Khao Phansa Festival Trip to Isaan

Last week I was in Ubon Ratchathani to see them preparing the giant wax sculptures that will be taking part in the Candle Festival Parade on 31st July 2015 (click here for the Live Photo blog). Processions like this are happening all around Thailand at this time of year to mark the start of the three month long Buddhist Rains Retreat. Last year I was in Suphanburi and Ayutthaya for their processions. This year, TAT Isaan invited me to go with them on a five day trip around Northeastern Thailand. The highlights of the trip were the alms giving to monks on elephant back in Surin and the Candle Festival parade in Ubon Ratchathani. 

Date of travel: 29th July – 2nd August 2015

DAY 1: On the first day of our Isaan trip, we stopped for lunch at Play La Ploen in Buriam. This is a boutique hotel and adventure camp. They also have a Flora Park which we visited after lunch. We then drove straight to Surin where we were just in time for the Candle Festival Procession. We then stayed the night in Surin.

First stop on the road trip is Surin which is 430km Northeast of Bangkok. Surin’s Khao Phansa festival starts tonight.

Stopping for lunch at Play La Ploen Boutique Resort & Adventure Camp (เพ ลา เพลิน) in Buriram. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/XkxD3F8987n98cSb8

Good to see that the adventure park at Play La Ploen in Buriram has a ONE price policy. All adults 150B & Kids 80B.

Exploring the Flora Park at Play La Ploen (เพ ลา เพลิน) in Buriram.

Orchids, Siam Tulips & ferns at the Flora Park at Play La Ploen (เพ ลา เพลิน) in Buriram.

The Candle Festival Parade in Surin has just started.

Photos of the Candle Festival Parade in Surin marking the start of the 3-month long Buddhist Lent (Khao Phansa).

At 6:30am tomorrow, monks on elephant back will collect alms near the monument in Surin.

Eating dinner at Surin Pochana restaurant in Surin city. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/GidpCd7povi6ZSAY6

DAY 2: The highlight of the second day was the merit making ceremony where monks rode on elephant back to collect alms from local people and tourists. This day is Asarnha Bucha which is on the full moon in July every year. 88 elephants took part in the ceremony. We next went to Ban Taklang Elephant Village to attend their Buddhist Lent ceremony. Surin is the home to Thai elephants and they have many festivals that involve elephants in this province. On the way to Ubon Ratchathani, we stopped briefly at Ban Khampun. This is a private residence and also a weaving center. They only open to the public for three days every year during the Khao Phansa festival. We spent the night in Ubon Ratchathani.

Good morning from Surin in Northeastern Thailand. Monks on elephants wait to receive alms from Thai Buddhists.

Monks on elephant back receiving alms from Thai Buddhists in Surin.

Foreign tourists interact with elephants at Ban Taklang Elephant Village in Surin.

An old mahout with his elephant in Surin.

Ban Khampun (คำปุน) is a residential house and weaving center in Ubon Ratchathani.

Ban Khampun is only open once a year during Khao Phansa. This year until Saturday. Fee is 100 Baht. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/3TEwJqWdrxFos1BU7

DAY 3: The third day of our trip coincided with Khao Phansa which is the official start of the three month long Buddhist Lent. On this day, there are many candle processions around Thailand. Probably the biggest and best Candle Festival Parade takes place in Ubon Ratchathani. The wax sculptures in the parade can take up to two months to complete. On this day, we also visited the 20 meter high Buddha image Phra Mongkhon Ming Mueang in Amnat Charoen province. In Yasothon province, we met people who were hunting for lucky numbers at Wat Ban Chiang Pheng. Here there is a 200 year old boat and people rubbed the wood to try and see auspicious numbers so that they would have a good chance of winning the lottery. Our final stop was to see the giant toad at Vimarn Phaya Thaen.

The Candle Festival Parade in Ubon Ratchathani has started. Some really beautiful wax sculptures this year.

Probably the biggest Candle Festival Parade in Thailand is in Ubon Ratchathani. Lasts all morning.

The Candle Festival Parade in Ubon was a lot of fun. Try & go next year if you’ve never been. Around full moon in July.

Aerial photos of the Candle Festival Parade in Ubon Ratchathani.

Roadside stop for lunch in Amnnat Charoen Province. Lunch today is Vietnamese food. A nice change.

The giant seated Buddha image Phra Mongkhon Ming Mueang (พระมงคลมิ่งเมือง) in Amnat Charoen is 11 meters high.

Aerial views of 20m high Phra Mongkhon Ming Mueang in Amnat Charoen.

Wat Ban Chiang Pheng (วัดบ้านเชียงเพ็ง) in Yasothon is very popular with people looking for lottery numbers. People believe that if they rub the wood on the 200 year old boat in Ban Chiang Pheng they will find lottery numbers.

The latest landmark & tourist attraction in Yasothon Province is Vimarn Phaya Thaen which has a giant toad.

Aerial views of the Giant Toad at Vimarn Phaya Thaen in Yasothon.

Eating dinner at Heng Heng Khao Tom in Sisaket City. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/kwKnmjGmXZ7Svg8m6

DAY 4: Last night we stayed at Srilamduan in Sisaket. Our first stop in the morning was to Wat Nong Takhian. The highlight here are the 28 Buddha images. Our next stop was to Wat Sa Kamphaeng Yai which has the largest & most well-preserved Khmer ruins in Sisaket. Our final stop before lunch was Prasat Sikhoraphumin Surin. This sandstone temple, built on a laterite base, was originally a Hindu place of worship in the 12th Century. It was later converted to Buddhism. The afternoon was spent driving to Pakchong in Nakhon Ratchasima where we spent the night. We then returned to Bangkok in the morning.

Good morning from Sisaket in Northeastern Thailand. Light rain at the moment with more forecast for later. Wat Nong Takhian (วัดหนองตะเคียน) in Sisaket has 28 Buddha images & a King Taksin statue.

Aerial views of Wat Nong Takhian in Sisaket.

Wat Sa Kamphaeng Yai (วัดสระกำแพงใหญ่) has the largest & most well-preserved Khmer ruins in Sisaket.

Aerial views of Wat Sa Kamphaeng Yai in Sisaket.

Prasat Sikhoraphum (ปราสาทศีขรภูมิ) in Surin is a sandstone Hindu temple on a laterite base, built in 12th Century.

Aerial views of Prasat Sikhoraphum in Surin.

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