On the Road to Ban Chiang

It was Boxing Day, the day after Christmas and I quite fancied taking a ride into Udon Thani. A couple of days later we were due to take our pre New Year pilgrimage to the mountains of Loei Province to spend a few days visiting the annual Phu Rua Flower Festival. In the 12 months since our last visit my lungs had cleared out the last remnants of pollen and I was sure the festival organisers had cleared up the last of my dogends and beer cans. It would be safe to go back.

On this particular day I just wanted to spend a little time in a big city that I knew very well. However Wonderful Wi had a plan which wouldn’t involve travelling as far and it was to somewhere she knew I wanted to see.

‘ Hus…band want go Ban Chiang,’ the young one inquired.
‘ Have you been before.’ I replied.
‘ Neder (never). ‘
‘ Do you know where it is.’
‘ I neder see before but I can find. About 45 minutes from how (house).’
‘ Great, lets go.’

We were off to the Ban Chiang National Museum which housed the remains of a prehistoric settlement who lived on the Korat plateau over 5,000 years ago. I wondered if they had known the Waltons.

About one hour into our 45 minute journey Wi took her left hand off the steering wheel and picked up her mobile. We were lost. She called her brother and after a rapid fire conversation she spoke to me with an air of confidence.

‘ I speak with brudder (brother). About ten minutes we go left, then five minutes more Ban Chiang come.’
‘ Well done Wilai.’ I whispered with an air of resignation.

A good half hour later we stopped outside a village house where an elderly woman was attending to her garden. We were lost. The conversation was a little slower paced and then we set off again to what I hoped would be Ban Chiang.

We eventually arrived at Ban Chiang after our 45 minute journey had taken over two hours. I feared the return route. Wilai had once taken less than a hour to drive us from our village to Ban Dung and then three hours to get back home. We got lost. As we parked the car for a split second I regretted having not brought my electric shaver and toothbrush. I nearly suggested that we should be heading back home as it would be getting dark in about six hours. I decided against it. Sulking bottom lips cost money to put back in.

The entrance fee to the museum was so minimal I can’t recall the exact amount and the fee included a very informative brochure explaining the history of Ban Chiang and its archaeological discovery. Mine in excellent English and Wi’s in Thai. Most unusual.

Within minutes of being inside the main museum hall one of the female attendants came up to me and politely informed me no photography was allowed inside the building. I looked around at cameras held high by other visitors and guessed she was in for a busy day. I did manage to shoot a couple of pictures but a decent scanner and a colourful brochure are a godsend at times. I hope they won’t mind.

The museum itself was like the outside of the building (top photo), neat and tidy with an almost brand new look to it, which was strange considering the museum’s theme. Inside there was plenty of pottery on open show. There were wall displays and a TV video explaining the discovery of the Ban Chiang archaeological site and the finding of pottery, bronze and iron relics from thousands of years before. They were proof that an intelligent agricultural community had lived in the northeast of Thailand around 5,000 years before.

The photo above is one of two model reconstructions at the museum showing the painstaking digging and recording of the many artifacts and human skeletons that were discovered. The skeletons were found either laid out straight or with the knees bent and broken pieces of pottery had been placed on their bodies before burial. Children were buried sat in an upright position inside large pottery jars.

The museum covers the three periods of Ban Chiang from 3,600 B.C. to 200 A.D. and shows the development of an agricultural society into a highly skilled community with high technological skills which were proven by the excavation of bronze and iron artifacts such as spearheads, axes and arrowheads.

Now a quote from the Ban Chiang National Museum brochure.

Ban Chiang has been called the centre of a remarkable phenomenon of human cultural, social and technological evolution ‘in Southeast Asia which prospered over 5,000 years, from 3,600 B.C. to 200 A.D. In 1992 the Ban Chiang archaeological site was registered as a world heritage site at the World Heritage Committee, under Condition of the Convention where by the site must ‘bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or has disappeared.’

If you are ever in the Udon Thani area then a visit to Ban Chiang National Museum is well worth considering and directions can be seen on the map opposite (click to enlarge). Wilai and myself enjoyed our day at Ban Chiang and remarkably it only took us about one hour to get home.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

14 Responses

  1. john says:

    Ban Chiang is only a short drive from ban dung and even shorter from are village home
    its fascinating that the people where so advanced back then country life seems to have stood still and while advancements in technology have made farming less labour intensive
    issan and other rural areas of the world have seen local people return to the old ways using ox to pull the ploughs
    we could and should learn from are ancestors about sustainable living
    i dont know why but i feel all green today it must be the curry and stella last night
    regards john
    .-= john´s last blog ..ban dung issan Thailand my favourite videos =-.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    John I’m feeling pretty rough today but what it is I don’t know. I have all the symptoms of the flu but I had both flu jabs back in December, I’ve been like it for a couple of days now.

    The Ban Chiang community way back then were a highly developed bunch who even developed the art of forging tools from iron. With the ox still ploughing the fields nowadays it makes their progress achieved way back then even more remarkable.

  3. talen says:

    It really is remarkable what people so long ago could accomplish with hard work. There is a similar museum in Mukdahan showing all the old tools and pottery and they look as if you could use them just as hard today even though they are a few thousand years old.

    I’m hoping that later on this year depending on how things go that I can get to Udon Thani and maybe explore a little further to Ban Chiang. There is just so much to see in this country and more gets added to the to do list daily. Great read Martyn.
    .-= talen´s last blog ..Chang World Reggae Festival 2010 =-.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Talen remarkable is probably too less a word to describe the wonderful feats that these people achieved all them years back. If you do make it to Udon then check it out and also Sala Keo Kou up the road in Nong Khai.

  5. Lawrence says:

    Glad you got there in the end. I can see you thought it worth it. The building seems a bit updated since I was there 2 years ago, but maybe it’s just a lick of paint.

    But you didn’t discover the deep dark secret! One of the curators told me when I commented on how accessible the items in the display are. They are priceless!
    .-= Lawrence´s last blog ..Visitor Week in Phana =-.

  6. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I just read about antiques in Thailand, as well as the designs on the pot you shared (above). So I too will be heading out to the Ban Chiang National Museum for more.

    Here’s hoping that your health recovers at a faster pace than it has been…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Bangkok Found: Reflections on the City =-.

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Lawrence I’m not surprised reading you have visited Ban Chiang as it’s history is something I’d have guessed you be very interested in. I couldn’t figure out if all the artifacts on open display were copies or not, you could have picked them up if you were that way inclined. I guessed in the end they had to be real or there would have been little point in it all.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I really like exploring the history of Thailand and Ayutthaya is very high on my list of places to see. Do get yourself up to the Ban Chiang Museum as you’ll really enjoy it and there’s plenty of little shops dotted around the small town as well.

    My health is a little blip and I’m starting to feel a bit better today. Thanks.

    I keep finding (this was one) genuine comments in my spam box, I even posted a reply yesterday and that ended up in there. I hope I haven’t missed anyones comment and ended up trashing it. My apologies if I have.

  9. Camille says:

    Ban Chiang is a very interestng site and I’ve been there in January 2008 during our road trip around Isaan.
    A trip I thoroughly enjoyed, my first time to Isaan and Ban Chiang wa one of the more interesting spots to stop.

    We also bought some vases that look great in our living room!
    .-= Camille´s last blog ..Scuba TV =-.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Camille I’m happy to read you enjoyed the charms of Udon and especially so Ban Chiang. It was probably a little strange not hearing the waves hitting the sandy beach but I bet the money in your pocket surfed a little longer. I hope you return again someday.

  11. Catherine says:

    Hi Martyn, I noticed that my comment(s) didn’t show up, but I thought it was on my end not yours.

    My connection is going wonky, so by the time I’ve written the comments and pushed send, I’m disconnected and they don’t go.

    Either that, or I’m filling up comment boxes with dubs…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Zebras, Questions, and the Chao Mae Tiger Shrine =-.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I’m having a few problems my end with comments as I keep finding genuine ones like this one in the spam box. I’m also having problems placing comments on other blogs, well they do show but WLT for example is not showing my latest post under the comment as ComLuv normally does. The ironic thing is I’ve just recently become a member of ComLuv and now they’re not showing my posts. Bloody amazing.

  13. Catherine says:

    I had problems with decent comments going into the spam box for awhile but it stopped. When I first started, I’m sure I lost more than I found.

    I now have WLT set so that a first time commenter (or someone using a different email address) has to go through me first.

    ComLuv is set up to catch www quirks. Many a time I get a ComLuv error when commenting on someone’s blog so I try again and it usually (but not always) goes through. I’m not sure if it is me, or glitches.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Successful Thai Language Learners: Vern Lovic =-.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine hopefully things have settled down now. I was messing around with one of my comments plugins and as always I can’t remember what I altered, but touch wood it’s now okay. Your comment arrived in the right box so that’s a good start.

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