SKEEZIX’s JBRs – PART 7 – NAKHON PHANOM:
Nakhon Phanom is very dear to my heart… It was Tony’s home for awhile, way back when… and when my trip was in the planning stages, we talked about travelling together in this area, but when the time came, he wasn’t well enough… It was very poignant for me to be there, when I knew he had just gone into the hospital the day before. I write this in honour of him, and dedicate it to him. I hope that one day in the not too distant future, Tony, you get a chance to read it...
Two years ago, I started a thread on TA titled: “Has Anybody Travelled in the Isaan Region?” and I got so much wonderful information from so many people who had travelled there. I heard so much about all the wonderful places and things to see and do, that it became a definite destination in my travel plans. It is in the far northeast of Thailand, on the border with Laos.
From Nong Khai, I hired a driver and took the road less travelled, that followed – on and off – the Mekong River. It was a longer route than the highway straight south from Nong Khai, but I had heard the scenery was better. It was pretty dry climate, and not much traffic. The drive took about 5 hours, with no lunch stop. I arrived around 2 pm in the town. There were several lovely temples as we travelled into the town and along the street by the Mekong, and I heard from someone that the locals in each temple area take care of and maintain each temple. The main part of town was quite a distance from my hotel which was a bit awkward for me, and I would stay in the thick of things next time, but I had a beautiful riverview room with a great view of the Mekong River and nice sunset. I was a bit surprised to see that the water level was quite low and there were mudflats here and there… Tony had mentioned this awhile back in one of his posts, saying that if I slipped and fell in the mud, not to worry as the mud would smooth out the wrinkles… ! Nice, eh? He has a wicked sense of humour, as I’m sure a lot of you know!
The staff spoke very little English… (second verse, same as the first!) In other words, oh jeepers, another town with no English! But I got along okay. It was too late in the day really, for me to check in and then go 40 miles further south by taxi to see the Wat; I decided to relax for the rest of the day and then get an early start in the morning to see the Wat before it got too hot and too crowded. So I got a tuktuk into the heart of the town and had a look around, had a very late lunch and a quiet night. I was tired and had been moving around quite a bit, so it was nice to just chill out for an evening. The air quality wasn’t great; its the first town I’ve really noticed it. I watched some Asian TV tonight – that was interesting… Thai Americal Idol! I also realized that tomorrow night, I’ll be flying to Bangkok for a few days and that will be the end of my trip; that was a bit of a shock!
As for Nakhon Phanom, what I didn’t know was that there is a very special festival that only happens once a year at the Wat, and that just happened to be on the exact day I went there – Monday, February 18th. I didn’t plan it; I didn’t even know about the festival, and yet, there it was, waiting for me to arrive….
You cannot imagine how wonderful my morning was at the Wat! I got a taxi there by 9:30 am and proceeded through a market area, which was very interesting, and then climbed up some steep stairs to the actual Wat and temple buildings. It was breath-taking! Absolutely stunning… and there were small parades with people clashing cymbals, others banging drums, men playing 3-necked guitars creating wonderful Morlam music; let me tell you – Jimmy Hendrix has nothing on them! There were men playing very long flutes – maybe 2 feet long and several ribs wide; amazing sound.!
There were women following the musicians with flowers and money on sticks, and children in costumes; the whole atmosphere was loud and joyful; it was thrilling chaos! I was so delighted; and I just kept wandering from one area to another, and then another parade would come by, and I got carried away with the music and started dancing to it as they all passed by, and the locals were all smiling to see me dance with them… it was lovely.
I took so many pictures – of people, of the Wat, there were many other buildings, of the musicians, so many flowers – I watched 4 men and women unloading a huge amount of flowers into a an area to the side of one building – maybe they were for the people attending to have. There were decorations in the trees; I saw a mother and her young son pouring water over a larged carved mouse! The Wat itself was incredible. Beautiful golden and white, with exquisite carvings and paintings, and architecture. There were many monks, huge hordes of people, but it was so much fun – so crazy and constant great music.
There were baby elephants in the crowd in the market place – adorable – 20 baht to feed them some things they liked but I didn’t know what they were eating. One had flowers behind each ear… There were lots of BBQs in the market place which surrounded the whole wat and temple area – fresh fish being cooked with all kinds of stuffings and herbs; pork, chicken, stalls with every kind of spice and herb in the Universe! I took lots and lots and lots of pictures! Beautiful fabrics with fantastic designs – I bought some and it’s on one of my chairs in my bedroom , just draped over it – looks fantastic!
I got liberally sprinkled with water by monks as they passed by me and blessed me! (I didn’t see that coming!) One of them struck a huge drum, and boy , the sound that resonated from that was amazing. At one point, there was a huge bell that was being rung and I loved the sound of it… Had a young monk come up to me and start a conversation; he told me he had learned English in University and that he was from Laos. He was charming, and we had a good conversation. There were constant parades going around the Wat – all morning. I was there for over 3 hours and it was one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had! Lucky, lucky me to have been there when the festival was there. If anyone ever goes to Nakhon Phanom, try and go when the festival is there. I can’t imagine how quiet it must be on a regular day! I much preferred the noise and craziness. Loved every single minute of it! I think the festival is on for a week. Definitely a major highlight of my trip.
I talked to many locals – and we had fun together even though we didn’t speak the same language… there was a great connection. I took pictures of them (I asked them first if it was ok?) and then I’d show them their picture on the playback function and they’d laugh and laugh…. So funny and so great! To have that kind of connection without language … wow… what a blessing to have that kind of experience, and not just with one or two people, with everyone I met or sat down beside or made eye contact with,.,.,. One of the guys playing those wonderful long flutes, winked at me as he went by as he’d seen me taking pictures of him… lol.
I took pictures of four women wearing funny hats and they laughed and clowned for me and they were street cleaners, with gloves that were dirty – and these women were beautiful in my eyes… I have chills remembering my time with them. One of them brought out her little girl from behind her skirts and had me take a picture of them together and I showed the little girl the picture, and you should have seen the smile… lovely.
In another area, I saw a father holding his baby son, and asked if I could take a picture of them and he nodded – oh boy, I love that picture; the look on the father’s face was so tender as he held his boy and looked him. Another small parade of people came by and there were several little boys playing drums and looking at me very suspiciously until I smiled at them, and then they all smiled back and waved…
Precious, precious moments…. What can I say – it was a completely wonderful experience and I’ll never forget it.
The taxi that brought me to Wat That Phanom had waited for me and after I had some street food in the market, the driver and his wife took me back to Nakhon Phanom town. I can’t remember what I did for the next couple of hours, but then got a tuktuk to the airport – very small, and got an Air Asia flt to Bangkok, arriving about 7 pm on Feb. 19th…
That was my time in Nakhon Phanom. I did see many nice colonnial buildings and explored the town a bit, but my time at the Wat was it for me…. A short time in Nakhon Phanom but very, very sweet…