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What to see and do in Nakhon Si Thammarat

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Southern Thailand

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 21/02/2024, 23:15

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Despite being the oldest cities in Thailand, Nakhon Si Thammarat is not the most exciting, but it can surprise you. It is a great base from which to see the best places in the south of the country, and get to know the Thai culture better.

I went through Nakhon Si Thammarat earlier, during my trip to Khanom. I later saw the city on the list of the recommended places by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. That’s why I decided to see it and check out what it has to offer.

I think it is an interesting place for those that have spent a bit of time in Thailand and are looking for non-touristy destinations. Sighseeing of Nakhon Si Thammarat can be combined with trips outside of the city, so it’s good to spend in the area a couple of days.

a golden buddha sits at a entrance to the temple in nakhon si thammarat in thailand
Nakhon Si Thammarat is an ancient city with multiple beautiful temples.

Nakhon Si Thammarat – A short story of a long history

Nakhon was created in 775 and it was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Ligor, which back then controlled the peninsula. It was then when the first temples were built.

After the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, the city was independent, but in 1769 it was annexed by Siam. At the beginning the governor of the city lost his rights, but later on, in the 19th century, Nakhon was totally taken over by Siam.

Today Nakhon Si Thammarat is one of the most important cities in Thailand. From here you can discover many islands and some beautiful national parks. It is also the main hub in the south of the country.

What to see and do in Nakhon Si Thammarat?

Nakhon has a few interesting attractions, which can be visited. Here are the most important ones.

Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan

The temple was built in the 13th century and is one of the oldest and the biggest in the area. It is belived that it contains a tooth of Buddha Guatma.

At the entrance you will see a big square with sand. The legend says that the tooth was brought here by a couple of members of the royal Indian family and that it was them who started the construction of the temple. At that time the space was a part of a beach. To commemorate that, it was decided to keep the sand there.

a thai temple in nakhon si thammarat with a white chedi
It is one of the oldest temples in the region.

In the chedi, where the tooth is said to be located, you will find stairs to the room with the relict. The steps are guarded by giants. Next to them, there is a beautiful, golden picture showing the scenes from the Buddha’s life.

a Thai man showing a foreign woman a stucco in a temple in nakhon si thammarat
This part of the temple is the tresure of the city.

The complex includes a museum, where you can admire thousand of Buddha images as well as tools used for house work in the ancient times. Unfortunately, there are no further explanations, so it’s good to have a guide with you.

The walls of the city

One of the main attractions of the city are the ancient walls, which are located in the very centre of Nakhon.

a city wall in nakhon si thammarat with a pink tower
The ancient walls of the city are the main attraction.

They were used to defend the city against its enemies. Today there are not much of them left, but renovations are under way and in a couple of years they might be even more impressive than those in Chiang Mai.

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The puppet theatre

My favourite attraction here, which I really recommend.

The shadow puppets have a very long tradition in Thailand. Each region has their own ones. They have different shapes, colours and even names depending on the location.

a mask of a man sits on a shelf in nakhon si thammarat puppet museum
The museum has many puppets from all around the world.

In the south of Thailand the puppets, and the stories they tell, were influenced by Mayasian and Muslim culture.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat a local artist, Suchart Subsin, played a very big role in sustaining this unique art. He received many rewards for his achievements and dedication.

His house is located in the suburbs of the city. There is a workshp, where you can see how the puppets are made. After the death of Suchart, the workshop and the theatre were taken over by his family. Every visitor is invited to come inside and have a look around.

a woman shows how to make a shadow puppet. she is holding a big board with white pattern and points her finger at some of the parts.
The family of Suchart still makes the puppets.

There is a small museum, too with many exhibits of puppets from all around the world. For a 100 Baht you can watch a short show. Even if you don’t know Thai you will be able to tell what the story is about. It’s a great fun!

two shadow puppets in the puppet theatre in nakhon si thammarat in thailand
At the end of the visit, you can watch a show.

The night market

Thailand is the paradise for foodies and also here, in Nakhon Si Thammarat, you will find a lot of delicious food. At the night market you can eat until you burst.

I really liked it. There was almost everything at this huge market, from cosmetics and toys to noodles and fried bugs.

The market is not touristy and that’s why it’s worth checking out to experience the real, local life.

The Promlok National Park

The national park is only around 30 minutes drive from Nakhon. The dense forest is a home to many species of birds and mammals.

The main attraction is the Promlok Waterfall, which has 50 levels. You can get to the top with a guide only.

a woman sitting on a rock at promlok waterfall
The trip to the waterfall is great for those that want to rest for a bit.

If you want to immerse yourself in the local life, I really recommend Promlok Community, where you can meet Thai people that live there, take part in a cooking course, learn how to make batik and head to the forest with a guide.

Useful Information

Check where to stay, what to eat and how to get to Nakhon Si Thammarat.

How to get there?

Getting to Nakhon Si Thammarat is not very complicated. The city has its own airport and you get here by taking a flight with AirAsia.
You can also get here by bus.

Check 12GoAsia – my trusted partner. I use them every time I’m in Asia.

Transport

Nakhon is quite a big city. On the first day I walked everything and it was very tiring. That’s why I recommend taking public transport.
Here you will find songthaews – big trucks, where you sit at the back. A ticket one way costs 10 Baht per person.
There is also Grab in Nakhon – the equivalent of Uber. Just remember that there are not that many drivers in the city and you might wait for a taxi for quite some time.

Accommodation

Nakhon Si Thammarat has a few accommodation options, but there are not that many and most of the hotels are located away from the city. I chose Pura Nakhon – a very pleasant hotel with good service.
Other hotels I recommend:

Food and drinks

At the beginning I had no idea where to eat in Nakhon Si Thammarat. I went to the market, where I found a few good options. Then, it turned out, that the city has many great places to eat. Here are the ones I recommend:

  • Kopi – it serves a special type of soup with beef and vegetables.
  • Roti Panom – go there in the evening and choose roti with curry.
  • In Dribs n’ Drabs – a hipster place with amazing coffee.

I hope I encouraged you to visit Nakhon Si Thammarat. It might not be so attractive like Chiang Mai and doesn’t have as many places to see, but I still think that it’s very interesting.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your experiences or your point of view? Don’t be shy! Leave a comment!

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