If you find yourself in Udon Thani in the north east of Thailand, an unlikely possibility I know, you’ll thank me for this post because the trip I describe will make for an interesting and varied afternoon or full day out.

Wat Kham Chanot is a small temple situated about 80 km south of Udon city quoted as an hour’s drive (allow 1 1/2 hours), driving towards Sakhon Nakhon on highway 22. Shortly after the town of Nong Mek turn left on the 2096, towards Ban Dung, then, after the town about 3 kilometers turn right and drive to Kham Chanot.

Highway 22 is further down under that 2096 marker.

Highway 22 is off the map at the bottom under that 2096 marker.

The first part of the drive is pretty ordinary. The 22 is a typical Thai highway with lots of advertising and strip development down each side. If you want to make a full day of it then add Ban Chiang World Heritage site to your schedule as it is on the way. I wrote about it HERE. You’ll need to scroll through the stories to find it.

DSC_0508

Ban Chiang. Ancient pottery and good shopping.

However once you turn onto the 2096 you are into farming country and at this time of year a sea of vivid green from all the newly planted rice paddies. On our trip we saw almost no sugar, which is different from the area around Si Bun Ruang where the recent drought pushed farmers to plant sugar cane as a low water alternative to rice.

The trip we did to Wat Kham Chanot ended up taking longer than expected and we arrived late in the afternoon. This ended up being a good thing because by the size of the carpark there are times perhaps earlier in the day when the place gets busy. The gates close at 5:30 pm so if you time your visit to get there around 4:00 pm then you’ll have the place almost to yourself as we did. I say this because the temple area itself is quite small and it would be difficult to get around if it was packed with bus loads of people.

This wat is one of those strange mixtures of Buddhist and a large dose of mythological, The temple is on an island and it’s claim to fame is the supposed existence of a large Naga or snake, which lives there. You find these guys all over Thailand in statue form especially at entries to temples and as handrails to stairs.

The entry to the temple with the two Nagas.

The entry to the temple with the two Nagas standing guard.

Here the Naga meets you at the beginning of the bridge that winds through trees and onto the island. You have to leave your shoes here and you can see the racks on the right matched by ones on the other side. The walkway will get very hot in the sun so I suggest you bring some socks, which is quite acceptable, or just walk quickly. The trees do offer some shade and the island itself is heavily forested so you are fine once you get to the other end.

Snap 2016-07-29 at 12.51.47

This Google earth image shows the connecting bridge covered with trees leading across what looks like a man made moat so “island” may be a bit optimistic or perhaps the area gets flooded in the wet season.

The walk itself is almost the highlight of the trip.

The walk itself is almost the highlight of the trip.

The temple itself is almost non-existent if you are expecting an architectural wonderland. There are a few very small structures and nothing in the wow category. However it is very peaceful, minus the crowds, and you will meet an eclectic mix of spiritual characters but not much that I could relate to Buddhism.

The view at the end of the bridge.

The view at the end of the bridge.

DSC_0306

If you are after a blessing or the latest lottery numbers then any image is worth a try. A small shrine to the left of the causeway exit.

DSC_0330

Pathways through the forest.

DSC_0338

These beautiful large trees help make this wat special.

DSC_0322

Lottery numbers.

I wasn’t kidding about the lottery numbers in the comment on a previous photo. Thais are mad about this twice monthly event and there is a whole industry built around the selection of the numbers. Any event in your life that can be translated to numbers will be used. Books are sold that translate your dream visions into numbers. Monks are consulted, although what insights they might have is beyond me. I don’t think the Buddha was much into the lottery.

You'll see these cases everywhere in Thailand especially close to the 1st and 16th of each month - lottery days.

You’ll see these cases everywhere in Thailand especially close to the 1st and 16th of each month – lottery days. Not my photo.

In the case of this wat the sacred Chanot trees are the key to riches. You will see that powder has been rubbed into the bark of many of the trees. This has nothing to do with a deep spiritual ritual but only a very human one – to make any hidden lottery numbers in the bark be more visible! Really 🙂 In the photo above a lady is taking a photo of the tree so that it can be examined in more detail later to get those winning numbers. You will find this method used in other temples too but it is a big thing with this wat.

Temple gongs are always a big hit (ha) with visitors too. There's always a mallet around so give them a bang three times for good luck.

Temple gongs are always a big hit (ha) with visitors too. There’s always a mallet around so give them a bang three times for good luck.

You can also try to make them “sing” by quickly rubbing the back of them as you can see that lady on the left doing, which is why these gongs are back to front. If you get the rhythm right it will give out a loud “song”. I was told that you should remove all the rings from your fingers to maximise your chances. I only got my first signing gong to happen at Wat Than Sang Tham a few weeks ago (no rings). I feel that I can now claim to be a true Thai gonger! Certificate in the mail. You can read about this strange cave and cliff top temple HERE.

Tara, the granddaughter of a friend of ours and recent visitor has a go at Than Sang Tham.

Tara, the granddaughter of a friend of ours and recent visitor has a go at Than Sang Tham.

I was lucky to get the light spot on with this incense.

I was lucky to get the light spot on with this incense. One of my favourite Thai photos.

Incense isn’t a big item in Thai temples. More with those that have a Chinese connection. Even if there is incense or candles finding a lighter is the challenge. You smokers will be more Buddha blessed than the rest of us.

Holy water of course. The snake is supposed to come through this area and the water is collected.

Holy water of course.

The snake is supposed to come through this area and therefore the water is collected for good luck or health reasons. You can see the coconut ladles so you can spoon some over yourself or into a bottle as that girl is doing on the left. A funnel has been helpfully provided too.

DSC_0341

This is Gaun next to a San Phra Phum or spirit house at the base of one of those Chanot trees. She may be number hunting although she never buys the tickets. Her sister Yuan does so perhaps it was on her behalf.

Lots of squirrels on the island.

Lots of squirrels on the island happy to sample a donated pineapple.

DSC_0368

You can buy one of these Naga packages to make an offering at the small shrine. You can see the female and male deities so every base is covered. The offerings are collected and then re-sold.

DSC_0369

A clearer view of my original photo of the mixed statue shrine.

A couple of things of interest. Those two stones sitting on cushions are there for a reason. The idea is that you make a wish or ask a question and then try to lift the stones. If the answer is in the positive then the task will be easy otherwise it’s a “no”. I suspect more guys get positive answers than the ladies.

The other is the statue of the monk on the right with the long white beard and animal skins. I am very proud of the information I am about to share because I have being looking for this fellow’s name ever since I met him ages ago at another wat. He appears regularly if you keep an eye out for him, often in association with cave (Tham) wats.

Here he is in the cave at Wat Tham Sang Tham.

Here he is in the cave at Wat Tham Sang Tham.

Gaun knew who he was and called him Lucy. Do you think the power of the internet was any help? I tried every combination and anything relating to “monk with tiger skin” returned nothing but references to the Tiger temple scandal Bangkok way.

I struck it lucky for this post and can now sound even more of a Thai expert than normal with any friends visiting. “Lucy” is correct thank you Gaun but it is spelt ruesi (also sometimes spelled reusi or lersi). I always get caught out with Thais changing the letter “R” to an “L”. You can see how reusi can end up lucy can’t you. It is like the word “hot”, which in Thai is “ron” in Isaan-speak “hon” and this can be changed to “lon” in either case.

Ruesi is a hermit monk and thanks to Wikipedia HERE is described as:

The Ruesi are Hermit sages who spend their time meditating and developing psychic powers and collecting magical herbs, minerals, rarities and other substances. They use the magical ingredients to make special love charms, spells and protective amulets. They wish to help other beings to be happier in life, and do this by telling fortunes, making rituals and spells to reduce bad karma, chase evil influences and spirits away, protect from ones enemies, or even increase one’s luck and wealth with a spell for wealth and good fortune.

I should acknowledge another Thai blog HERE, which provided the image clue to ruesi based on my search of “monk statue in thailand with tiger skin robe” 🙂

Your eyes have probably glazed over by now so back to photos:

A larger Naga statue made from woven banana leaves.

A larger Naga statue made from woven banana leaves. Terrific skill.

You can buy one of these Naga packages to make an offering at the small shrine.

The full size image.

Lottery numbers in hand we headed back across the bridge. Now this may look like just another tree photo below but there’s a story here thanks to Gaun. You’ll see these trees as you walk across the bridge.

DSC_0377

I have no idea what they are called but the fruit they produce is what makes the base for this natural cough medicine. You can buy it at most pharmacies for 40 baht or A$1.60. Take some home.

DSC_0378

A cheap anti-cough liquid that does a pretty good job and isn’t sickly sweet.

Once back on the mainland you can have an explore of the pretty ordinary rest of the wat. This is a weird mixture of buildings and non-maintained shrines in true Thai tradition. A few interesting photos though:

OK. John Wayne the Buddhist?

OK. John Wayne the Buddhist? What is that all about?

You will find these postboxes and the small monk with glasses in a lot of temples. Endless ways to part visitors with their money all to gain merit of course.

You will find these postboxes and the small monk with glasses in a lot of temples. Endless ways to part visitors with their money all to gain merit of course.

This must be a new roof. Thai temple roofs provide some of my more memorable photos.

This must be a new roof. Thai temple roofs provide some of my more memorable photos although maybe this isn’t one of them!

This is the Black House in Chiang Rai. Although not a temple I enjoy the colours and shapes made by that roof over the main hall.

This is the Black House in Chiang Rai. Although not a temple I enjoy the colours and shapes made by that roof over the main hall.

You can read about the Black House in one of my early Thai posts dating back to September 2013 HERE.

Finally a Buddha statue and a big one at that. Looking rather splendid in the late afternoon light.

Finally a Buddha statue and a big one at that. Looking rather splendid in the late afternoon light.

Yes. Pay money into the slot with your birth day i.e. Mon- Sun and get an electronic chant in return.

Yes. Put money into the slot with your birth day i.e. Mon- Sun, and get an electronic chant in return.

Sometimes it is all about size.

Sometimes it IS all about size.

Leaving Wat Kham Chanot behind we headed home passing through the salt village of Ban Dung on the way (we took another route to get to the temple). In theory I recommend you include this village in your day’s agenda out because it is an unusual sight. It was late when we passed though so we didn’t stop other than to buy some salt for my bore/well water filter cleaning system. We will be back for a more relaxed explore soon and I will report back in the blog.

The Google Earth image of the area shows the extent of the salt production here.

The Google Earth image of the area shows the extent of the salt production here.

Bags of salt for sale roadside. 50 baht or A$2.00 for six kilos.

Bags of salt for sale roadside. 50 baht or A$2.00 for six kilos. Beautiful white and “fluffy” salt.

The salt plains at ground level.

The salt plains at ground level.

We finished the day at the best Thai restaurant in Udon Thani called Samuay & Sons HERE. Book ahead because it is only small. Try the massaman curry Thai-style. Yummy.

Not easy to spot.

Not easy to spot.

Pork belly.

Pork belly.

Southern curry.

Southern curry.

So in conclusion Wat Kham Chanot is worth a visit as a curiosity rather than for any architectural or Buddhist reasons. The drive there once you get off the main road is a good example of rural Isaan and in the right season (green paddies late June – September/October before the rice browns) the landscapes are lovely. The salt factories are something you won’t see most other places and if you include Ban Chiang in the day you’ll have a good mix of sights.

I am about to write another post shortly about a day out heading north on the opposite side of Udon to include a great silk village, the Mekong River and other sights worth a look. Keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading.