and women are seated separately, but the monitor screen - and thus the
cameras - where very much focused on the wives, who showed very much grief.  Luang Ta was clearly much more than
just a friend to them, very much more like a father.  For those of us that new him, it is easy to think that
he was just special to oneself.  It is only on occasions such as this that it becomes abundantly clear that he was held
as such by so many others.  This in itself is not too surprising, it is just the magnitude of this energy so displayed, that staggers belief. The rest of the night, for yours truly, was spent in a kind of vigil.  The
coffin was blazing away within an incredibly decorated casing that just required a minimal spraying to keep
it from charring or melting.  This meant that we could not see the coffin directly, but the incredible
decoration was very inspiring itself, not so much the subject matter, but the intricate handwork that went into it, it was all floral.  They had been working on this for the last couple of days and were beavering away at it quite late on the
night that I took a walk around. The entire Chedi construction was encircled by some very 'special' looking
troops.  Our own local border police weren't considered quite up to it, so what we had instead were
what looked like highly trained combat troops.  But they were very impressive.  I reckoned that they must
have been on exercise right up to thelast moment in order to look that fit.  Their alertness was very evident,
but what I noticed was their ability torelease any heightened readiness and return to a "standby" posture so
fluently: it looked very much as though they were able to direct mindfulness to their hearts, just as Luang Ta would
have taught. The reasons for all this battle readiness was easily seen.  Razor wire
barriers would not have held back the crowd, had a surge got underway.  People were very obsessed with
collecting relics, absolutely anything relating to the cremation was a source of highly competitive collecting,
near obsessive: though they did show a lotof restraint and cooperation, as though they could sense Luang Ta watching
them, as the troops were most certainly doing.
By around 4:00am we called it a day and went back to our Kuties [hut accommodation]so as to prepare for the following days meal etc

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Life in Isaan the video I 01.05.11

I have lived in Isaan for more than 15 years now. Began documenting life here 12 years ago with southeastasiatimes.com. In the beginning there were no phone cams, DSLR, or mobile phones.
This is the 1st of a series of looks back over the years
Photos put to video with music from 1998 to 2002
Hope you enjoy