NAKORN SI THAMMARAT
Nakhon Si Thammarat is a southern Thai coastal province edging the Thai Gulf. The province covers some 9,942 square kilometers. The provincial capital is some 780 kilometers south of Bangkok. The province is historically important, inasmuch as that from the late 1200s, trade was firmly established between Nakhon Si Thammarat and Southern India, including Sri Lanka. Intermarriage between local women and foreign merchants resulted in the import of certain Indian beliefs and customs, (including Brahmanism and shadow plays), influences that were to have profound effects on the Siamese courts of the Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767). Nakhon Si Thammarat was also a major center of Buddhism some 1,700 years ago, during the Srivichaya Period.
Attractions - in the city
Wat Phra Mahathat
This is one of the most revered temples in southern Thailand, and is by far the most prominent city landmark. The original pagoda was built some 1,700 years ago to house Buddha relics brought from Sri Lanka. The 77-metre pagoda dominates a complex of lesser yet nevertheless interesting structures which include:
This chapel to the left of the pagoda is a perfect example of Ayutthayan-style architecture and contains an intricately painted and decorated ceiling.
Wihan Pra Ma
This chapel to the right of the pagoda contains two national artistic masterpieces, namely bas-relief depicting the life of the Lord Buddha in India before his Enlightenment, and a carved door, dating back hundreds of years, depicting the Hindu gods Brahma and Vishnu. There is also a small museum encompassing a cluster of priceless archaeological discoveries.
Wat Sema Muang
It was here that a stone inscription was found which recounts the origin of the traditional Thai greeting, Sawasdee. The stone is now kept in Bangkok's National Museum.
Wat Wang Tawan Tok
This temple is noteworthy for a traditional southern Thai-style house within the complex. Construction of the house commenced in 1888. The structure took 13 years to complete. The building was constructed entirely without nails, and is notable for elaborately carved doors, windows and gables.
This temple was built during the 1780s. Keng Chin, a small Chinese-style building, is decorated with wood imported from China. The ashes of a Nakhon Si Thammarat ruler and his wife are contained in two small pagodas within this building.
This temple contains the ashes of King Taksin the Great (reign: 1767-1782) and was built some 200 years ago.
Phra Buddha Sihing Chapel
This contains one of three identical and highly revered Buddha images originally from Sri Lanka. The other two images are in Bangkok's National Museum and Chiang Mai's Wat Phra Sing in northern Thailand.
Nakhon Si Thammarat National Museum
This houses a priceless permanent exhibition of artifacts and locally produced art, including drums, shadow play puppets, hand-woven yan liphao basketry, and examples of local folk art.
City Wall & Northern Gate
Originally measuring some 400 by 2,200 meters, the ancient city walls, and northern gate, have been restored several times between the 1300s and 1990s.
This memorial at the northern end of Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial capital commemorates the bravery of Thai soldiers who fought Japanese invaders during the Second World War.
Attractions - out of the city
Along Highway 401 (Nakhon Si Thammarat-Surat Thani)
Hin Ngam Beach
66 kilometers from Nakhon Si Thammarat, and 4.5 kilometers from Si Chong district, this rocky yet popular beach has extensive accommodation facilities.
Located some 100 kilometers north of the provincial capital, in Khanom district, this tranquil area is the focal point of a sandy beach area that includes the equally scenic
Nai Pihlao Beach. Khao Wang Thong Cave
Generally regarded as being one of the most beautiful caves in Thailand, and preserved by environmentally concerned local villagers against industrial encroachment, this cave is also in Khanom district, and some 100 kilometers north of the provincial capital.
Khao Luang National Park
The park covers an area of 570 square kilometers comprising largely mountainous terrain and lush fruit orchards. The area is noteworthy for several scenic waterfalls, which are ideal for hiking and swimming. Some off the more popular waterfalls include:
Taking Highway towards Lan Saka for 20 kilometers, and making a 3-kilometre hike from the main road can reach this waterfall.
Phrom Lok Waterfall
This 3-level cascade is one of the park's largest waterfalls.
Krung Ching Waterfall
One of the cascades of this spectacular waterfall is aptly named Nan Fon Saen Ha, which translates as 'Hundred Thousand Drops of Rain'. Reaching the falls entails a 4-kilometre walk from the national park's bungalows.
Elephant Trekking & Rafting
Khlong Klaai is the natural boundary between Khao Luang National Park to the north, and Khao Nan National Park to the South. Local villagers have established a novel way of enjoying local scenery, including the lush jungle of Krung Ching, by entering the forest by raft and returning on elephant back.
Some 23 kilometers from the provincial capital, this village lies at the foot of Khao Luang (Luang Mountain), which raises 1,835 meters above sea level. The village is the first stop for a hike to the mountain summit. The village is set among lush forests and cool streams, belying the fact that the community was devastated during 1988 by floods and landslides.
Nakhon Si Thammarat is the principal center for Southern folk arts and handicrafts. Major native handicrafts, and products, include:
Shadow Play Puppets
Southern shadow play, known as Nang Talung, originated in the area, and remains popular until the present day. Performances entail the manipulation of puppets, with at least one moving part, behind illuminated screens. The puppets, essentially elaborately carved stencils, are fashioned from cowhide and make popular souvenirs. Visits can be made to Suchat House to see how such puppets are laboriously handcrafted.
Yan Liphao Basketry
Yan Liphao is an indigenous clinging vine that can be fashioned into thread and hand-woven into a wide range of durable and extremely attractive objects, primarily purses and handbags. A Yan Liphao Center is located at Tha Rua Village.
This exquisitely colored and patterned cloth, in fact distinctive brocade, is woven only in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
These include silverware, neillo ware and bronze ware. Many craft shops are located along Tha Chang Road.
Festivals & Special Events
Prapheni Duean Sip
Translated as the 'Tenth Moon Festival', this is celebrated annually on the last three days of the tenth lunar month (usually late September or early October) when people make 'merit' for their ancestors. The 10-day celebration is marked by processions and religious ceremonies centered on Wat Phra Mahathat.
Hae Pha Khun That Homage paying Ceremony
This 3-day event, also centered on Wat Phra Mahathat, entails wrapping around the central pagoda a cloth painting of the Buddha's life to pay homage to enshrined Buddha relics. The annual event occurs during the third lunar month, generally late February or early March.