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Thai government wants Nakhon Si Thammarat on UNESCO World Heritage List

The historical city of Nakhon Si Thammarat is home to Wat Phra Mahathat Woromaha Vihan, an 1000-year old temple. The Thai government officially announces to ask UNESCO to put the temple on its World Heritage List.

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT-  Nakhon Si Thammarat is one of the oldest towns of southern Thailand with a history traced back to the time when the powerful Sriwijaya Kingdom –originally from Sumatra- asserted its sovereignty about a large part of the Malaya Peninsula. At the time, Nakhon Si Thammarat was the second most important city of the Kingdom behind Palembang (South Sumatra). The city always struggled to keep its independence until the end of middle of the 18th century. Nakhon Si Thammarat continues today to remember its past. Its inhabitants are deemed to be extremely proud of their city and have a great sense of independence. For visitors to the city, Nakhon Si Thammarat offers its fair share of old houses, fortified walls dating back from the 14th century and of course temples.

The most exceptional is Wat Phra Mahathat Vihan, considered as Southern Thailand most important temples. The structure was constructed at the time of the founding of the town, and contains a tooth relic of Buddha. It is characterized by a sleek 78 m high Chedi built in Sri Lankan style and surrounded by 173 smaller ones. The monastery’s gallery within the temple contains beautiful buddha statues and painted frescoes in Southern style. There is also a small museum in the temple’s compounds. This temple has been put on the Thailand’s Tentative List of World Heritage sites.

UNESCO already recognizes the importance of Nakhon Si Thammarat as one of Thailand’s Buddhist art centre. Buddhism was brought to Nakhon Si Thammarat from Anuradapura in Sri Lanka sometime in the 8th or 9th century. Together with religion came the tradition of the monastery as a centre of education. Its spiritual activity turned the city into the most important regional centre for craftsmanship especially in gold, silver and nielloware metalwork, and in the performing arts?. Shadow puppet performances are still to be seen today in town. There is even a museum built by one of Thailand’s most renowned artists for shadow puppets.

Today Nakhon Si Thammarat remains a centre of Thai art, with many ateliers of master artists clustered around Wat Mahathat. Including Nakhon Si Tammarat into UNESCO World Heritage List will certainly help renewing Southern Thailand’s tourism appeal with a highly cultural destination.

Table: Nakhon Si Thammarat tourism performance

Guest Arrivals at Accommodation Establishments (Hotels, Guesthouses, Resorts)

Nationality

January-December

 

2010

2009

Difference (%)

 Thai

987 814

1 233 954

 – 19.95

Foreigners

11 918

13 520

 – 11.85

     Malaysia

3 191

3 307

 – 3.50

     Singapore

288

79

+ 266.43

     Europe

3 604

4 960

 – 27.34

     China + Hong Kong

312

358

-12.84

     USA + Canada

776

1126

 – 31.08

     Australia + NZ

240

344

 – 30.23

Grand Total

999 732

1 247 474

 – 19,86

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.

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