Just over 500 kilometres from Bangkok, the province of Kalasin in Thailand’s Northeastern region or Isan is known for its fertile and picturesque landscapes, lush nature, exceptional hand-woven silk and archaeological treasures of immense significance that date back over 100 million years.
At least 120 million years, to be more precise. Whole fossils of Jurassic Era dinosaurs that roamed the area have been discovered in Kalasin and are on display in a museum. Evidence of prehistoric human inhabitancy has also been found here, indicating the area was settled by the Lawa tribe whose civilisation dates back some 1,600 years.
Kalasin is a great place to see Thailand from different perspectives and for visitors to open themselves up to unique Thai local experiences, which is the philosophy at the heart of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)’s ‘Amazing Thailand – Open to the New Shades’ marketing concept for 2018. This can be through visiting the province’s various temples and religious attractions; such as, Wat Klang, Wat Si Bunruang (Wat Nua), Phu Po Buddhist Place and Phu Sing Buddhist Place, by camping out in beautiful natural locations, or learning about the arts and crafts for which Kalasin is famous.
In particular, the province is famous for the beautiful hand-woven Phrae Wa silk it produces and which is unique to the Phu Thai minority. Coming in gorgeous colours like red, pink, purple, blue and green, Phrae Wa silk is considered a rare handicraft and has earned support and praise from Her Majesty Queen Sirikit herself. The Ban Phon Phrae Wa Silk Weaving Group is the centre of silk production and is well worth a visit.
For visitors wanting to really immerse themselves into the local lifestyle and culture, a homestay is hard to beat. At Ban Khok Kong, a Phu Thai village, there’s opportunity to spend a night or two in the homes of the villagers and try their local cuisine and watch their fascinating music and dance performances.
The Kalasin Pong Lang, Phrae Wa and Red Cross Fair in February-March and Wichit Phrae Wa Silk Festival in August are wonderful for their cultural performances, local entertainment, handicraft items on sale and delicious culinary treats with which to intrigue one’s taste buds.
Gastronomy tourism is another focus of the ‘Open to the New Shades’ campaign, and must-try dishes in Kalasin are the ever-popular grilled chicken with papaya salad and for breakfast, grilled sticky rice with egg, or Khao Chi.
The array of dinosaur fossils unearthed since the first bones were dug up in Kalasin in 1978 can be seen at the Sirindhorn Museum. Opened in 2008 as a research centre, visitors to the Museum can explore different zones for a glimpse back in time to the very origins of the Earth and the universe and of humans themselves, the Mesozoeic Era of dinosaurs and reptiles and the Zenoloeic Era of mammals.
Among the fossils on display are those of the Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae (named after Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn), Psittacosaurus sattayaraki and Siamosaurus suteethorni. Visitors can also learn about the process of excavating and identifying archaeological specimens, and take pictures with lifelike, full-size replicas of Tyrannosaurus Rex and other dinosaur species.
Actual dinosaur footprints can be seen at the Phu Faek Forest Park. They were discovered in the 1990s and are believed to have been left by dinosaurs roaming the very spot 140 million years ago.
The rolling hills and lush forest landscape of the Park, meanwhile, is indicative of Kalasin’s picturesque scenery. So too, is the Phu Phra Forest Park where the landscape is one of low, rocky mountains covered in forest.
Among the province’s other notable natural attractions are the Lam Pao Wildlife Conservation Development and Promotion Station (also known as Suan Sa-on) where animals like rare red gaur, monkeys and birds inhabit a natural open zoo environment; Famue Daeng Cave on Pha Phueng Mountain which boasts ancient red palm paintings; Tat Sung, Tat Yao and other waterfalls; and Lam Pao Dam, which is built across the Pal and Huai Yang Rivers and is home to the popular Dok Ket Beach.
Camping out is always a great way to appreciate nature’s beauty, and in Kalasin this is possible; for example, at the Phu Phra Forest Park and Suan Sa-on.