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Bangkok Travelbug August 12 The dinosaurs of Kalasin
July 29, 2012

The dinosaurs of Kalasin

Welcome back to the Bangkok Travelbug. We return to Issarn, the north-eastern region of Thailand to the province of Kalasin which is famous for its dinosaur fossils.

We will be re-visiting the period when dinosaurs and other early forms of life existed in Issarn to learn about the discovery of these fossils, the origins and extinction of these forms of life.

Contents (click on the link to go directly to the topic)

Kalasin province

Kalasin is about 520 km by road from Bangkok and 80 km east of Khon Kaen, the last province in Issarn we visited. The provincial capital Kalasin city is a relatively quiet city. Its wide roads are free of traffic jams even on an early Tuesday morning.

Kalasin city

Besides dinosaur fossils, Kalasin is known for its exquisite Phrae Wa Thai silk. It is also home to the Phu Thai community, an ethnic group that lives on both banks of the Mekong, in Thailand and Laos.

This month we are visiting Phu Kum Khao, the site of an extensive excavation effort and discovery of numerous dinosaur fossils. Join us as we take a trip back to the Jurassic Period.

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Dinosaur fossils in Thailand

More than 100 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the countryside in Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen and Loei provinces in the north-eastern region of Thailand or Issarn.

Life in the Jurassic Period (approx. 200 million – 145 million years ago) didn’t just consist of dinosaurs though they were most well-known. Early life also included birds and marine life like fish, crocodiles, squids, plankton and algae.

Then approximately 60 million years ago, they went extinct and disappeared off the face of the earth. They remained forgotten until the second half of the 20th C when their remains were discovered by accident.

The first traces of dinosaurs in Kalasin were found in 1978 by Phrakru Wijitsahatsakun, the abbot of Wat Sakkawan in Amphur Sahatsakhan, a district 30 km north of Kalasin city.

One day while he was walking around Phu Kum Khao, the hill where the temple is located, he found three huge bones which appeared very old. The abbot took the bones back to the temple.

Later Dr Varavudh Suteethorn, a geologist from the Mineral Resources Department, visited Wat Sakkawan and examined the three bones found by the abbot. The bones were identified as the front leg bones of the Saurapod, a gigantic herbivorous dinosaur found in all continents except the Antarctica.

In 1994, ground water survey officials discovered more fossils in the area around Wat Sakkawan known as Phu Kum Khao. This discovery in 1994 spurred the formation of a joint French - Thai team of experts to survey and excavate the area.

The excavation in 1995

In 1995 they uncovered a treasure trove of 700 pieces of dinosaur bones when assembled made up seven Saurapod dinosaurs. One of them is the most complete.

Fossils discovered

Phu Kum Khao the area where the excavations were made is preserved as a research centre for further surveys, studies and identification of fossils.

Identifying the various parts

The Sirindhorn Museum located here exhibits the fossils discovered and serves as a research and knowledge centre for the origin and extinction of the various forms of pre- historic life. It is the largest dinosaur museum in S E Asia.

Exhibits in the Sirindhorn Museum

Though dinosaur fossils have been discovered in several provinces in Issarn, the Sirindhorn Museum in Kalasin is the most established museum on this subject in Thailand.

Kalasin has taken great efforts to preserve her heritage and to remind her people and visitors on the road to Sahatsakhan of this rare historical treasure in the province.

Dinosaur Park on the road to Sahatsakhan

Having a joy ride


Excavations in other parts of Issan have discovered 16 species of dinosaurs in Thailand, six of which are new species not found in other parts of the world.

The six species have been named after the area where they were found:
  • Phuwianggosaurus Sirindhornae

  • Isanosaurus Attavipatchi

  • Psittacosaurus Sattayaraki

  • Siamosaurus Suteethorni

  • Siamotyrannus Isanensis

  • Kinnareemimus Khonkaenensis

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Sirindhorn Museum

Given the historical significance of the area around Wat Sakkawan where the dinosaur fossils were discovered, the Mineral Resources Department decided to build a museum in the vicinity.

The museum, which was completed in 2006, was named Phu Kum Khao Museum after the hill on which the fossils were found. HRH Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn kindly consented to have the museum renamed the Sirindhorn Museum.

Sirindhorn Museum, Kalasin

The Sirindhorn Museum was opened to the public on 7 April 2007. The grand official opening was presided over by HRH Crown Princess Sirindhorn on 9 December 2007

The Sirindhorn Museum is organised into eight zones.
  • Origin of the Universe and Earth

  • Development of early life

  • Exhibits of reptiles and dinosaurs and Thai dinosaurs

  • Dinosaur life

  • Extinction and discovery of dinosaurs

  • The era of mammals

  • The evolution of Man

Here are some of the exhibits in the Sirindhorn Museum.

Siamosaurus Suteethorni – first dinosaur to be studied and assembled in Thailand and named after Dr Varavudh Suteethorn

Phuwianggosaurus Sirindhornae – the first Sauropod discovered
in Thailand in Phu Wiang district, Khon Kaen and named after
HRH Crown Princess Sirindhorn

There was a school excursion to the museum while I was there. It’s heartening to see young children given an early exposure to these rare fossils in their province.

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Phu Kum Khao dinosaur site

Phu Kum Khao is the hill on which the actual excavation work was done. The excavation site is preserved as a small museum, the Phu Kum Khao dinosaur site museum.

Phu Kum Khao dinosaur site museum

The original pit which was excavated has been preserved and visitors can walk around it to see some of the fossils.

The excavation pit – the mould on the left with a wooden sign shows
the original ground level

There are still some old bones left in the pit.

The museum traces the history of the exploration and excavation of the fossils with colour photo illustrations.

There is also a workshop for the assembly of fossils found where work is still been done.

Putting the pieces together

The dinosaurs of Kalasin are some of the evidence of early life in north-eastern Thailand light years ago all of which contribute to the rich historical heritage in the region.

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Map of Kalasin

View Map Kalasin, Thailand in a larger map

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Map of Sahatsakhan

View Map of Sahatsakhan, Kalasin in a larger map

Getting to Kalasin

From Mor Chit the northern bus terminal in Bangkok the journey by bus takes about eight hours. Fare for the 1st class tour bus is 441 baht.

Sirindhorn Museum opening hours

Open from Tuesdays – Sundays

Closed on Mondays except when a national holiday falls on Monday

Admission fees

With effect from 1 May 2012, admission fees will be 40 baht for adults and 10 baht for children.

It’s free for children under 12, senior citizens over 60, monks, handicapped persons, war veterans and excursion groups from educational institutions.

Contact details

Sirindhorn Museum
Amphur Sahatsakhan

Tel +66 43 871 014 and +66 43 871 615 - 6

Getting around Kalasin

I got around Kalasin on this vehicle. According to the driver, it was assembled in neighbouring Udon Thani and was driven all the way back to Kalasin.

It’s a three-wheeler that’s slightly smaller than a "tuk tuk". The passenger compartment is reconfigured to be like a "song taeow" with two rows of seats facing each other.

It’s called "sam lor krueng" in Thai or motorised three-wheeler and goes by the unlikely nickname, "skylab". It can comfortably seat four to six adults behind.

You can charter the vehicle for the day for 1,200 – 1,300 baht depending on where you want to go. For half day trips you can negotiate for about 700 baht. The passenger pays for the gas, that's not much. On one day I covered almost 200 km and the gas cost 250 baht.

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Where to stay – hotels in Kalasin

The Paiboon Place Hotel is just 500 m from the Kalasin bus terminal.

A P Garden Hotel Pailin Hotel Phaiboon Place Hotel

Ponthong Garden Ratchapreuk Resort Suak Hotel

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Next month

Phrae Wa Thai silk of Kalasin

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Till next month then.

Eric Lim

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