Thailand’s Isan region borders Laos and Cambodia. Among them, Ubon Ratchathani, located at the easternmost point, is not well-known in Japan. However, you can see the complex cultures of India, Vietnam, China as well as Laos and Cambodia. This trip introduced the charm of Ubon Ratchathani, and also extended to the world heritage Laos next door.
Invitation from handsome staff
One day, I received a call from Mr. Settaphon, the most handsome employee of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, inviting me to a training trip sponsored by the agency.
“Mr. Shiraishi, do you want to go to Ubon Ratchathani?”
“It’s not Udong! It’s U Bo N, the Isan region in eastern Thailand!”
Sorry, Settapon. It was almost noon, and my stomach was growling.
The Isan area is known for some of the hottest local dishes in Thai cuisine. This is a heavenly place (obviously) for anyone who likes spicy food. Many people are familiar with the spicy green papaya salad “Som Tam”. That texture, that freshness, that spiciness… I love som tam, so I didn’t hesitate to accept a fascinating training trip sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
In the morning, I flew to Bangkok from Haneda Airport on Thai Airways International. I met Mr. Settapong, another participant, Mr. A from the travel agency and Mr. Kyao, the local guide, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.
Ran from an international flight to a domestic flight, transferred to LCC “Smile” of Thai Airways, and arrived at Ubon Ratchathani Airport that night. It’s a small airport that looks like the town’s gymnasium, but has a desk that doubles as a security and tourist information center. welcome me.
Then, “Hey, line up!” Hearing the sound of the shutter, the passengers around me also responded, “Oh, Japanese! Kya!” We are just freelance writers and travel agency employees, and we are not celebrities or anything, but Japan People seem to be rare, and the cheerfulness made us have a good impression of Ubon Ratchathani.
A large collection of mixed temples!
Early the next morning, we went straight to Ubon Ratchathani. Buddhism in Thailand. Buddhist means temple. Of course there are many temples in Ubon Ratchathani, but I have seen many in Bangkok. I visited Wat Thung Si Mun for the first time, and I did not expect the same. But I was still amazed by the beautiful temple built in the pond. Why bother with ponds! ?
“This is not the main hall. The building was built 200 years ago, and a long bridge was built in the pool to prevent pests from entering.
“It’s not just bugs and rats, there used to be fires, so it was to prevent important materials and books from being burned. The roof has six floors, right? It’s the Laotian style.”
Yes, Thailand shares borders with Laos and Cambodia. Also, although they have never had contact with Vietnam, they are very close to Vietnam, so they seem to have accepted the cultures of other countries.
Let’s go across the bridge. Oh, what a warehouse within a warehouse! This must be a very important document. No matter how you look at the exquisite decorations such as murals and stone pillars, you will never get tired of it. However, time has passed and it seems to be home to birds today. They’re chirping happily with Peach Kupachik, but they’re probably in a good mood to live in such a luxurious house. Now, let’s go to the main hall.
At first glance, it looks like an ordinary Thai temple, but with elephant carvings on the roof. When I pointed it with my finger and said, “This is an elephant!” Mr. Kyao said, “I noticed a nice place. This is the imagery that appears in Hinduism. At that time, there was a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism in this area. “I was wondering if this is the case, and there are big statues walking around here, which were randomly designed by the architect.
“Come on, let’s go in right away.” I approached, and there was a bronze statue of a white marmoset in front of the stairs, sitting with its butt facing the worshipers.
“Kyao-san, why is this white guard dog pointing at its ass?”
“It’s not a guard dog! In Thailand, it’s a lion. And instead of pointing at the ass, it’s guarding the temple.”
“Well, this lion looks like China. By the way, is that slimy decoration on the stairs a snake?
“It’s neither a snake nor a dragon. It’s a naga god. It’s also influenced by Hinduism.”
After taking off his shoes and entering the main hall, he saw a monk sitting motionless in front of the Buddhist altar…he was too thin! Even if you practice until your bones protrude… If you get close, you won’t be able to breathe. It was a lifelike bronze statue (Buddha?) of a high priest who seemed to move at any moment. It may be a great monk who built this temple.
In front of the altar, a gilded plinth that looks like a cash box has been somehow carved in the shape of giant feet. About 200 years ago, a Buddhist monk from Bangkok came here and built a temple that is said to be a replica of the Buddha’s cornerstone gifted by the original temple. Surprised: “The soles of the Buddha’s feet are so big…”
Laos Small Buddha Statue
Next stop is Wat Si Ubon Rattanaam, a large temple that houses a small 1,300-year-old topaz Buddha image, about 5 centimeters in diameter. The statue was brought from Laos in the 18th century, the same place of origin as the statue in Bangkok’s famous Wat Phra Kaew.
“It turned out to be in Vientiane, but we won the battle, so we brought it to Thailand.” Mr. Kyao said bluntly. It seems that the Buddha moved here and there for political reasons.
The topaz Buddha enshrined high near the ceiling is invisible to the naked eye, and I could see its face with my camera’s 7x zoom lens. Don’t forget to bring binoculars when visiting here.
A Simple But Ornate Indian Pagoda
Visit temples in Ubon Ratchathani. Finally, head to Wat Phra That Nong Bua, a 57-meter-high square pyramid stupa.
When I asked Mr. Settapon, “Is this pagoda, which looks stretched and elongated like a pyramid, really Buddhist?” he replied, “Yes. Isn’t kata rare?”
It is said that the pagoda in Bodh Gaya, India was modeled after the pagoda, but unlike the colorful red roofs of Thai temples, the white walls are dotted with gold, which is simple yet elegant. However, when I walked in, I was blown away! There is also a golden world that makes you blind!
It was so shiny that we panicked, “Oh, it’s too dazzling!” Seeing the resplendent Daxiong Palace, we were so excited, as if we saw the spirit of the Thai people’s generous donation to the temple.
It’s too much…horrible god lottery
Leaving the main hall and entering another hall in the museum, you will see Buddha statues and game machines lined up with buttons, as well as shiny pinball machines. Because it is a temple, is it a magic lottery machine?
“It’s not a magic lottery or a gaming machine. You can put money in it on the day you were born or the day of the week you were born in,” Kyao said.
“I was born on Thursday, this is Buddha!”
“Oh, Mr. Settapon, I was born on a Thursday too.”
“Huh!? Fortunately, today is Thursday, Mr. Cao, hehe.”
The two Thai guys looked very happy. If you drop a coin into the Buddha statue on Thursday, it will make a sound and light up in seven colors, but nothing will come out. By the way, are you happy that you were born on the same day of the week? Mr. Qiao, who is also a Buddhist, looked back and carefully observed cultural differences.
“What day of the week was Shiraishi-san born?”
“have no idea”
“Why? I don’t even know my birthday, is that okay?” I thought I must visit it next time I come to Thailand.
So, aren’t there such things as gods in temples in Thailand? No, when I sit in front of Buddha, it is in front of me. Just like in Japanese temples, just shake a wooden box containing sticks to get as many god lottery as possible.
First, Kyao shook the box, picked up the magic lottery with the winning number written on it, and began to read it aloud. “What the hell…I can have a girlfriend…but I have a wife!” Although it’s fortune telling, if you see a troubled face, don’t you often get it right?
Let me challenge myself. The magic lottery number 15 jumped out, and Mr. Kyao read it out.
“Because there is a risk of getting involved in other people’s troubles, so don’t stick your neck in it and run away.”
“Eh!? What do you mean?”
“Student Shiraishi, are you alright?”
“Hmph, everyone, don’t involve me in this.”
I was suspicious of the three people who accompanied me, but I completely forgot about it the next day. However, having just returned to Japan, as I expected, I got into trouble with my friends on the highway and I had a hard time. The Omikuji at Wat Phra That Nong Bua is amazing! What’s wrong with Guo? While writing the manuscript, I worried about whether there would be a love triangle.
If you come to Wat Phra That Nong Bua, we hope you stop by the candle work displayed within the temple grounds. If you think this is a small candle sculpture, then you are dead wrong. I glanced at the poster at the airport, and it was a huge work with a height of 4m and a width of 10m.
People from all over the country gathered in the usually quiet province of Ubon Ratchathani for the candlelight festival. Some 25 huge candle creations are placed on floats and paraded around the city to compete for the winner.
“Instead of carving a giant candle, each household cuts small pieces and glues them together.
Shaving is common in households such as schools and towns. We do it every year, so every family is good at carving candles according to the drawings. In addition, artists from all over the world are invited to create works, and many events are held during the period. It is said that candle works are everywhere in the city. If you are visiting Thailand around July, why not go to Ubon Ratchathani?
The long-awaited Som Tam…
After visiting many temples, it was finally time for the long-awaited dinner. After getting in the car, Mr. Kyao in the passenger seat turned around and said with a smile, “Tonight, I will take you to a time-honored restaurant in Ubon Ratchathani that has been open for 50 years.”
“…So it’s local cuisine! In other words, you can eat a lot of Ethan’s spiciness, right?”
Ah, already beer, som tam, beer, som tum is in my mind… Beside the elated me, I am worried that Ms. A, an accompanying travel agency employee, has gradually quieted down.
The car stopped in front of a sign with a lovely sister painted on it. This is the famous porn tip. Is the girl on the signboard the real girl in the shop? An old woman who was grilling skewers at the door said: “Welcome!” Oh, is this person a billboard?
“Hehehe,” the old lady smiled, holding a yakitori in one hand, and said with a smile, “Ethan’s specialty is yakitori, try it.”
First up is Ethan’s famous sausage “Cyclaw Ethan”. Not only pork, but also a lot of rice. If you slice it thin, add a little spice, and wash it down with beer and scallions, you don’t need anything else.
No need to say anything, but Ethan’s famous hot and sour soup, Tomsepe, which came next was so good, it made me want to eat it! Tom Seep seems to be one of the three major soups in the world. It is a very popular soup in Thailand and can be said to be the rival of Tom Yum Kung. The slow-cooked bone-in pork is juicy, but the medicinal soup has no peculiar smell, spicy and refreshing.
While I was having another bowl of soup, my favorite green papaya salad appeared! Don’t say you came to Isaan without trying this spicy salad. Come on, how hard is it? I also poured beer, itadakimasu! …and open your mouth wide…huh? It’s not too hard to chew either…it’s not as spicy as the Som Tam at a Japanese Thai restaurant! ! Why! ? As soon as I tilted my head, Mr. Settapon said to Mr. A: “Mr. A doesn’t like spicy food, please rest assured.” Mr. A nodded happily.
Well. “Why don’t you like spicy food, and you still have to travel to find Ethan?!” While eating the non-spicy Som Tum, I came up with a plan. The plan is to make Mr. A like spicy food during this trip, and then gradually increase the spiciness so that Mr. A does not notice it, so that he can’t live without Ethan’s food.
No one noticed my plan and I crossed the border to Laos the next day. Please enjoy the second part.