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The Furthest Reaches of Thailand

These photos chronicle life in the far northeastern rural countryside of Isaan. Many of the people in these remote towns are rarely exposed to farangs (foreigners), so it was an especially unique opportunity to join with a family for an annual celebration.

This celebration involved their family house being cleared out so that a troupe of Buddhist monks could visit and bless everybody in the neighborhood. Just about everybody within several kilometers arrived at this small farm to tithe with the monks and pray.

The celebration also included an Isan custom where new arrivals to their community are blessed by a priest, while all of the local women tie pieces of string to the wrists of the arrivals to further enhance their luck. I counted forty pieces of string on my wrist by the end of the ritual.

Most striking was a magnificent temple we visited very close to the farmhouse. The Prha Maha temple was more grandiose than even the temples of Bangkok. And, it was completely off the ‘tourist map’. Just to find the place I had to pay a local to drive me there, and she had apparently not seen a Western person in many years.

Together with the Thai family, we drove further west toward the border with Laos, where I went shopping at some obscure marketplaces directly opposite the Laos border, and then payed homage at another temple.

The entire region of Isaan shares many similarities with the country of Laos, including both cuisine and linguistics. In fact, many residents of this country are bilingual and speak both standard Thai and their own regional, Laos-inspired dialect.

This makes for a very unique culture that is equal parts sovereign and independent as it is a dynamic and unmistakable part of Thailand.

 

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