Mae Nak Phra Khanong at Wat Mahabut, Bangkok
See Video of Mae Nak Phra Khanong at bottom of this page.
Mae Nak Phra Khanong (nowadays also referred to as Ya Nak, or grandmother Nak)
The tale of Mae Nak Phra Khanong is known to most Thai people. It goes back to the reign of King Rama IV (King Mongkut). Mae Nak and her husband Mak lived by the Phra Khanong waterway in Bangkok, where her shrine is now located.
While Mak is off at war and severely injured in the process, both Nak and the child she is carrying die during childbirth. However, when Mak eventually comes home, Nak is there with her new child, as if nothing has happened. Neighbors, who know what happened, and try to tell the husband, are met with a dismal faith.
The story goes, that when Nak was preparing a meal with Nam Phrik, a lime fell down through a crack in the floor. It fell down to the ground below the house (which traditionally is elevated to be safe from floods). Nak, as a ghost, extended her arm to pick up the lemon, which was seen by her terrified husband. He henceforth tries to flee the house, and runs away at night.
Worshippers in front of Mae Nak
Nak does not let go and pursues her husband. Mak is almost caught but manages to conceal himself behind a bush. Ghost are afraid of the sticky Blumea leaves. Mak then finds shelter in the temple at Wat Mahabut, where Nak can not enter the sacred site.
She (or rather her ghost) then terrorizes the people of Phra Khanong, who she blames for helping her husband leave. The help of an exorcist is required. The exorcist manages to bind the ghost and confines Nak to an earthen jar, which is throws away in the canal.
The jar however is found by unsuspecting people, and unwittingly the ghost is freed.
Eventually the ghost can be subdued again by a powerful monk (there are different storylines as how this happened).
The Mae Nak story is very popular, and is seen as an example of true love and devotion. Numerous movies have been made about it, invariably successful.
The Mae Nak shrine (she is now rather called Yaa Nak, or grandmother Nak) is located off Soi 7 and Onnuj road (off Sukhumvit Road). Walking there from the Onnuj skytrain station, will take about 20 minutes, but you can take a Songthaew ride (if you know where about to get off, soi 7 is at a major bend of the road to the right).
Artistic portraits of Mae Nak Phra Khanong, and clothes given as an offering.
It is on the grounds (or just outside, we do not know) of Wat Mahabut, which actually is an expansive wat, where also cremations take place.
There is a whole community living around the shrine, of course with many food stalls, flower offerings, and the like. In the vicinity there are also other little shrines and places of worship. We noticed Hindu deities, and what we assume to be the Chinese goddess Guan Yin. Unfortunaly, there are also a lot of dogs around, so watch out just a bit.
There is a noticeable sign that says "No photos allowed". However, we managed to miss it before we made our pictures and video, otherwise we might have felt quite inhibited.
The story of Mae Nak has been freely adapted from the version at Wikipedia.
Cheerful grandmother in soi 7, on the way to Wat Mahabut.