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Mahasarakham Photos – Downtown 1963

Mahasarakham (มหาสารคาม) is one of Thailand’s 75 provinces (changwat – จังหวัด), located in the heart of the northeastern part of the country known locally as Isaan (อีสาน). Mahasarakham is also the heart of the book, The Naga Prince, because it is here that Kermit Krueger went to work with the Peace Corps in the early 1960’s.

Despite its seemingly remote location, the Isan region is rich in history, with legends and structures stretching back to the great Khmer Empire that controlled most of Southeast Asia from the 7th to the 13th centuries. Just a few miles from Mahasarakham stands Ku Mahathat (กู่มหาธาตุ), a 13th century hospital built by King Jayavarman VII, the Khmer ruler who reigned from his capital city of Angkor Thom less than 200 miles to the south.

In 1963, Mahasarakham province was one of the poorest in Thailand, with rice farming as the primary occupation. To provide more opportunities, the government established a small teacher’s college. Today, Mahasarakham University is the largest university in Northeastern Thailand, with nearly 40,000 students.

The Teachers Training College of Mahasarakham that opened in the early 1960’s was closed in March 1968. On March 27, 1968 it re-opened as the Mahasarakham College of Education. This change transformed what (in American terms) would have been a junior or community college (2 year institution) into a 4 year college.

In March 1974 the College of Education became the Mahasarakham regional campus of the Srinakharinwirot University. Finally, on December 22, 1994 it became an independent institution, the present Masarakham University.

Downtown Mahasarakham – 1963

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3 Responses

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  1. Greg Beel says

    I loved those pictures. It seems so peaceful and simple, but that is probably not true. It is such a big student city now. I would still like to visit there.

  2. Kermit Krueger says

    Somehow I’ve never thought of Mahasarakham 50 years ago as a peaceful place. But then I grew up in Midwestern villages with populations of about 250 (including cats and dogs and a few squirrels) so even four years in that university in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a year of graduate study at Columbia in New York City, Mahasarakham was still a big city to this country kid. Downtown was always busy, 24 / 7 as we say today. Its people were so kind and friendly to this foreigner who often stopped in the market at non for duck noodle soup ad enjoyed that garlic fish along with many othr delicacies. Movies, Thai boxing, cock fighting, horse racing. By even today’s upcountry Thai standards it may seem a simpler place, but I remember it as a place of endless activities (even including a few that might have been a little shady).

  3. admin says

    Kermit, what a wonderful visual record you have created. Almost no Thais would have been taking pictures and I’m sure many children seeking to see their parent’s era in that town will enjoy your shots. Thank you!