Photo: Street scenes around Sakhon Nakhon.

Introduction

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The obscure Northeast Thai province of Sakhon Nakhon is best known among Thais as the stomping grounds of several 20th-century forest meditation monks believed to have been enlightened. The very few foreign travellers who make a stop in the eponymous capital city will find a few intriguing temples and markets amid the low-key lanes.


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A Khmer settlement first appeared along the southern bank of Nong Han Lake around the 10th century, evidenced by ancient ruins in surprisingly good shape at Phra That Cheng Weng and Phra That Dum. Both of these are located just outside of present-day Sakhon Nakhon, and the former contains several impressive lintels.

Glimmers of the past. Photo taken in or around Sakhon Nakhon, Thailand by David Luekens.

Glimmers of the past. Photo: David Luekens

The town later became part of the Lan Xiang Kingdom, which ruled over most of present-day Laos and Northeast Thailand from the 14th century until the Siamese took control in the late 1700s. As with most of Isaan, variations on the Lao language, cuisine and customs have survived in Sakhon Nakhon. The city also hosts one of Thailand’s largest Vietnamese-Thai communities, including many who practice the Catholic faith. Just west of town, a huge domed archdiocese exemplifies the prominence of Christianity in the area.

Sakhon Nakhon was the final resting place of Ajahn Mun, the late Buddhist monk who spent his entire ordained life travelling vast distances on foot, practicing extreme austerities and meditating in cemeteries, caves and forests. Today he is considered a fully enlightened arahant who was the driving force behind the revitalisation of the Thai Forest Tradition. His legacy can be experienced at a museum and shrine at Wat Pa Sutthawat.

Old and new. Photo taken in or around Sakhon Nakhon, Thailand by David Luekens.

Old and new. Photo: David Luekens

A couple of other revered forest monks who travelled with Ajahn Mun were also cremated in Sakhon Nakhon province. Ajahn Wan is honoured at Wat Tham Phuang in the town of Sawang Daen Din, while Ajahn Fan was laid to rest at Wat Pa Udom Somphon in Phanna Nikhom district. If you have a particular interest in the Thai Forest Tradition, any bus to Udon Thani can drop you off near ... Travelfish members only (Around 800 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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