Saturday 16 June 2007

Trip To Nakhon Si Thammarat

Welcome to this trip report to Nakhon Si Thammarat.

One of my wife's friends, Tawan, who works at the same hotel that she used to work at, was ill since a few months and we decided to pay him a visit. The plan was to visit him in his home town of Tha Sala, which is on the way to Nakhon Si Thammarat and visit the fairly famous Wat Pra Mahathat in the city of Nakhon itself.

We took an early Seatran ferry over to Donsak at the mainland and upon arrival at the mainland we tried to book a ticket for the ferry back, that same day. We were told that all ferries from 4 pm onwards were booked and maybe we could get a place on the 7 pm ferry. We decided to stay overnight and night take any chances for having to wait a couple of hours and then being told that there's no space anyway.

It was a really nice drive from Donsak via Khanom to Tha Sala, lush green on both sides of the road and hardly any traffic, in sharp contrast to Koh Samui nowadays, unfortunately.

On our way over to Tha Sala, we encountered two weddings, which according to my wife meant good luck. Upon arriving at Tawan's home, it turned out that there was a ceremony, called Pim Nam Rong, at the temple next to the school grounds where they were making Buddha amulets. It was very busy and cars were parked everywhere. This raised the amount of good luck for the day according to my wife.

After having parked at the school grounds we had to walk through the rice paddies to reach Tawan's house. We sat down and chatted a bit and ate the food that he had cooked for us.

It's season for rice planting, the picture above shows the rice paddies surrounding Tawan's house and the rice plants that are being planted.

At the back of Tawan's house was this beautiful little river, tracking it's way through the countryside. Tawan has 6 more brothers and sisters, at my Dad's, they were with a total of 14 children (good faithful Catholics, back in the days!) which I thought was quite a lot, but in the house at the back of Tawan's house, they had 20 children!!!! The oldest was now 36 and the youngest 9 years old. All those 20 kids have been raised in a smallish 3 room house next to this bend in the river.

After we were done with eating and talking at Tawan's house, we wanted to hit the road and have a look at the Wat (temple) near his place. The ceremony that I was talking about in the local temple, was about making Buddha amulets. Here's a picture of the 'stamping' machine that is used in order to make the amulets. When we arrived, the ceremony was just finished and we ended up buying a copy of each of the two amulets being 'stamped' that day, a small one for 299 Baht and a bigger one for 499 Baht.

There were also a couple of elephants at the ground, which according to Tawan, had a football game the previous day, as part of the Temple party. Our son is highly enthralled by elephants and was very happy when he could lay eyes on a bunch of real ones. This is one of the cars that travel with the elephant show, it makes for a real side show feel back in the days when the circuses had all those 'freak shows', some of the stuff that is still alive and kicking at Thai fairs.

After the stop at the local Wat, it was time to move on to Nakhon Si Thammarat. It's mostly famous for it's big Temple, Prah Mahathat, the city's most hitoric site but Nakhon Si Thammarat, was a also a very important centre of religion and culture in the past, part of this having to do with the fact that it had a harbour. Thai shadow play and classical dance-drama were developed in Nakhon Si Thammarat. The city has also a bit of a rep for having a lot of rough guys and being a violent city.

Once inside the city, around noon, we drove to the Wat Mahathat and found a parking space directly in front of the entrance to the temple grounds. The good luck was starting to pay off!

Immediately we stumbled over a couple of ceremonies going on simultaneously, all related to more amulet 'stamping'. This temple caused a rage a few months ago by introducing amulets in a certain style. When the 'first edition' went on sale, people got crushed to death by trying to buy one of the amulets. Despite this tragic event, it created a hype all over Thailand and now all temples in the region are cranking out amulets in this style, like there's no tomorrow, hence the explanation of the ceremony near Tawan's house. Although, yesterday, 15th June, was thought of as a rather lucky day, see the two weddings and two stamping ceremonies planned for this day.

The picture above was taken inside the Temple grounds and is part of a square wall around the most sacred part of the temple, the bot, where inside the walls are lined with these tranquil galleries where dozens of Buddha statues sit, called wihaans (Buddhist image sanctuaries). It's by far the biggest temple in the South of Thailand, comparable to Wat Pho and and other large Bangkok wats.

This is the most sacred part of the temple. It's statues representing Queen Hem Chala and her brother, who reputedly founded the temple complex over a thousand years ago.

Inside the same room where some pictures of monks, this particular one seemed to have reversed Vulcan ears and I wonder if he's somehow related to Mr. Spock.

There's load of stuff to see, wandering around the bot, and to my big surprise, I found a canon which has Dutch origins, it had VOC printed on the barrel, which stands for Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, which was established in 1602. It shows the importance of the harbour, how Nakhon could develop into such a cultural centre, since inside the museum grounds are also two museums (unfortunately one was closed) and there was original 'Delfts Blauw' , porcelain with Dutch land scapes and scenes on them, on display. What a surprise it was to see these Dutch artifacts so unexpectedly in this place. A few more pictures of the museum, amongst others pix of a 12 meter long whale skeleton can be found here.

Outside the bot, life went on in the meantime and this picture shows me together with a kind of Brahman, a guy who travels around Thailand and visits sacred ceremonies. He's from Lopburi, which is north of Bangkok. He had a big area set up where he was about to do his thing. Whatever that was, since we didn't stay around to watch him perform.

At around 2 pm it started to rain for an hour, so a perfect time to sit down and eat something. Since we're in Thailand, food is never far away and inside the temple grounds was also some kind of market area where lots of religious artifacts were sold, among tons of amulets and thee had to be a food court. Here's were we ate. Some good curries on display.

Here's another picture of the 'stamping' machine, in which in this case case, coloured material is inserted in the machine, together with a small gold piece and/or a gold leave.

At around 3 pm we called it a day, the rain had stopped and we walked back to where the car was parked. Here it proofed to be a very lucky day for us, since for all the three hours that we were at the temple grounds, I had left the car keys sticking inside the drivers door!

After we considered how lucky we were, it was still off to Tha Sala, to drop Tawan off at the school, so he could walk home and we were off to spend the night in Khanom.

We ended up in Nai Phao bay in Khanom, looking for a place to spend the night.

We ended up in the Supar Royal Beach hotel, a room for a 1.000,-Baht which allowed all four of us to sleep. The food outside of the hotel, in their beach restaurant was very good. Here's a picture of the view from the 5th floor at 6 am.

Last but not least, back home, here's Nathon on Samui as seen from the Seatran ferry.
All in all a very nice and relaxing trip in which it was nice to spend some time with the family.
Hope you enjoyed the story and the pictures and am looking forward to hopefully read some comments.



Michael L. Compton said...

Looks like it was a beautiful trip. Makes me want to visit there even more now. Hopefully soon...


Camille Lemmens said...

Hi ML,

I'd truelly enjoy having you and Skip over here!

Anonymous said...

Great review and some really nice photos. Has Im been giving you tips?!

Glad to see you had a good time:)

Camille Lemmens said...

Hi Dave,


Tips on amulets?