Nakhon Si Thammarat
I visited Nakhon Si Thammarat (Nakhon Si to the locals) with Kan in December 2006. I was really looking forward to this trip as it is Kan’s home town and her father and relatives till live in a village outside of the city. Nakhon Si is a large and bustling town of over 100,000 people situated in southern Thailand and has a long and ancient history. It is not a pretty town, but there is lots to see and do and it is near the coast and has spectacular mountains and national parks nearby.
We travelled there from Lang Suan by bus, spent a weekend there, and then returned to Lang Suan in December 2006. The trip takes about 4 hours in each direction. The bus was full on the way there so I sat in the front with the driver as far as Surat Thani, when many passengers alighted. One of the guys who got on with us took a nap in the luggage compartment! Sitting in the front, crammed in with other passengers was a great experience and I got a really good view of the road. There was no seat for the conductor either, so she just stood by the front door stairwell! The driver had driven non-stop from Bangkok and must have been exhausted but he just kept going. He was listening to a radio that only worked intermittently and he didn’t have much room because I was squashed up against him. But he was cheerful and happy, smoking like a chimney and chatting to me with Kan acting as interpreter. Although he drove fast, 120km an hour, he wasn’t reckless, and I felt safe. After Surat Thani we sat back with the other passengers and got to Nakhon Si around 7 pm in the evening.
One the first night we stayed at the Twin Lotus Hotel, supposedly the best hotel in the city and far better than anything in Lang Suan. The lobby was glitzy and the rooms were spacious and cheap, 700 baht a night. The downside was that it was a fair way out of town.
The next morning we went sightseeing. First stop was the Nakhon Si Thammarat branch of the National Museum. It was very impressive. Not many people about but well worth a visit as there is some spectacular material. The highlight was a 5,000 year old bronze drum, one of only a handful known, of which this one is the best example.
Next stop was the Wat Phra Mahathat temple. It is the most important temple of Nakhon Si Thammarat and southern Thailand, dating back to AD757. The 78 m high chedi, built in the 13th century and surrounded by 173 smaller ones, is a copy of the Mahathupa in Ceylon. There is a large monks’ quarter at the back as well.
This temple alone makes a visit to Nakhon Si worthwhile. Kan solemnly informed me that the main chedi is famous for not casting a shadow. I was surprised that she should believe this as she as a postgraduate science degree. I pointed out to her that the laws of physics are immutable, and that they cannot apply everywhere in the universe except for one temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat. It was a hot cloudless day and lo and behold, we discovered that the chedi did indeed cast a shadow. But as Kan observed, most of it could not be see because of the surrounding chedis, and so face was saved. There was a religious event being held at the time and the temple shops were doing a roaring trade selling religious paraphernalia.
From there it was a short walk to the best preserved remnant of the original city wall adjacent to the old town jail, and now a beautiful square and bridge over a river. There were some interesting people around including this man in a cowboy hat and two young boys, one of whom has been eating way more junk food than is good for him.
We went to the markets to get some food for dinner and then caught the bus to her father’s home at Ban Ma Kham Riang, chatting to some schoolgirls along the way. We put down our stuff and walked around the fields. Very pretty, but the mosquitoes had a feast. Then Kan cooked dinner in the shed outside. The home is new, his children having paid 1 million baht over the years to have it built. It is nice outside but inside he is living as if he were still in the old one. Shit everywhere. Just him, and his birds.
The next day we went to Khiriwong village, adjacent to the Khao Luang National Park. It took about half an hour in a songthaew, and then we got a motorbike to the village. There were beautiful rainforest trees and a lovely river, which unfortunately combined to make everything unbearably humid. We went walking around, had lunch, and then came back to Nakhon Si in time to get the late afternoon bus back to Lang Suan. All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend.
Pretty wet down in Nakhon Si Thammarat at the moment!