A ferry from Penang to the mainland, a 2 hour minibus ride to the Thai border and Customs, an hour to Hat Yai and then a 3 and a half hour standard bus trip to Nakhon meant for a busy day. During the latter bus journey we made several stops of which at some, women would come onto the bus selling fruit, drinks, chicken etc. The fruit women would walk up and down the bus shouting what sounded like mo-wah, mo-wah, mo-wah and almost placing the fruits in your lap desperately trying to get a sale. During the journey I noticed there were no signs in English (unlike Malaysia and Singapore), several gold Buddha statues and cows along the road embankments. There are certain rules to adhere to on the bus (& public transport) and in general in Thailand. The back seats of the bus were reserved for Buddha monks. They are highly respected and it is expected that you give up your seat for them. Feet are seen as low and dirty and it is disrespectful to point your feet towards people, especially monks and also temples. The king of Thailand is also much respected. It’s really nice and it’s quite amazing how much the Thai people love their king. It’s a true reflection of all his hard work over the previous 60 years and his support for his people. His portraits are everywhere you look and people often wear yellow. Almost everyone wears a yellow shirt on a Monday, as the King was born on a Monday. Whilst in Nakhon I reckon about at least 80 % of people were wearing a yellow polo shirt. Fridays are for the colour blue for the queen but is nowhere near as popular.
There are many possible treasons against the king such as talking bad of him and defacing his portrait. If you drop money, do not step on it. With feet being such a low respected part of the body, it is an unforgivable sin to stand on an image of the king.
Although we weren’t in Nakhon for very long (one evening and overnight), we both gained a really good feeling about the place and would have liked to have stayed longer. It seemed to give a true image of Thai life without the tourism. The people were also very hospitable and friendly and also help Thailand live up to its reputation of the land of smiles.
On arrival into the town we had a quick wander around before meeting up with 2 Thai students studying English. They were our hosts for the evening to take us to the local shadow puppet museum. Shadow puppets shows are an ancient art and form of entertainment dating back several hundred years. These days it is not so common, so in response to the skills of this particular puppet master, the King has awarded him and strongly supports him to keep the tradition alive. We took a tour of the museum, learning about the tradition and seeing puppets up to 200 years old. The puppets are made from cow hide and are delicately carved into detailed characters. It can take anything from a few days to a few weeks to make each puppet. We were also treated to a very funny 20 minute show. The theme of the shows would generally be to talk openly about current politics and make fun of it and high profile people of the time without really getting into any trouble (as it was the puppets making the jokes). The shows traditionally began at 8pm and often went on until 6am the following morning. To keep the audience awake through the long shows, joker puppets would occasionally appear and be made fun of by the other characters and audience. The puppet master would tell the story, make the voices, sing & control the puppets all on his own, accompanied by 1 person playing background music on simple instruments. It was really funny just listening to the puppet master. Watching him perform behind the screen he seemed to take on the traits of the characters himself and looked like some of them too with his barrel of a belly. Also throughout the show, you’d hear him clearing his throat and spitting into a bowl. A bit gross, but it made it even funnier in a strange sort of way.
Anyway was really great fun. Got to get on with the next blog now of Koh Samui. Lots to catch up on.
Check out the pics. Going to try and put a video of the puppet master on too.