Visiting the Khon Kaen National Museum in central Isaan, Thailand, implements an interesting look into yesteryear.
Archaeology museums give a glimpse into the past by way of teleportation or time travel. Why not engage the mind in a museum?
That was my impromptu mantra when I noticed this place of cultural preservation while skimming a digital map.
Before entering the building, you get a nice view of the steep-sloping roofs and unique window design at the top.
I always find it interesting to gaze at a museum’s architecture before entering and after leaving.
After a little bit of architectural admiration, you can go inside and pay your 100 Baht (about $3) entry fee. If you’re Thai, it’s 20 Baht. This is a 500% difference. While at Zaculeu in Guatemala, the fee for foreigners was 1,000% more. Remembering that reminded me to embrace an optimistic stance.
I had to be OK with adding $3 to my daily expenditures for the opportunity to exercise my brain in a new and unique cultural space.
Here on the right side of the bottom floor, I noticed that I had the whole museum to myself. It was about 11:00 a.m. At first I thought the three schoolgirls were visitors too, but then I imagined they were there as part of a work-study program.
What a great way to get students into the community. Museum exposure and any form of work experience is positive. This museum involvement has to appear solid on their resumés too.
The fact that the three of them appear virtually-glued to two phones is hardly out of the ordinary. While taking notice of this, I thought about how much time I spend on my laptop . . . too much . . . no doubt.
Also to the right on the ground floor, behind where the previous photo was taken, is this geographical depiction that divides Thailand’s 77 provinces.
For the protection of its cultural heritage, the clean and organized museum is dedicated to Thailand’s northeastern region known as Isaan (shown in light green cyan) . The rest of oddly-shaped Thailand and the isthmus it shares with Myanmar and Malaysia, is in brown. As we see, the Isaan region makes up a big chunk of the country with 20 of the 77 provinces.
Paraphrased from what is written in the museum: Boundary stones are widespread along the main rivers of the northeast. They were probably developed through ancestral beliefs for their traditional places of worship. After Buddhism had spread throughout the region, these huge, engraved rocks were used for specifying sacred areas or representing a stupa. They were also utilized for decoration.
These intricate rock-art carvings are found on the left side of the ground floor.
There is a small but quaint courtyard outside, where there are more of these massive ancient stones arranged.
The outdoor area is pleasant.
Upstairs, ancient tools, pottery and other artifacts can be found, but what struck me was the skeleton.
Paraphrased from what is written in the museum: The adult male was knee-tied and buried with two pottery vessels above his head, a tiger-toothed bead and a green-glassed bead on his neck, and three more pottery vessels at his feet.
The description doesn’t mention when this prehistoric man was thought to have lived.
The words below the following rock-art painting tell us why.
The left side of the text retyped for clarity: Many rock paintings have been recovered in the northeast, but no absolute dating can be confirmed. However, they reflect imaginative thought of prehistoric people and their lives.
I like how they are so honest about the lack of knowing the time that has passed, since, in my opinion, we can’t know.
What I Liked About the Establishment
There is text describing most of the displays in both, Thai and English. The English is not perfect, but it’s very readable. This was a huge boon for me.
The museum is not big. You could easily be in and out in 20 minutes. I spent about an hour reading the explanations, taking a few notes and snapping a few shots.
I like small museums as hours in a museum can cause burnout. Time-variety balance is key for me.
When I was about to leave at around noon, I noticed that five others had arrived, three of whom were admiring the huge centered boundary stone.
Doing something touristy in a non-touristy locale is a nice feeling. If I had been in a famous museum crowded with tourists, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it the way I did this relatively unknown National Museum.
Visiting an establishment dedicated to culture/archaeology can be an enthralling way to learn about a region.
On your way in or out, taking a stroll in the natural outdoor surroundings with more archaic tall rocks is typically a good idea. However, I didn’t last long out there as the heat was coming on. I deemed it would be better to conserve energy to endure what would be a sweaty 45-minute urban walk back. This is the reality during Thailand’s scorchingly-hot, pre-monsoon summer.
How to get to the Khon Kaen National Museum
Fortunately, the walk is flat with mostly generous sidewalk space. I use ‘relatively’ since it’s the heart of summer in Isaan at the time of writing.
Temps can easily rise over 100° F or 38° C by the early afternoon.
Nose-only breathing helped increase energy levels, making the endeavor easier; whereas sticking to the shady side of a road when possible, helps conserve energy and alleviate the feeling of a pounding-hot sun.
If you’re going in the summer, and having your clothes imminently wet with sweat turns you off, then take a tuk tuk or taxi. They are easy enough to find and wave down. Know your fare before getting in unless the taxi driver is using his meter. In addition, Grab motorcycle drivers are available and cheaper. You can order, flag one down or walk up to one, as they are pretty much ubiquitous to urban Thailand.
If you use private transportation, it is a good idea to have the following to show the driver: พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ ขอนแก่น - ถ.หลังสวนราชการ ต.ในเมือง - The Khon Kaen National Museum - Lang Sun Ratchakan Rd, Tambon Nai Mueang.
Your map app will also show you the straightforward walking route.
The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It’s closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and national holidays.
Have you been to any small museums off the beaten path? Feel free to leave a message below or comment on Facebook.