Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vacation: Nakhon Si Thammarat (นครศรีธรรมราช)

The first stop on my trip was the tiny, absolutely non-tourist city of Nakhon Si Thammarat, known in Thai as นครศรีธรรมราช.  I can't read that at all, but it's absolutely wonderful to look at in small quantities.  Nakhon Si Thammarat has been plagued by floods for pretty much a year now.  It's been pretty bad, and a lot of people in the lower half of town (incidentally, the poorer half of town - isn't that how it always goes?) have had to relocate.  Interestingly enough, the whole experience in the city (from the weather to my hotel) kept reminding me of my time in Nicaragua.

I stayed in a cute hotel called Teeny House while I was there.  I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I'm glad I stayed there.  Its bright pink exterior helped keep me from getting lost, the rooms were nice, and the food was delicious.  The staff couldn't have been more friendly or helpful.  I'm pretty sure, of the couple who owns the place, the wife is primarily responsible for the decorations.  It almost gave the feel of a B&B, each floor having a feel of a theme (although you'd have to be a woman to notice it, because each theme was flower-heavy) and hidden poetry or philosophy painted onto the walls.

And, of course, what is a hotel without a mascot/symbol of some sort.  This seemed to be Teeny House's:
While I felt awful for this dog, having to wear a dress in that kind of heat, I did enjoy rolling it around in play, in essence, contributing to the heat problem.  Ah, well...

Nakhon Si Thammarat, while not being tourist in nature, is rich with history and culture.  I took a day to walk the entire length of the place (I'd guess four miles?) and check out a bunch of historical spots marked on my tourist map.  Here are some of them:

This stupa - "Chedi Yak" - was built between 1257 and 1358 AD.   It's in the Coylouese (Sri Lankan) style. 
This Buddha image - "Luang Pho Ngoen" - is located in front of Chedi Yak.

I'm pretty sure this was at "Suan Phra Ngern."

I went out of my way to find this pool.  Unfortunately, it was very much closed off and shut down.  This is "Sa Lang Dap Si Prat," and, according to my tourist map, Si Prat was a poet who prospered during the rule of King Narai the Great.  However, like most poets, he wasn't a fan of conformity to custom and tradition, and, crossing the line with one toe too many, he was banished to Nakhon Si Thammarat, where, keeping with the poet stereotype, he was found to be committing adultery with a local woman.  As punishment, he was executed (by beheading, from what I can tell) near this pool.  According to legend, the executioner washed his sword in this pool.

This is part of the ancient city wall.  It is surmised that the wall was constructed over an older wall that was an earth wall, supported by columns.  This newer wall is a brick wall, covered by plaster.  I sat at this wall and enjoyed a Coke, while watching a guy fishing.  Then the police came by and started hitting on me, so I figured it was time to go. 

Phra Sua Muang Shrine was built to house an image of Phra Sua Muang, the angel of the city who is supposed to protect the city from all dangers, along with protecting the armed forces and bringing peace to the locals.

At Wat Phra Maha That Woramaha Wihan (try saying that 10 times fast... ... ... or at all) also known as: The Big Pagoda.  I'm putting up two pictures that don't show much at all of its size or beauty, but I promise I'll post more in my next post.  You'll understand why.

Each of these is supposed to hold the ashes of a Buddhist monk.
Yup.  I definitely think the walk was worth the sunburn.  Plus, on the way back, a local college kid got excited to see a white person, so he asked to take a picture with me.  In return, he gave me a ride on his motor bike back to my hotel, while his wife waited at the college.  It was terrifying, as it had just rained and we were going incredibly fast, but I managed to avoid a third round with sun poisoning, so I still throw this one in the win-win category.  :)

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