Kamchanot is a 20 rai forest reserve and lake in Wang Thong District near Ban Dung, Udon Thani, and the Nāga themed temple site is one of the most unsung and overlooked tourist attractions in the province. Kamchanot is considered to be the holy place and entrance to the underground world of the mythical Phaya Nāga documented in Buddhist legend. Kamchanot is 90 kilometres from Udon Thani city, but if you have your own transport or can make alternative arrangements it’s a place well worthy of a visit.
A typical Thai souvenir market greets you at Kamchanot, but a giant golden Buddha (top photograph) lords over it and the direction to which the Buddha’s eyes are looking is where the real beauty of Kamchanot lies.
Kamchanot, Wang Thong District, Ban Dung, Udon Thani
Kamchanot is believed to be the home and entrance to the underground world of a mythical Nāga, a giant serpent who legend says breathed fireballs into the sky to form steps for Lord Buddha to descend from heaven.
The great Nāga, so rumour goes, lives deep in the waters of the lake which surround a densely forested island called Wang Nakhin (Nāga Palace) which is connected to the temple grounds by a long ‘snaking’ bridge guarded on each side by two seven-headed serpents. It’s shoes off at the entrance… and then a 100 metre or so stroll across the bridge to a small temple and sacred well.
Inside the temple is a shrine of Chaopu Sisuttho and on either side of the Wat are smaller tin-roofed shrines where Thais kneel and offer incense sticks, flower garlands and prayers to the great Nāga and Lord Buddha. The whole area is not too big and trying to get a good full photographic shot of the temple proved very difficult and made even more challenging by the bright sunlight filtering through the forest’s chanot trees.
This shot is a bit fuzzy but without stepping back into the forest itself it was the best I could do. I’m not too keen on trampling through Thailand’s wooded areas, especially backwards.
This one shows the hundreds of colourful flower garlands tied around chanot trees and hanging from the small prayer shrines.
Have you ever tried to make a Buddhist gong sing. The idea is to rub your fingers around the centre of the gong and make it hum. When it does the sound is loud but I’ve never had any success. Neither did this Thai family but plenty do.
The wishing well had another seven-headed serpent guarding the small coins tossed into its water. Kamchanot is a very popular place for Thais to visit and most seem spellbound by the great Nāga’s link to it but foreign tourists are few and far between. Hopefully one day that might change.
The mythical Nāga is reputed to live in an underground network of caves beneath the lake which connect to the waterways leading into the Mekong River. The Nāga is a figure of great fascination to Thais and each year thousands upon thousands of people line the banks of the Mekong River at Nong Khai and Phon Phisai for Thailand’s famous Nāga Fireball Festival. Huge crowds gather in expectation of seeing the great Nāga spit fireballs into the night sky. It does actually happen but some sources suggest the fireballs are tracer bullets fired from the banks of neighbouring Laos….. interesting.
The lake surrounding Nakhin Island has a calm and still about it which fits cap in hand with the beautiful temple hidden behind a thick cloak of chanot trees. Those trees…. they hide a mystery because Kamchanot is also home to Udon Thani’s most famous ghost story. Were there spirits watching my every move? The forest has a real eerie look about it.
You can drive around the forest reserve following a fairly well-kept road and get a good view of Wang Nakhin Island and the lake around it. But to be honest the route offers no real extra visitor value.
Kamchanot is about 10 kilometres from Ban Dung and is a temple site well worth viewing.
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© 2012, Martyn. All rights reserved.