The Good Life in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Although not often visited by outsiders, Nakhon Si Thammarat in Southern Thailand is a fascinating city that for centuries was an influential trading port visited by merchants from China, India and Sri Lanka. Its strategic location in the Gulf of Thailand also saw it become an important European trading post in the 17th century. As a result, the city is a historical melting pot of cultures with some amazing sites and attractions that can be easily explored on foot or by bicycle.
A major landmark in Nakhon Si Thammarat is the early 13th century Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, the most important Buddhist temple in Southern Thailand, attracting visitors from all over Asia. There’s also Ban Nang Thalung Suchart Subsin, a traditional shadow puppet museum that shouldn’t be passed up. Typically, shadow puppets are flat in shape and hand-crafted from leather. The puppeteer sits behind a thin white curtain with a light behind him projecting the shadow of the puppet onto the curtain for enthralled audiences to see.
Just outside town, there are plenty of things to do, like Khiri Travel’s local experience, which takes you on a very early morning trip to a nearby fishing village on the Pak Phaying River. Here we team up with a crew of local fishermen and sail up the river in an area teeming with birdlife.
With the early dawn light appearing on the horizon, you will notice the dense mangrove forest habitat emerging from the banks of the river. The crew boils up some water as the boat’s engine has been switched off. Sit back to enjoy a few local snacks and a nice hot cup of tea or coffee. All you can hear is the sound of the wind and the waves slapping against the bottom of the boat.
Your guide explains the local customs and describes what it’s like to be a local fisherman. The boat continues its journey, during which you encounter other fishing boats, stopping now and again to check on their catch. The mangrove forests along the river’s edge and down the coast are coming to life, so there’s plenty of birdlife to observe.
We’ll visit an area on the river where one of the crew will jump into the water. He’ll emerge standing up and holding large lumps of sea clay – it’s time for a mud spa! The sea in the mouth of the estuary is about waist deep: the mud found there is believed to have healing properties.
Jumping out of your boat and ending up to your knees in mud is a cool and therapeutic experience. Standing there and covering yourself with mud will clear up your pores! On the way back mudskippers – a kind of amphibious fish – can be seen sliding, crawling and skipping across the mudflats between the roots of the mangrove trees. Back in the fishing village, you can take a shower and remove the layers of mud.
Once in dry clothes, we’ll depart by ‘sa-ling’, a three-wheeled motorcycle, for a visit to a mulberry farm. Mulberries grow the whole year round and here you can pick and gorge yourself on them! Other fruits, such as passion fruit, are grown here too. Various birds including some majestic peacocks stay at the farm. The owner of the farm shows off her mulberry jam, which of course, can be tasted and purchase to take home.
Back at the fishing village enjoy a local lunch, while the headman and guide provide you with more insight about life here and how villagers are now embracing ecotourism and sustainable practices. These green initiatives not only provide them with a source of income but also help to preserve the local way of life.
If you are looking for a travel experience that immerses you in Thailand’s rural south, then a visit to Nakhon Si Thammarat to meet the fishermen of the Pak Phaying River will provide you with a truly authentic glimpse of local life, while supporting their cultural heritage in a sustainable and responsible way.
For bookings and similar local trips in rural parts of Thailand, get in touch with us at: [email protected].