Hidden Sims and Mural Paintings in the Villages of Khon Kaen and Roi-Et Provinces
Khon Kaen and Roi-Et provinces take up a considerable area of the upper part of the Khorat Plateau, at the heart of the I-san region. Khon Kaen province has consequently been the focus of regional development projects. The town now boasts the largest university in the northeast. There are several modern hotels and shopping complexes. The city has grown fantastically over the last decade. Khon Kaen is a good spot to take a rest from travelling around small towns and villages in the northeast. The city is named after Phra That Khon Kaen, a revered chedi at Wat Chetiyaphum in the village of Ban Kham in Nam Phong district.
The name Roi-Et literally means “One hundred and One” which could be an exaggeration of the number 11. Roi-Et is a fairly small but growing capital of a province, which two-three centuries ago, probably served as a buffer between Thai and Lao political conflict. Old Roi-Et had 11 city gates and was surrounded by its 11 vassal colonies. The capital is now on an entirely new site, with the large Bueng Phlan Chai artificial lake in the centre of the city.
There are many traditional-styled “sim”, with the characteristics of folk art remaining in Khon Kaen and Roi-Et. All are small and simple, and the mural paintings inside have been relatively undocumented by art historians. The murals adorn the exterior, and sometimes interior of ordination halls. Many are modest little structures with their walls completely covered by murals which extend even into the corners of pilasters and the indentations around the windows. These murals were painted during the first quarter of the 20th century by local Thais or Thais of Lao ethnicity. The sims, constructed of brick and mortar, share roughly similar architectural features, including a single entryway, reachable from a short stairway that is flanked by high figures of mythical animals.
Local people explain that the exterior location enabled the murals to be seen by a large number of laypeople, especially women, who were not allowed to enter the tiny sim, which was reserved for monks and men being ordained. At present day, most of the old and tiny sims in Khon Kaen and Roi-Et provinces are no longer used for ordination as they have been replaced by modern and big central-styled structures.
At the same time, the murals in these two provinces differ from each other significantly so each temple offers a totally different experience. This uniqueness is one of the most important characteristics of the heartland school and the uniqueness in the mural painting of the region. These distinctive works of art reflect the local Buddhist imagination and way of life of the people of I-san heartland around 100-200 years ago.
The Siam Society will arrange a 2-day study trip to explore some of the remains of old sims with mural paintings in Khon Kaen and Roi-Et, under the leadership of Khun Euayporn Kerdchouay, Senior Consultant of the Siam Society.
The tentative programme will be as follows:
|Day 1: Saturday, 24 June 2023: Bangkok – Khon Kaen – Roi-Et – Khon Kaen
|Meet at Don Mueang Airport, AirAsia check-in counter
|Depart to Khon Kaen by AirAsia, flight FD3250.
|Arrive at Khon Kaen Airport and proceed to Avani Khon Kaen Hotel
|Breakfast at the hotel
|Proceed to Roi-Et by bus
Visit Wat Si Tan, located in Thung Khao Luang district.
|Lunch at a local restaurant
|Visit Wat Sraket, the mural at this temple is one of the best examples of mural paintings of northeastern Thailand.
Visit Wat Traiphum Khanachan. This temple has been an important temple since King Rama IV’s reign. It was originally called “Wat Pa”, which was founded before 1798 by Phra Archan Kham. The building is decorated with local woodcarvings and mural paintings which depict the life of the Buddha.
Visit Wat Chakrawan Phumiphinit. The Sim was built in 1908, it is an enclosed hall of I-san style. The pediment is decorated with glass mosaics in the shape of the sun. Wood carvings are beautifully carved in a powerful and dynamic design. The upper part of the walls, both exterior and interior are decorated with mural paintings.
Return to Khon Kaen
Dinner and overnight at Avani Khon Kaen Hotel
|Day 2: Sunday, 25 June 2023: Khon Kaen – Bangkok
|Breakfast at the hotel
Check out and proceed to visit mural paintings at Wat Sanuan Wari Phatthanaram
Visit Wat Ban Lan or known as Wat Matchim Wittayaram. Many murals can be found on the Sim exterior. The murals at Wat Ban Lan are notable for the large-size of the figures and landscape elements relative to the parametres of the panels.
Lunch at a local restaurant
Visit Wat Sa Bua Kaew. Like Wat Sanuan Wari, it has murals on both the exterior and interior walls of the Sim. The exterior compositions are remarkably different from those insides: each panel is divided into several registers, many of which are filled with rows of figures and packed narrative scenes.
Visit Wat Sa Thong, which was built during the same time as the founding of Ban Bua village around 1832.
Proceed to Khon Kaen Airport
Arrive at Khon Kaen Airport, check-in at the AirAsia counter.
Depart to Bangkok by AirAsia, flight FD3259.
|Arrive at Don Mueang Airport
|The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary.
– The Siam Society may utilise photos taken from study trips, lectures, performances, and other activities as part of its public relations and marketing campaign. These photos, which may sometimes contain image(s) of activity participants, can also be featured on the Society’s website and other online social media channels.
Contribution of THB 18,500 (THB 19,500 for non-members), single room surcharge of THB 1,400 will cover airfares, transportation, meals as mentioned in the programme, accommodation for 1 night (two persons per room), gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. A photocopy of the identity card or identification page on your passport must accompany the booking. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the payment has been made. In addition, basic accident insurance is included. There is a 3% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. Transfer can also be made to The Siam Society travel account at TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), saving account no. 053-2-18000-7 or by scanning the QR code on your right. Once payment has been made, please e-mail the transfer docket to us.
– Extra surcharge for aviation fuel and those related to air travel.
We kindly ask that you confirm your reservation by Tuesday, 6 June 2023