Nakhon Si Thammarat is a province in the South of Thailand, and it’s also the second largest town in the South. It’s not a popular tourist destination – mainly because there are so many beautiful islands that people would rather visit in the area.
But if you’re looking for something different – Nakhon Si Thammarat might be worth checking out.
There’s a lot going on culturally and artistically. If you want to see a traditional Thai shadow play, this is where you should look. The puppets are made out of rattan and cow- or buffalo-hide, in the traditional way. It’s definitely not something everyone will appreciate, but it can be a hypnotic experience if you’re open to it.
This kind of theatre is popular all over Southeast Asia – not just Thailand. But it is one of the oldest kinds of theatre. It is believed that it originated in India, and then spread throughout the region. There are records that 400 BC Buddhist literature was enacted in these kinds of shadow places. Local cultures have adapted these plays to their own traditions.
According to some historic sources, Theravada Buddhism arrived in Thailand first at Nakhon Si Thammarat. This was a an important trading hub once, and a lot of the ships that travelled between India and China stopped here too, so a lot of cultural exchange took place. From here, Theravada Buddhism went up to the Sukhothai kingdom in the 13th century.
Even today, it’s still one of the major religious places in the South. There are several important Buddhist festivals that take place here, and it’s worth checking out when they happen before you come here.
The main temple in the city is called Wat Mahathat. Relics of the Buddha are stored here, and pilgrims from all over the country come here to pray, meditate and worship. The relics have been brought here by an Indian prince around 2000 years ago, enshrined in a chedi.
When you visit the temple, you might see one area where lots of baby pictures are placed. It’s best to come here with a personal Thai tour guide, but to give a short explanation: This is also where women come to pray to a particular Buddha image when they want to get pregnant. After they have given birth, they will come here and thank the Buddha, and will place a photo of their baby here.
The National Museum is another interesting place in Nakhon Si Thammarat worth visiting. pers