Features on Asian Art, Culture, History & Travel
Phanom Rung, Isaan’s Temple of the Gods
A Drive to Phanom Rung via the Cambodian Frontier
Khorat’s Prasat Hin Phimai may be the best-known and most easily accessible Khmer temple site in Northeast Thailand, but Buriram’s Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung is perhaps better preserved, and certainly set amidst more spectacular scenery. Nor is it hard to reach if you have your own transport. Just 18 kilometres to the south of Route 24, the main highway between Khorat and Ubon Ratchathani, the carefully restored ruins are served by an excellent all-weather road from the small settlement of Ban Ta Ko, 18 kilometres to the west of Buriram’s Amphur Prakhon Chai.
Bastion Of The South
Nakhon Si Thammarat
No city in South Thailand has as much to offer the visitor in terms of history and culture as Nakhon Si Thammarat. Buddhist and Hindu temples, relics from the thousand year old civilisation of Srivijaya, impressive city fortifications still resisting the scourge of time – this city has them all, as well as a fine selection of fresh seafood restaurants to make the mouth water.
A Bucolic Retreat
The Black Tai of Loei Province
Few people, even in Thailand, know much in detail about the Tai Dam or “Black Tai” people. Certainly they are one of the numerous Tai-speaking sub groups scattered across mainland Southeast Asia from Assam to Guangdong, rather like the Tai Yai of Burma’s Shan State, the Tai Lu of China’s Sipsongpanna region, and the Tai Phuan of Xieng Khouang in Laos. But beyond this simple fact, little enough is generally known. Yet Thailand, unexpectedly, has its own small but flourishing Tai Dam community, living in a tranquil and idyllic setting in a remote corner of Loei Province.
An Andaman Sea Delight
Trang Town and Coast
The southern Thai province of Trang, tucked away on the Andaman Coast between Krabi and Satun on the Malaysian frontier, is a fortunate place. For more than a century its people have prospered from extensive rubber plantations, rich fisheries and fertile agricultural land, attaining one of the highest provincial per capita incomes in Thailand. What’s more, in recent decades Trang’s lovely and unspoiled coastline, together with more than forty offshore islands, has started to attract visitors.
Vietnamese Women And The Charm Of The Ao Dai
Over the centuries many male visitors to Vietnam have noticed and commented on the elegance and beauty of Vietnamese women. Nearly two thousand years ago, when Nam Viet was under Chinese rule, Han Dynasty writers and poets addressed this theme. The culture of the Chinese heartland, centred on the Yellow River in the north, was strongly patriarchal, but further south women wielded more influence and authority – a phenomenon both appealing and worrying to the men of Han, who desired yet felt threatened by such confident and assertive females.
The Khmer Rouge And The Taliban
"Maybe, if the World had been paying a little more attention, the Twin Buddhas would be standing there now. Maybe the Twin Towers would be standing there now." -Hamid Karzai, Chairman, Afghan Interim Administration
At first glance there might seem to be little similarity between the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban. It’s true, of course, that both regimes used brutal methods to impose harsh policies on subject populations with ultimately disastrous consequences.
Moats Of Chiang Mai
Celebrating Chiang Mai’s Ancient Moats
Thailand’s northern capital is not the only town in this ancient Southeast Asian kingdom to boast a network of moats. In the past, when Burmese armies regularly threatened Thai cities with siege, many towns were thus aptly defended. Ayutthaya was - and still is - ringed by waterways, and when these proved inadequate the capital was moved to Thonburi, though not for long. The far-sighted Rama I understood the defensive value of water, and moved his capital across the Chao Phraya River, to Bangkok, where he established the Royal Palace on Rattanakosin Island, protected by a network of three concentric moats - Khlong Lord, Khlong Banglamphu, and Khlong Kasem.
The Story Of Queen Chamadevi
According to the chronicles and legends of Lanna, Chamadevi was a strikingly beautiful woman who nevertheless enjoyed a fair measure of personal misfortune. To begin with, she was apparently pregnant but unmarried at the time she was appointed Queen of Lamphun - indeed, this unfortunate condition may have been one reason her father, the ruler of Lopburi, sent her away.