Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is a large ancient temple and the spiritual sanctuary of Buddhist laymen. Its Langka-shaped Phra Mahathat (Great Stupa) enshrines the Buddha’s relics and is both the symbol and the origin of a famous merit-making festival, “Hae Pha Khuen That” Festival. According to Buddhist beliefs, to pay a greater and more intimate homage to the Lord Buddha, the festival participants would join the robe parade before wrapping their robes around the base of Phra Mahathat on Makha Bucha Day and Visakha Bucha Day. The festival is a gathering of faithful and pure-hearted Buddhist followers and a learning centre of living art and culture that visitors may experience through Phra Bot Robe painting, folk market organization, local food selling, and mixing Khao Ya Khu (Glutinous Rice in Coconut Milk and Sugarcane Syrup) as well as observing Southern folk performances like Ta Lung (Shadow Puppet) and Manorah Dance.
In Nakhon Si Thammarat Old Town, there are still remains of the ancient city walls that safeguarded the city from the enemy intrusions in the past. Built in the Si Wichai period, these city walls started out as earthen walls before they were influenced by Chiang Mai and westerners like the Portuguese who brought in masonry and installed cannon stations, which evolved into the sturdier Chateau style cannon forts which can still be seen today.
The old city and its locals are keen to welcome visitors and share stories from days gone by and ideas for times yet to come. Visitors should reciprocate this warm welcome by helping to conserve these cultures and being respectful to those with different lifestyles as well as feeling free to start a conversation with the friendly local people to increase understanding and show appreciation for their hospitality. There’s also the opportunity to support community products, especially the exclusively local “Mang Khut Khat” or sweet and crunchy young mangosteens.