Monday, February 19, 2007

2-19-07 Khon Kaen Cultural Museum

The final tour of today was the local cultural museum covering the full history of this region, from the dinosaurs to today. It's interesting and fun to see dioramas of earlier life, archeological evidence, crafts, etc.
I was particularly interested in the Kaen (flutes) made of bamboo. Played ONLY by men, who learn by listening to parents and others play the various sized instruments (no formal instruction). I think my musician son, Will, will enjoy seeing these early musical instruments

I had to decline dinner with my colleagues to prepare for the workshop and rest after such an early departure and long day in the heat. I enjoyed quiet time at the lovely Sofitel Raja Orchid Khon Kaen, a bath, e-mail, reading, etc.

2-19-07 Khon Kaen lunch beside the river

The restaurant/resort beside the River Chi was a real treat. The resort has small, traditional Thai bungalows on stilts surrounding the grounds with lots of gardens and water features. One of the resort's restaurants is on a river boat next to a fish farm. All of this has been developed by Thai owners (local, I assume), and it is impressive.

Our lunch was yummy, as most of my meals in Thailand have been. In addition to the hot, shrimp/crayfish soup (Tom Yum Gai?), we had crispy fish (I got the tail this time), a seafood salad, lots of rice to cool the heat of some dishes, etc. The breeze cooled us, and I was fascinated by the roof made of palm leaves, once again in a traditional style.

2-19-07 Khon Kaen Sala Mai Thai (vocational school-silk making)

My early flight to Khon Kaen was rewarded with the first tour to a nearby vocational school where traditional silk fabric-making skills are taught. It is amazing that there are 2 teachers and only 2 full-time students, because most Thais already know how to make their own silk at home, and they DO. Nevertheless, the school has a large continuing education program, and as you can see, even I tried my hand at weaving. Not so easy, but great fun to try. The school is tremendously informative, the exhibits fascinating, and the gift shop destined to relieve me of my money.

I include photos of the different stages of silk production, from the worms and their cocoons that are used to create silk all the way through. There are several boiling processes to soften the fibers and get them ready to spin and weave. Also, a bee hive on the wall. Isn't it just beautiful?

It was a fine start to my stay in this prosperous capital of the NE region of Thailand. The area is arid, characterized by rolling terrain, and comprises what the Thais call "Isaan."

The name, roughly translated, means "heart of the wood" for the strong inner core of the tamarind tree. The area is most famous for high-quality, hand-woven silk, sugar cane for bio-diesel fuel, cotton, glass, and a type of bamboo flute called a Kaen (played only by men). I noticed that the area is dry, and there are some skinny cows, which I haven't seen in other places in Thailand. A transportation hub, Khon Kaen has been inhabited for thousands of years, though the current city is realitvely young, about 200 years.
My colleagues today were Nayika, Rachaneekorn, Achara, and our driver, Weha. They are lots of fun to travel with, and they're experienced, savvy librarians. Cool......
Our travels were often up and down the "Friendship Highway" built by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Somehow I don't think 'friendship' was the driving motivation. Nevertheless, it was a nice, four-lane, divided roadway.