Wat Kham Chanot is a Buddhist temple that is very focused on worship of Phaya Naga. It is located in Kham Chanot forest, believed to be the border between the human world and the netherworld. Both forest and temple are located on an island in Kut Kham, a marshy lake in which a Phaya Naga is said to live.
Among the many items for sale are offerings to the Phaya Naga. The likenesses below are mostly constructed of folded banana or coconut leaves. The products of this art vary greatly, mostly in the quality of the heads. These are among the best I’ve seen.
Of course there are also temple buildings adorned with Phaya Naga.
The bridge to the island was once very small. The new one is a fairly recent improvement. The entrance is flanked by a pair of 7-headed Phaya Naga.
Wat Kham Chanot is usually busy, so there is a police presence. At the entrance to the bridge an officer told me to remove my hat, suggesting that the entire island is considered a temple. An earlier clue that I had missed was that we had removed our shoes.
The bodies of the Phaya Naga extend along the entire length of the bridge, all the way to the island.
Golden frogs can be seen in the marsh on either side of the bridge.
Located right at the end of the bridge, the shrine on the right, below, had a constant line of people passing through. We didn’t wait in that line.
Phaya Naga can take human form, like the one seated on the altar below. Note the many offerings.
Phaya Naga sometimes appear with the upper body of a man or woman and the lower body of a snake – or in the case of the figures below, upper bodies of both humans and numerous (or multi-headed) serpent-form Phaya Naga.
The font below is said to flow from a spring. People anointed themselves with the water.
The many small shrines are built among some really cool old trees.
Paya Naga are also said to live in the Mekong River and estuaries. People of Laos and Thailand attribute the naga fireball phenomenon to Phaya Naga, along with standing waves, damage to vehicles and objects, and serpentine tracks that are frequently found. Scientists compare these and sightings of Phaya Naga with those of bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.
“Naga fireballs, also known as bung fai paya nak or Mekong lights, are a phenomenon said to be often seen on the Mekong River. Glowing balls are alleged to naturally rise from the water high into the air. The balls are said to be reddish and to range in size from smaller sparkles up to the size of basketballs. They quickly rise up to a couple of hundred metres before disappearing. The number of fireballs reported varies between tens and thousands per night.” – Wikipedia
Recently a festival was held on the Mekong River. On TV I saw fireworks being launched from underwater to simulate naga fireballs. This is something I’ll try to learn more about.
Off of the island we visited a variety of small shrines, like the one below to some respected and deceased monk.
There were a number of large gongs available, and visitors could try various approaches to getting interesting sounds from them.
There are many ghost stories and hauntings associated with Wat Kham Chanot. Phaha Naga are said to sometimes go to the houses of people near the temple when they need something. Although people ask them for favors, they are very afraid of them.
After leaving the busy Wat Kham Chanot we stopped by an unfinished temple populated only by workers.
I find this temple exceptionally beautiful, and I like the open air design. There is something vaguely Nordic about it.
These Phaya Naga are some of the coolest I’ve seen, and I couldn’t resist using them as the featured picture for this post, in spite of the fact that they are not found at Wat Kham Chanot.
The inside too is simple and beautiful.
This temple has a paddock for deer. Wat Kham Chanot is said to have a small zoo of turtles, but I didn’t see that.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 20 pictures below.