Maha Sarakham, 475 km from Bangkok,
is the first of the heartland provinces on the route
south-east from the Khon Kaen gateway towards the Mekhong
River basin. It is mainly dependent on agriculture, but has
historical and cultural attractions and a growing handicraft
business. Its provincial town of the same name stands on the
banks of the Mae Nam Chi which flows from Khon Kaen, 76 km
to the north-west.
Straddling Highway 208, the town
is sometimes described as the old "takkasila nakhon" or "city
of education" because of its many educational institutions. From here travellers can follow
Highway 213 south-east to Roi Et and Yasothon, staying in
the Chi River valley that eventually joins the Mun River in
Ubon Ratchathani, a key destination of the lower Isan region.
Or at Yasothon they turn north-east towards Mukdahan on the
banks of the Mekong River.
Maha Sarakham Attractions: Wat Mahachai houses an impressive collection of ancient
religious objects, such as Sema stones, Buddha images, 18th
and 19th century carved door panels and Buddhist teachings
written on palm leaves.
The Isan Art and Culture Research
Institute at Srinakarinviroj University of Maha Sarakham exhibits
Isan art and culture. Subjects featured are: cloth weaving;
bamboo weaving; pottery; household tools, musical instruments
and modern art presented by students.
Kaeng Loeng Chan, a large
reservoir at the fish hatchery centre located at the Maha
Sarakham Teacher's College, 3 km from town, breeds freshwater
fish for farming projects in Isan.
Phra Buddha Ming Mung in
Wat Suwanmali in Kantharawichai district is a Buddha image
of the Dvaravati period. Built of red sandstone, the image
is believed to have the power to induce regular rainfall.
Mongkon Standing Buddha Image,
made of red sandstone in the Dvaravati style, is one of Maha
Sarakham's most important images. A local legend says that
it was built at the same time as Phra Buddha Ming Muang in
hope of ending a drought in the district. Since then rainfall
has not been a problem for the district.
Prang Ku or Ku Ban Khwao,
an ancient ruin built in the 10th century, is located 13 km
Potters' Village, in the
sub-district of Khwao, 5 km from town, is a community of families
who earn a living from traditional pottery-making.
Ban Nong Khuan Chang, 14
km from town, is famous for silk and cotton weaving, and the
production of knit pillows. Located on Maha Sarakham Kosum
Phisai Road, it is a popular place for souvenir hunters
Kosamphee Park, a 125-rai
forest reserve in Kosum Phisai district, 28 km from town,
has a variety of trees and wildlife such as birds and monkeys.
Ku Santarat is a Khmer-style
sandstone building constructed from 1100 to 1150. Its square
architecture resembles Ku Ban Khwao but the lintel above its
front gate is more impressive. Ku Santarat can be found in
Wapi Pathum district.
Phra That Na Dun, in Na
Dun district, south of town on Highway 219, is the site of
historical structures including a pagoda containing Buddha
relics. The pagoda probably dates back to the 7th century.
A religious and cultural museum, which includes a medicinal
herb garden, is located nearby.
Festival Boon Berk Fa
and Red Cross-Fairs, in Maha Sarakham, promotes the cultural
heritage of Isan. Fair highlights are a processions
the God of Rice, concerts of Isan music, plays and other cultural