isaan people in thailand
how much is a meal in a restaurant in thailand ? and how much thai bhat do i need for food per day ?
1 USD for a regular thai meal, which is about 40 B. You will need to spend about 120 B a day for food if you eat 3 meals.
In Isaan, the prices are cheaper, about 10 B (~30 cents) for a meal.
In tourist places, it’s about $5 for a sit-down restaurant, and about $1-2 for snacks from a street vendor.
isaan people in thailand
When I was researching this post a little, the very first result I got in a Yahoo search was the following surprising result:
Mennonite Mission Network personnel in northeastern Thailand are engaged in village evangelism and economic development among the Isaan people. They establish relationships with the people and teach the Abundant Life course that leads to the invitation to accept Christ.
The Isaan in this area are responding to the gospel message and the church is seeing growth.
That came from this site.
The second result?
Cows help provide fertile soil for church plants
Nov 16, 2004
-by Tom Price
Surrey, British Columbia – A couple with eight years of experience in Thailand told mission leaders from Canada and the United States that it takes a village to grow a church.
And also a cow or two. Some fish. Even rice.
Speaking to a gathering of Mennonite Church Canada’s Christian Witness Council and the Mennonite Mission Network board of directors, Pat and Rad Houmphan, Mennonite mission workers in Thailand outlined a long-term approach to reaching a predominantly Buddhist migrant people in Thailand.
The land in Thailand inhabited by the Isaan people, who mainly have descended from Laotian immigrants, is the poorest region of the country, because of a lack of fertile soil and insufficient rain. Yet 90 percent of the population ekes out a living through farming.
“As we reach out to the Isaan people, we are not only concerned about saving souls but are also concerned about their physical needs as well,” Pat Houmphan said. “A solution that can help with the issues of poverty and the church is to do socio-economic development projects.”
Using seed money from North America, the Houmphans have developed rice banks, fish projects and a cow-lending project. In the Living Water Church of Borabur, they lent a mother cow to a member of the congregation, who will raise the cow for three years to generate three calves, keeping two and returning one calf and the mother cow to the church. The calf and the cow are then passed onto two families and the cycle begins again.
“We hope that the project will help to generate an income to raise the standard of living. It is hoped that when the income increases, [the church member] will give back a portion to God and to support the worker and the needs of the church,” Pat said.
Nearly 22 million Isaan people live mostly in villages in 19 provinces in northeastern Thailand. Despite nearly two centuries of mission work by thousands of missionaries, only 1 percent of the population is Christian, and the region has about 1,000 churches.
Since the mid-1990s, the Houmphans have served in Thailand, where they have planted two congregations: a church of 85 people (five years ago) in Det Udom and a church of 65 people in Borabur. The village-based approach is necessary because residents are spread out and transportation between villages is difficult. While several villages may meet together every six weeks for a common worship celebration, lay people eventually would provide leadership for smaller, village-based congregations,
While the Isaan people’s physical needs are great, their spiritual needs are even greater. “The fear of demonic power has caused Isaan people to practice animism. They believe spirits exist in all places. Ancestral spirits are believed to be floating around,” said Pat. “The solution for this issue is to present to the people that Jesus has power over demons and evil spirits. … Jesus can take away fear and bring peace.
“Our mission is not finished – we would like to reach out to more Isaan people and plant more churches,” he said. “Our vision is to plant seven to 10 churches in an unreached area of Isaan land by the year 2026.”
Because Isaan families consider it devastating for a relative to convert to Christianity from even a nominal, non-practicing Buddhist tradition, the Houmphans have taken steps to help interpret Christianity to the Thai and Isaan culture. “We conduct the service in Isaan-Lao language, sing Isaan songs and do Isaan dance using traditional maw-lum music, and use sticky rice and krajep juice for communion,” Pat said. “The purpose is for the Isaan to see that Christianity is not only a western religion. This will increase the chances of people being more open-minded toward the gospel and accepting it, eventually leading them to joining a church community.”
The preceding text and photo came from here.
The third result was yet another evangelistic site, although not Mennonite this time. Allow me to introduce you to TEAM Isaan:
Our Strategy for Reaching the Isaan
Written by Team Isaan
Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Spiritual Breakthroughs Among the Isaan People
Northeast Thailand is home to the largest people group outside of Christ in Thailand, and one of the largest in the world – the Isaan. They number 22,000,000, approximately one-third of the Thai population. 99.8% of them are outside of Christ. Every day over 430 go into eternity without Christ.
The C&MA has a long history with the Isaan dating back to 1929. A huge investment has been made. Today there are 30,000 people in 650 local churches of various denominations. We believe it is time to equip that church to reap the harvest.
Our specific target area includes three provinces of NE Thailand along the Mekong River: 1) Nong Khai: 900,000 people, 40 churches, 1400 believers; 2) Sahon Nakhon: 1.1 million people, 7 churches, 236 believers; and 3) Nakhon Panom: 720,000 people, 24 churches, 600 believers.
How will it be accomplished? Some key elements of our strategy include:
* Prayer: We have a prayer team of over 1000 people in 38 churches in 13 countries who are praying regularly for movements to Christ among the Isaan.
*Cooperation: An effort of this magnitude requires the resources of the entire Body of Christ. We are at work to mobilize those resources by partnering with existing churches and mission agencies from various denominations.
*Sowing the seed widely: Using mass media tools our desire is that thousands hear the Word daily.
*Finding the person(s) of peace: We want to find key people prepared of God who will act as a sponsor for the gospel into their community.
*Reproducible churches: The goal is to gather believers in simple, reproducible fellowships.
*Relational evangelism: Our desire is to win families to Christ beginning with the heads of households.
*Local, lay leaders: Our vision is an indigenous movement and training local, lay leaders is essential.
Come and join us!
We are claiming the Lord’s promise to Habbakak, “Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it” (1:5). We believe the situation spiritually in Thailand can change; that churches can grow and multiply rapidly; that God will give the breakthroughs needed. He can put it all together. Come and join us in this tremendous effort!
That’s from here.
But the Mennonite links — and specifically, the Pat and Rad Houmphan story — had not ended.
Yet another site gave a 2008 update on them titled God provides for Living Water Church.
And another site still provided a 2003 article on their origins titled A man with a vision.
Another evangelistic Christian religious site has an interesting colour-coded map revealing the Christian population percentages amongst the various Isaan districts. Although the percentages are all small, I did not realize that Christianity had spread itself so widely in this area of Thailand. The site also offers its perspective on the Isaan people. For example:
What About Their Daily Lives?
The major occupation of the Isaan is rice farming, but they are also employed as taxi drivers, construction workers, and beauticians, and professionals such as teachers, doctors, and government workers. Particularly in the provinces of Khon Kaen, Roiet, Surin, and Korat, they are well known for their silk weaving skills, making an especially beautiful type of silk known as “mud mee”.
The agriculture of the Northeast is primarily rain-fed. This means that there is a drastic reduction in the demand for labor during the dry season. Unemployment can then reach 30-40% of the Isaan labor force. The unemployed often deal with this problem by moving outside of Isaan to look for work. Many Isaan families rely heavily on funds sent back from these outside jobs. However, with the economic crash throughout Thailand and Asia, many Isaan are unable to find work.
Most meals include sticky rice as the staple, along with vegetables and usually some type of protein. Many green plants are eaten, including many varieties unknown to Westerners. Hot chili peppers are incorporated into many dishes, as well as garlic, coriander, mint, and dill. Fermented fish (often raw) contributes protein but can also be a source of parasites. Other proteins include chicken, beef, pork, fish, frogs, field crabs, insects, iguanas, field rats, and other animals.
You can check it out here.
A non-religious site with a good article on the Isaan people is actually one marketing clothing — Siamese Style. “While we offer handwoven Thai silk and cotton, as well as traditional Thai clothing, we specialize in custom tailored Thai wedding dresses and men’s attire.“
An excerpt from their article on the Isaan people is this:
The primary food of Isaan people is sticky rice which is eaten with the fingers. This is supplemented with various other dishes. In addition to standard Thai vegetables, the leaves of many trees are eaten as are most water plants. These dishes often have a large amount of chili pepper, making them extremely spicy.
Protein foods are the most expensive and for this reason eaten the least. Beef is seldom part of the menu. Fish, pork and chicken are fairly common and often eaten in small pieces mixed with a fried dish of some kind. Other sources of protein are snakes, frogs, rats and many types of insects.
Essentially no calcium is found in the diet since milk, cheese and other dairy products are not used. Many older women suffer from osteoporosis as a result of this.
There is no distinction between the dishes eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spicey stir friend vegetables with sticky rice are just as likely to be eaten in the morning as in the evening. Water, not milk, coffee, carbonated beverages, beer or other drinks that must be purchased, is the drink of choice with meals.
The full article is here.
I came across a site selling a book and DVD as a course called Speak Isaan Thai — a specific product I do not believe I have come across before.
An article on Thai Food had this section on Isaan:
North Eastern (Isaan) Thai Food
In North Eastern Thailand, or Isaan as it is called in Thai, the people hold very traditional attitudes to their food. Similar to the North and reflecting their Lao neighbours Isaan people prefer the sticky rice, both sweetened or steamed and again eaten with the hands. Traditionally this rice is served in a wicker basket called a Katib.
Much of their food is very spicy, with the ever popular Spicy Papaya Salad (Som Tam) being a favourite Thai dish worldwide. This salad is made from raw papaya, dried shrimp, crab, lime juice, garlic, tomatoes, green beans and chillies and may also be complimented in the traditional style with fermented fish.
The Isaan people of North East Thailand are well known for their use of fish and fish sauces in cooking with specialities such as stuffed fish, Pla Som, Pla Ra and Pla Daek.
Fish is a very popular ingredient in Isaan food, as many times meat has been scarce in the area and fish plentiful, so suitably the Thai dishes have adapted to its surroundings. It is no surprise therefore that many Isaan dishes include all manner of available fare, such as lizard, snake, bat and rats and most often these are fried.
Some other famous North Eastern Thai foods include Lap which is minced chicken or pork meat cooked in seasoned dried chillies, and Isaan Sausage, a stuffed mixture of intestines which is left to ferment.
North Eastern Thai food is often very hot and spicy so be warned when sampling Isaan food, you may order something to hot to handle!
Sampling from yet another evangelist Website — that of OMF:
God is gloriously intruding into Isaan
At first sight you would not expect dynamic things to happen in the Northeast of Thailand, better known as Isaan. It is the most laid back part of Thailand, where the pace of life is slow and the majority of people are rice farmers. But since November 2006 a small band of OMF-missionaries has started church planting ministry. This small team is about to grow into a dynamic team of missionaries who long to see the Isaan people reached for God and the Lord Jesus. Right now we are present with two Dutch families and a South-African. Five more families are in language study, preparing for ministry in Isaan.
Isaan is steeped in Buddhism with Buddhist temples present in every small village. Village life centers around the temple and the monks. Merit making is deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of the Isaan people as the only way to give life its meaning. But God is making majestic inroads into these Buddhist communities. Many Isaan people travel to big cities or other countries in search for jobs. In those foreign places they meet with Christians and are attracted to the person of Jesus Christ. On coming back in their village, they share the Good News with their relatives.
It is through family relationships that we seek to reach people with the Gospel. We endeavour to let new believers play a key part in the outreach to their relatives. One of the best ways to do this is planting simple churches in as many places as possible, so believers do not need to travel long distances to church, but can walk to it. And when they can walk to church, so can their relatives; the church is part of the community.
In our church planting strategy, we are committed to evangelistic house groups, held at the houses of believers or those who show interest in the Gospel. We are committed to discipling new believers into mature Christians, with a passion for evangelism. We encourage believers to have an active part in church life and ministry, with the missionary in the background as much as possible. We give a substantial amount of our energy to children’s ministry because kids are so easy to attract and they so need the love of Jesus. We welcome ways of giving practical help to villagers, like giving out wheelchairs or reading glasses. We long to see families and individuals transformed by the glorious Person of Jesus Christ.
A lot still needs to be done in this relatively poor area of Thailand. We see much brokenness, especially in families and marriages. It is a brokenness that can only be healed by God. And although shunned by the majority of tourists, Isaan is a very attractive place to live. But the most important thing about this region is God’s love for it.
Now, back to the secular view, here’s Orient Expat Thailand‘s slant on the Isaan Region:
This page is only meant as a very brief introduction to the Northeast. Nearly all foreigners who have some contact with Thailand will have heard of the Isaan region and it’s people. The Northeast of the country is home to a substantial portion of the Thai population that is effectively the rice production engine room and chief source of cheap labour for Thailand. It is the poorest part of Thailand.
Isaan is largely agrarian, with vast swathes of land given over to rice production. Much of the land, which was of poor quality already, has been further depleted by the planting of Eucalyptus trees, which yield a relatively good profit but render the soil almost useless.
Isaan people have a very distinct culture of their own with their own Lao dialect (Isaan Thai) and they have resisted pressure from central Thailand to move closer to a central Thai way of life. There is a very noticeable social class, diet and overall thinking. There is also a substantial number of Khmer speakers along the Cambodian border in the South of the region, particularly in Surin province. Even so, nearly everyone can speak Central Thai and the region’s incorporation into Thailand as a whole is largely a success (See Isan Rebellion).
Nearly all tourists or expats will have come into contact with Isaan Thais, even if they didn’t realise it, as large numbers travel to Bangkok to find work in service industries, as labourers, or as taxi drivers and send money home to the family. This phenomenon is very noticeable in some Isaan villages, where you might only find very young children and elderly people, as nearly everyone of working age has left for the big city, or to the tourist resorts.
It is common to find young Isaan women working in the bars, brothels and gogo bars of Bangkok and major tourists resorts. This has partly been responsible for the curious phenomenon of the Isaan farang, many of whom married a bar girl and relocated with her to the family village up country. Many of these relationships are successful. Just as many were doomed to failure right from the start, due to cultural misunderstandings, language difficulties etc. That said, it is certainly not fair to assume all farangs you meet in the region are there due to the ‘bar fine romance’.
In summary, Isaan people are of Laotian descent, good natured, very friendly, peace loving and humble. If you find yourself there and walk around for 5 minutes on your own, you will likely be the centre of attention, be asked if you support Manchester United Football Club (English football is huge in Thailand) and have various young women offered to you in marriage. If you are not polite and respectful, you will not be at all welcome. If you are friendly, polite and make a little effort with the culture, they will love you.
Hey, I married and Isaan girl! Although I have had frequent occasion to wish she was far less ambitious than she is, I can’t imagine being luckier in love and companionship.
This Isaan Style! blog post was rather interesting. It discussed how the author felt that there is a missing generation in Isaan Thai villages.
If you’re interest in his view, then read Thailand. Isaan Village. Missing Generation.
You might appreciate the views on Thai Buddhism expressed in this paper (in .pdf format) titled CONTEXTUALIZING WITH THAI FOLK BUDDHISTS by Paul H. DeNeui. Although its avowed purpose “is to facilitate better communication of Jesus Christ to Thai Folk Buddhists through understanding their syncretistic worldview,” it touches upon the history and origins of Thai Buddhism, and how it developed.
Here’s a brief selection from another evangelist site called YWAM Thailand:
WE LOVE ISAAN
There’s an unfortunate cycle keeping families in the grips of poverty. Jobs are hard to find in the villages scattered throughout rural provinces like Si Saket. One of the first thing parents are inclined to do is have their children leave school to help earn money for the family. Leaving school like this is almost always a sure bet for more trouble in the future.
Young women and single mothers often resort to the option of prostitution to support themselves and their families. While young men often turn to substances and prostitutes for immediate pleasure in the midst of their continuous struggles. What can be done? What change can happen to help lift families and whole villages out of this cycle of poverty?
We Love Isaan (YWAM Si Saket) started in March 2008 with the vision to see hearts filled with the love of Christ, lives transformed out of physical and spiritual poverty, and the Isaan people begin to live out the dreams God has for them.
You can read the rest of it for yourself at the provided link.
This site does a good job of listing some of the Isaan attractions that tend to draw the tourists — Thailand Travel Online.
Paradise-Pattaya.com actually has a rather nice tribute to Isaan titled Introducing Isaan Thailand- The Northeastern Region of Thailand.
Apparently the following was posted in 1996:
The Isaan People
The Isaan people are a gentle people of Laotian decent who inhabit northeast Thailand. They have resisted the Central Thai pressure to give up their culture by both protesting and fighting. When the government took away all forms of their writing, they continued to maintain their Lao dialect without writing, and it continues strong to this day. Recent Isaan protests have brought a more conciliatory tone from the government, but the general attitude of both the government and the church is that the Isaan should settle down and become Central Thai in culture. Nonetheless, the Isaan have a distinct language, social class and eating habit.
They cherish their “sticky rice” as a staple and eat it with every meal. All their meals are the same and consist of rice with all manner green plants, along with fermented fish. Protein is not affordable, so it is often lacking in the diet.
The Isaan have never had much wealth, but the shift from their past communal farming style to a cash based society has done much to promote selfishness. A common solution to the poverty they face in the villages is to send their children to the city in order to make money to send back. This separates the family and introduces the children to many sorrows.
The Isaan are not adverse to taking up Western culture, but they resist Christianity as foreign. For them, as for other Thai people, to be Isaan is to be Buddhist. They seem interested in hearing about Christianity, but the possibility of conversion is not as welcome. They respond very favorably to those who make the effort to appreciate their culture and learn their language.
The source site is — yet again — evangelist; but if you want to check it out, then go here.
Okay, I have another informative paper (in .pdf format) that has some worthy elements, even if it is also Christian-themed like the previous one. Titled ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE ISAAN PEOPLE by Matthew L. Pierce, it seems to have a Baptist influence.
Ever hear of Nong Han in Udon Thani province? Here is someone’s blog-style report about a visit to the area.
Here’s a pretty good article: Profile of Isaan. Please note that it’s another Christian-based site, so expect the general information given there to have a heavy slant towards evangelism.
I promise this will be my last reference in this post to a Christian site: Joshua Project:
Introduction / History
The Northeastern Tai, also known as the Lao Isan, are dispersed throughout seventeen provinces in northeastern Thailand. This area takes up nearly one third of Thailand’s total land mass. It is basically a flat arid plain known as the Khorat plateau with infrequent rainfall and few natural resources. The region is noted for its archeological relics and monuments dating back to Khmer influence under the Angkor wat regime.
Many of the present day residents of the Khorat plateau were forcibly relocated to this hostile region over a period of a hundred years from the Lan Chang Kingdom in what is now the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos. Later the people, the region and their language was labeled by Siamese kings as Isan, the Pali word for northeast. Even though this region is now fully incorporated into Thailand and all residents are Thai, the Lao Isan language, unique diet, ritual and culture continues to thrive among this people group.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Northeastern Tai are farmers dependent primarily on rain-fed agriculture. Major crops are paddy rice, cassava and sugar cane. Like other Tai groups, they also raise cattle. Availability of fresh fruits, vegetables and fish varies with the seasons. Agricultural production remains low, due to the relatively dry climate and the saltiness of the soil. Although agriculture and industry is hindered by the shortage of water and internal infrastructure for transportation, the Northeastern Tai are still able to produce their world famous mud-mee silk.
For the most part the Northeastern Tai are organized into small villages which are part of subdistricts, under district control. The majority of the population lives in villages near their surrounding farmland. Village and district leaders are elected locally. Districts come under the governance of the province structure. Governors are appointed by the central government. Each province has a number of representatives in the parliamentary government correspondent with its registered population. Isan has the highest population statistics for all of rural Thailand and therefore the majority of the rural voting population of the country is located in Isan.
The Northeastern Tai are well known for their friendliness and openness. They are family and community oriented, which makes them generally non-competitive and easy-going.
Because northeastern Thailand frequently suffers from drought, the people who live there are often thought of as poverty stricken. Yet, the Northeastern Tai have become an urban, industrial labor force, and many of them have found jobs as factory workers in the larger cities and overseas. Although the Northeastern Tai may be more developed economically than the Northern and Central Tai, public education and better communication lines in the northeastern area have brought some measure of improvement in the last generation.
What are their beliefs?
More than half of the Northeastern Tai are Theravada Buddhist. They follow the teachings of Buddha (the “enlightened one”) and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in their present lives. Ultimately, they are in pursuit of nirvana, or perfect peace. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and frequently worshipping in the temples. Traditionally, young men enter a Buddhist monastery once in their life as a short-term monk to make merit for their parents or family members.
Many of the Northeastern Tai continue to practice their traditional ethnic religions particularly for important rites of passage. They combine Buddhist teachings with folk religious practices, seeking help through the worship of spirits and venerated objects.
What are their needs?
Improved nutrition, improved infrastructure, improved industry, local micro-enterprise investments, educational opportunites beyond the primarily grades, appropriate technology and fair representation in the central government, biblical communication of the good news of Christ in non-western forms that speak to popular Buddhist values.
Does anyone know where this restaurant is?
Does anyone know where the restaurant is in Sawang daen din, Northeast of Thailand called Jai Sawan????
From a Google search:
Sawang Daen Din
Sawang Daen Din is a town in Sakhon Nakhon Province, some 80km (50mi) west of the town of Sakhon Nakhon on the highway between Udon Thani and Sakhon Nakhon, about half way between the two provincial capitals.
Perhaps you could also post in the Thai Visa Forum under the Isaan forum and get some help.
THAI ISAAN FOOD: JAEW BONG (PLA RAH PASTE)
TryThaiFood | June 09, 2010
Pla rah, bla rah is a kind of food that we, some of Thai Isaan people, have with all meals! I mean breakfast, lunch and dinner. One thing that we can’t miss is various kind of veggies we can find in our own garden. Dip soft boiled veggies and sticky rice in this paste…hmmm… I am drooling now. 😛
Oh! My mom help guiding me for this recipe. Thank you Mommy! :))
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