There’s more to Khon Kaen than meets the visitor’s eyes.
By Percy Roxas.
Khon Kaen, the second largest province in Northeast Thailand, is known for silk production. Indeed, it is the center of silk production in Thailand, particularly of mudmee silk, a delicate fabric woven by hand using the tie-dye technique. But there’s more to Khon Kaen than the ordinary foreign visitor to Thailand probably ever knows – and that’s why it’s fun exploring and enjoying it.
Khon Kaen has been inhabited since millions of years ago when dinosaurs ruled the area. In the next few epochs, peoples of various cultures came to settle in the Khorat plateau. But the province first entered history when the ancient Khmer Empire annexed the area in the 12th century – and since then became a melting pot of cultures and traditions that helped shaped the province into what it is today. Today, Khon Kaen is the heart of the Northeast region, a major hub of education and technology, commerce and politics, as well as a fast-rising tourism attraction, one of the fastest growing economies among the 26 provinces of Isan.
While its fortunes came and went with the tides of various settlers, the province was able to preserve the inherent features that make it unique among the Isan provinces.
Foremost of this is silk production, particularly in the Amphoe Chonnabot where excellent mudmee silk is delicately woven by local hands. Handed down from generation to generation, mudmee is a unique technique where silk threads are tied and dyed in a particular pattern, resulting in beautiful textile. Thus, the province holds a grand annual Silk Festival to celebrate its reputation as a “Land of Silk.” Tourists find Khon Kaen an excellent place not only to observe mudmee silk production but also to buy wholesale its silk products that now come in various guises.
Khon Kaen is also noted for the magnificent murals, particularly those at Wat Chai Si, a temple located at Ban Sawathi. This temple is considered a national treasure – of great archeological, historical, and social significance – and was declared a national monument in 2001. The mural paintings, created by a folk artist from Maha Sarakam, can be found inside and outside the main ordination hall.
But perhaps no other element of Khon Kaen culture is as revered as the
“Phuk Siew” or Friendship Making, which has been practices by the Isan people since the ancient times. Phuk Siew is considered a very important ritual, an embodiment of beliefs, mores and values that the Isan people hold dear. Phuk Siew is conducted to “tighten the friendship” unique to Isan. It is so important and quintessential to Isan, in fact, that today Phuk Siew is being organized with the region’s big silk festival.
But Khon Kaen is more than these three elements combined, and if you make a visit today, there is so much to see and do by way of natural beauty and attractions, archeological riches and historical landmarks, local folklore, arts, and entertainment; and a gamut of other features that make the province great to visit.