Kalasin Land of Surprises
Kalasin is tucked away in Thailand’s northeastern region, known as Isaan.
It’s home to the ethnic Phu Thai people, and one of the poorest parts of the country with the economy mainly based on agriculture. It’s famous for it’s sticky rice.
Despite it’s huge agricultural base Kalasin does hide some really interesting spots to explore and sights to see.
1. Dinosaur Country
Dinosaurs roam wild in Kalasin’s remote countryside, or rather they did millions of years ago, as shown by the many fossil remains and preserved tracks of these huge beasts.
The province’s first dinosaur bones were found in 1978 by the abbot of Wat Sakkawan, in Sahatsakhan district 30 km north of Kalasin city.
A geologist from the Mineral Resources Department visited Wat Sakkawan and examined the three big bones found by the abbot. He identified them as coming from the front leg of a huge plant eating creature called a Saurapod.
In 1994, officials discovered more fossils in the Phu Kum Khao area next to the temple. This resulted in the formation of a joint Franco-Thai team to survey and excavate the area and the uncovering of 700 dinosaur bones a year later.
The bones were from seven different Saurapods, one of which is almost fully complete.
The fossils are displayed at the Sirindhorn Museum at Phu Kum Khao, which is also a research and information center about various forms of prehistoric life, including humans as well as dinosaurs.
It is the largest dinosaur museum in South East Asia, with a decent restaurant serving dinosaur steaks (just kidding!) or decent Thai food.
Next to the museum at Phu Kum Khao several excavation pits are open for viewing.
There are also visible dinosaur tracks nearby. Museum staff can tell you where to find them.
It’s about 27km north of Kalasin city on Highway 227, close to Sahatsakhan.
2. Lam Pao Dam
A clay dam 33m high and 7.8km long was built across the Pao and Huai Yang rivers, creating a huge double reservoir. It’s the largest dam of it’s type in the country.
It was created to alleviate floods, help agriculture, and to promote fish breeding.
An actual beach alongside the huge lake is a popular R&R spot for locals, with an almost seaside atmosphere. Toilets and a selection of eateries are nearby.
The lake itself is so big that a bridge and car ferry eases travel between the northern and southern edges, otherwise a drive around it would be too time consuming.
From Kalasin city follow Highway 209 (Kalasin–Mahasarakham Road) as far as the 10km marker, then turn right and follow the road for 26km.
3. Wat Wang Kham
Even if you’re ‘templed-out’, you will still love this lavishly decorated Lan Xang style temple, with it’s triple roof and gorgeous embellishments.
Both the interior and exterior are covered in the most beautiful carvings and decorations which will leave you mesmerised.
The ornate raised pulpit is a stunning and unusual feature for a Thai temple.
Take route 12 going east from Kalasin city for about 90km.
4. Bung Fai Sky Rocket Festival
Held to mark the start of Thailand’s vital rainy season, the Bun Bung Fai Talai Lan Festival is a tradition of the ethnic Phu Thai Kutwa people of Kalasin and one of several rocket festivals hosted in Isaan.
The Kalasin celebrations stand out as many of the rockets are launched with huge cartwheel type structures up to 6m in diameter.
The photo at the top of the page is one such launching float in a celebratory parade for the festival.
Colourful parades with floats and dancers mark the opening of the festival. The rockets are a symbolic way to encourage the rains to start.
Dates of the festival vary a bit each year so check before travelling.
Take route 12 east from Kalasin to Kuchinarai.
5. Rice Castle Festival
A festival dedicated to Mae Khwan Khao, the “Mother of Rice Prosperity” traditionally takes place in the second lunar month in January or February, depending on the year.
The highlight of the festival is the rice straw castles that are built by the villagers and monks of local villages for the occasion.
The festival lasts four days with lots of fun -- parties, dance, music, food, and exhibitions.
It’s held at Wat Sawettawan Wanaram, in Nua subdistrict of Kalasin city.
6. Phu Thai Villages
Several ethnic Phu Thai villages in Kalasin specialise in making beautiful Phrae Wa silks in gorgeous colours like red, pink, purple, blue and green.
Phrae Wa silk is considered a rare handicraft and practiced only in this area, with a center at Ban Phon in Phon Kham subdistrict of Kalasin city.
Visitors can learn about, and watch, the production of these delightful silks, and buy some lovely finished items to take home.
A unique homestay experience can be had at a nearby Phu Thai village ‘Ban Khok Kong’, where you can spend a couple of nights with local villagers, enjoy the local cuisine, and watch fascinating music and dance performances.
Getting to Kalasin:
There are frequent direct buses services from Bangkok’s Morchit Mai (Chatuchak) bus station to Kalasin city. Fares are cheap but journey time can be anywhere from 8-10 hours depending on the bus type. Driving a car in moderate traffic would take about 7-8 hours. Flights from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport go to Khon Kaen city, from where you can get to Kalasin in about 1.5 hours by road transfer.
Make sure you have travel insurance while visiting Thailand’s wonders. Medical care is world class but worldly expensive!
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