The Mystery of … The Six Senses At Kam Chanode

I think if you are Laotian or Thai, the story of Phaya Nark, or Naga is a legend that was told to us when we were little, and the story has passed down from generation to generation, and will continue to pass down to those that have special interest. I was very fascinated with the legend every time I heard the story, I read up on the subject when every opportunity arise. I think deep down inside, I knew that it’s just a myth, but at the same time I wanted it to be real, but not being able to feel and see it with my own eyes, it’s hard for me to believe the story has much truth to it. Nevertheless, I still love the story just the same, I think it adds the richness to our culture; it makes some of us believe that there is a supernatural world. For the majority of us that only have five senses, we obviously can’t see or prove that these strange phenomenons exist, but for those fortunate few that have six senses, I think it’s such a special gift and power to have, but that’s from my point of view. I’m not sure if those that have six senses would feel the same way, to them it might be more of a curse than a gift. As for the westerners, the story of Phaya Nark, or Naga is viewed differently; to them it’s only a legend, a story told by the locals, or worse even a hoax.

This is an article written in TIME, called Detour, by Jason Gagliardi, this is his perception about Kam Chanode, the island like abode of the mythical Naga. According to local lore, the giant snake? Which was forbidden from entering the monkhood by the Lord Buddha because it wasn’t human? has roamed a subterranean universe known as the Muang Badan for thousands of years, slithering through a vast network of caves and tunnels. The main thoroughfare? the Naga superhighway, if you like? is said to run from Kam Chanode in Udon Thani province to Wat Paa Ahong, a temple on the riverbank more than 100 kilometers away in neighboring Nong Khai. Pilgrims, I was told, visit Kam Chanode to anoint themselves with water from the Naga’s pond. (read the rest of the article here)

I recently went through my sister old magazines and found an article in Kwanruen Magazine, written in Thai language by Ackchai Chaitham, the article is over 10 years old; it’s about the mystery of the six senses, the believe that the people at Udon Thani province think that the story of Phaya Nark exists, and lives right underneath Kam Chanode, called Muang Badan (town of underneath water.) It’s something that I’ve heard before when I was little while living in Thailand, back then, the story seemed bigger than life, and very fascinating. Time certainly didn’t change how I feel; the story is still as fascinating to me, no less than when I was little.

According to Ackchai, when he first heard the story, he thought it was just a story that were told by the locals; more of a legend, but that was not the case. The story were told by the elders that are well respected by the people of Udon Thani, it was the story of Muang Kam Chanode, that it really exists and not just a legend. After he heard this, it was a challenge for him to find out how real the story were, and this lead to his trip to Muang Kam Chanode, Udon Thani.

Kam Chanode is in Ban Dung District, it is the the palm forest of Kam Chanode in Udon Thani province and major crops like rice, rubber, palm oil, soybeans and tapioca fetched higher prices in 2002 because of increasing demand. It’s also a historical and archeological attraction sites that most people visit because of the legend of Kam Chanode, Phaya Nark, or Naga story. Udon Thani, a province on the northeastern of Thailand, is situated on a plateau with mountains and forestry area in the west stretching southwards; it was once a flourished community dating back to prehistoric period. Nowadays, it stands as a hub of transport and communications of the upper Northeast with several tourist destinations and facilities.

One of the locals that owned and operated a drive in movie, experienced this himself, the name of his business was ‘Jamchanh’, at first it was a bit confusing to him, until 1-2 months later after people started to talk about what had happened; that he was hired by a ghost of Kam Chanode to go play movies for them, and the Issan people called these type of ghost ‘Pee Bung Bod’, shortly after that, he received numerous phone calls, especially from high ranking officials from town.

This was a story told by Thongchai Sangchai (a small photo of him shown above), the owner of ‘Jamchanh’ drive in cinema…

The story took place in January of 1989, there was a man by the name of Jampa Kamkeo, who came to hire us to play movies at Ban Koung near Ban Vungthong, Udon Thani in the amount of 4,000 Baht ($123), and gave a deposit of 1,000 Baht ($31), but there was a special request that ‘the movies have to end, and we have to leave the place by 4 am, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get out.’ At the time, I thought it was rather strange, but I didn’t ask him of the reason why, so we drew up the contract and I agreed to play 4 movies for him.

That day arrived, we went early to set up all the equipments, but it seemed that something was trying to prevent us from getting there. We finally arrived at Ban Koung, it was almost 6 pm, when we got there, there was a man waiting for us, he told us that the location was not at Ban Koung, but 2-3 kilometers ahead and he lead us the way.

While my 7 men were working on setting up the equipments, it was about the time for the movies to start, but no one show up. They finally finished setting up the giant screen, it was about 9 pm, they turned around, but this time to their surprise, the place was packed with people. Everyone looked so neat and proper, the women wore white and sat on the left hand side, and the men wore black Chinese outfits, and sat on the right hand side. It seemed that no one engaged in conversation, and on that night, we shown 4 movies. While the movies were playing, 5 of my men were asleep, and all dreamed of ghost all night long. It didn’t seem to matter if we played comedy or action movies, we didn’t hear any laughter, or any talking at all, the audience were very quiet. What was also very strange was that there were no vendors that sell foods or souvenirs at all. By almost 4 am, the audience seemed to disappear; my men said that they didn’t see anyone leaving the place. We felt rather strange and the atmosphere was extremely quiet, then I remembered that special request of leaving before 4 am; so we packed our equipment and left the site ASAP.

While we were on our way out, my men that sat toward the back of the van said that it seemed as if we were riding in the water. There were waves that our van left behind, very much like what the ship would have created. By the time we got to Ban Vungthong, it was dawn; we stopped by a service station to wash our face and get some food, since there were no food vendors last night. The locals saw us, and many asked where we played the movies because they saw us drove pass by, but couldn’t find us anywhere. Many went looking for us, hoping to go see the movies, but all they heard was the sound of our movies, playing all night long, but couldn’t find us. It was all a big confusion, because even my men couldn’t remember the exact location, they just knew it was near Kam Chanode. The local all said ‘Hah! It was the ghost town of ‘Pee Bong Bod’, Muang Badan of Phaya Nark (Naga); the ghost must have hired you to play movies for them.’

When my men got back to the office, many quit that day because they all claimed that ghost, just like what the locals told them, hired us. Two months after the incident, my wife and I went back to Ban Vungthong to see how true everything was.

Not to far from the town, I saw a forest of some sort of trees, and the area was like a swamp, the mud would be up to your knees, definitely couldn’t have set up any movie equipments for sure. Therefore, I lit an incense, asking Jou Pour See Sutho, which the local told me that he was once the king of Kam Chanode. I said my prayer, ‘Satu, if what I saw and experienced the mystery of that night, was true, please show me the track of the direction of where our van went that day.’ Shortly after my prayed, I saw what appeared to be the tire track from our van, turning from the road, and into Kam Chanode, and there was no way on earth that we could have shown our movies there that night. There was no way that we could have set up the movie equipments, it was a swamp, and the trees were everywhere.

I was a bit disturbed by what I saw, didn’t know what to think, so I went to a nearby Wat called Wat Seesoutho Kam Chanode (temple), I told the senior monk, Loung Phou Khamtha of what I saw, he then told me that my previous life, I must have done good deed with Muang Kam Chanode, that’s why they appeared for me to see them. I asked Loung Phou Khamtha to tell me the story of Muang Kam Chanode, how it came about. Before Loung Phou Khamtha could tell me anything, a cobra came from no where, appeared right in front of him, with his head spreading, ready to attack. Loung Phou Khamtha told me that they sent their messenger to warn him not to talk about Muang Kam Chanode; therefore, he couldn’t tell me anything. Strangely, after that, the cobra then slithered away into the nearby bush. Incident like this, Issan people called it ‘Pee Bung Bod’, command people so that they can’t remember anything about the past, or things that they knew, just like my men that couldn’t remember where they shown the movies.

Incident such as this, it might have passed a long time ago, but it will always be in the memory of the Udon Thani locals. It is a true story that was told to those that have true interest, and a story that will be a part of Udon Thani Province.

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