What to do with all those empty beer bottles that accumulate every weekend? They found a very unique way of recycling them in Si, Khun Han District in Si Sa Ket, a small city in Isaan. They have built a wonderful little Buddhist Temple - Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew (Wat Lan Khuad).
The temple is reportedly made of over 1.5 million empty Heineken and Chang beer bottles. The people of the area began collecting bottles began in 1984 and it took two years to build the main temple. The monks of the temple continued to expand the temple buildings, constructing them with more beer bottles and now there are as many as 20 bottle-constructed buildings.
The vast majority of the Isaan area of Thailand is made up of farmland growing mostly rice, rubber trees and cassava with a healthy amount of various fruit orchards. Much of this farmland is managed in smallish plots surrounding small villages. The life in these villages is quite idyllic with crowing roosters waking the villagers up with sunrise, working a full hard day at the managing their crops in their plots and going to sleep soon after the setting sun.
I found the daily movement of small herds of cattle and buffalo fascinating and took the video below. The animals are taken out of small pens next to the village homes in the morning and herded into the fields that are not currently growing crops. The herd owners stay with the animals all day and herded back to their pens in the evening, just before sundown.
Many of the small plots have sheds often made out of free simple materials like palm fronds and small trees made into posts which hold up the roof. These plants can be very picturesque with the greenery of the crop and the rustics sheds.
The Khmer Empire (circa 800 to mid 1400s) was a powerful Khmer Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia which at times ruled over most of mainland Southeast Asia and included parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, and southern Vietnam. Proof of the Klmer Empire vastness is evidenced by the network of Temples left behind. Thailand has restored many of the Ancient Structures to ensure the history of the birth of their great country is not lost to time. Below are examples of just some of these temples.
The temple complex at Prasat Muang Tam is part of the vast expansion of the ancient Khmer Empire, which originated in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Somewhat overshadowed by Prasat Pha Nom Rung, Prasat Muang Tam is still a very beautiful and awe-inspiring site that should not be missed. The temple at Prasat Muang Tam is over 900 years old. Its name is derived from its position, "Prasat Muang Tam" literally translated means "a sanctuary located in a lower area".
The main temple area is surrounded by large, man-made ponds that are beautifully maintained and filled with flowering lotuses. The park contains some of the best examples of Khmer architecture in the world and underlines that the area was once an important trade route to the Khmer kingdom.
Perched on the rim of an extinct volcano, Prasat Phanom Rung Historic Park is a jewel in the crown of Northeast Thailand. The fact that the park is situated on top of a volcano may be missed by all except the occasional geologist vacationer; however, at 1,320 feet above sea level, no one will fail to miss the park's magnificent views.
The park is part of the ancient Khmer Empire's reach into Thailand. The temple complex contains the largest and best restored Khmer architecture outside of Cambodia. It took seventeen years for the restoration work to be complete, but now the beautiful Hindu temple can be viewed and admired as it was originally intended.
Throughout the site, each bridge to the temple area is adorned with images of the multi-headed mythical snake "naga". The bridge is said to be a link between our earthly realm and heaven. The naga stand guard on the bridge, thus protecting the gods from any unwanted earthly visitors. The Khmer people lived in Thailand almost one thousand years ago; the architecture of the temple area is testimony to their skill and ingenuity.
Nong Khai is on top of the Isaan area and on southern side of the Mekong River. Nong Khai is connected to Laos by near the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge #1, which supports foot, vehicular and train traffic into Laos. Nong Khai is over 600 kms north of Bangkok and 60 km north of Udon Thani. With the location so far north, Nong Khai makes a great destination for the Thai winter, when it has comfortable days and very cool nights. The area in the city along the river has been developed for walking and enjoying the views of the Mekhong River, which are just fantastic. This area often has night time activities of bands, food and fun activities for kids. This area also has a variety of restaurants, many floating on the river.
There are some interesting sights to see in Nong Khai:
On the far east end of the Nong Khai River Walk is the Pratad Lha Nhong Temple.
Towards the middle of the River Walk and just south is the Tha Sadet Market which specializes in products from Indochina and East Europe, including dried food, processed food, and utensils, such as electric appliances, clothes, watches, kitchenware, etc.
Nong Khai Friendship Bridge
Wat Pho Chai
Sala Keoku Park or Buddha Park
Wat Phu Thok is not an easy place to visit due the remoteness of this destination being about a 2.5 hour drive east of Nong Khai. The Temple is at the base of a large sandstone outcrop that juts steeply out of the Thailand Isaan Northern Plains. You see the outcrop long before you arrive for it is quite prominent in the surrounding landscape. The Temple is only the gathering point for the Monks of the Temple and many of the Monks spend their days on the Mountain meditating.
If you do not let the drive discourage you, you will not be disappointed but be prepared for a bit of a Climb. Most of the temple area is not on the hill and the temple area on the ground is also a pretty nice experience. But behind the temple rises these cliffs which have a walkway built into. I have no idea how safe the walkway really is but for me it looked pretty scary. I am sure people have various tolerances for these types of things and you can choose the really scary or a somewhat less boring trail around the other side. Once on top, you afforded amazing views of the surrounding area.
Just southwest of Phimai in Northeast Thailand, you will find the small park of Prasat Phanom Wan. The park is home to an ancient Hindu temple, which was constructed during the 13th and 14th centuries on top of another brick structure that is said to date back to the 10th century. The older structure is likely to have been built during the height of the Khmer Empire, along with other ancient Hindu temples found in the region.
The Hindu temple was later converted by the Thais into a Buddhist temple. Throughout the site you will find many Buddha images as well as an impression of the Buddha's Footprint. The Buddha's Footprint is a common icon found in many Buddhist temples. Originating in India, the original footprint was copied and transported to Buddhist sites throughout Asia, for the faithful to worship.
Located in Nakhorn Ratchasima Province in Northeast Thailand, Phimai National Historical Park is one of the best preserved examples of an ancient Khmer temple network found in the country. On entering the park grounds you will discover that its similarity to Angkor Wat in Cambodia is striking. In fact, some of the buildings are even older than those found at Angkor Wat.
The main shrine is nearly 30 meters high and is constructed of fine white sandstone. It is estimated that work on the shrine began during the reign of Khmer King Jayavarman V in the late 10th century. The park contains some of the best examples of Khmer architecture in the world and underlines that the area was once an important trade route to the Khmer kingdom.
Northeastern Thailand (Isaan)
Awesome destinations in Northeastern Thailand. Click here to view a list of Articles about Destinations in Northeastern Thailand.
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