1ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple

If you have the opportunity to travel to Bangkok, many people will find the famous name Sukhumvit. Being one of the longest roads in Thailand, Sukhumvit is associated with a variety of dining venues, attractive spots, shopping centers, luxury hotels or bars, lively nightclubs … Hidden among the bustle is a small shrine nest under the old lindens, and photos of a beautiful but melancholy woman. The woman is Mae Nak Phra Khanong, also known as Nak in Phra Khanong district. Now, let’s visit Mae Nak Shrine (Wat Mahabut Temple, Mae Nak Temple) and explore the hidden ghost story of Mae Nak Phra Khanong in Bangkok.

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Wat Mahabut Temple
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Mae Nak Pra Khanong at Wat Mahabut Temple
Mae Nak statue and her child

The legend

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Nak was a famous Thai female ghost (ghost of Mae Nak), according to an ancient legend based on historical events dating back to the reign of King Rama IV.

Nak had a beauty that was more outstanding with many girls in the area. Her house was located on the shore of the Phra Khanong canal, married to Mak. When Nak was pregnant, the court summoned Mak and many men in the battle. He did not know that the day he left for the army was the last time he would see his wife when she was alive.

mae nak phra khanong (mae nak temple, mae nak shrine)
Mae Nak Phra Khanong (mae nak temple, mae nak shrine)

ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)

Nak unfortunately dead in the chase, no one can rescue her baby. At the time, her husband was in a hospital in central Bangkok without any information at home. However, on the coming back day, Mak still sees his wife and children are waiting and no doubt. Neighbors try to warn that Mak is living with ghosts, but Nak knows how to break all their efforts.
One day, when Nak was doing a phrik (a Thai dipping sauce), he dropped a lemon on the porch. She hurriedly stretched her arms from the kitchen, picking a lemon. Mak witnessed everything, he felt scared when he realized she was not his wife, but still tried to be calm.
That night, Mak told his wife that he needed to go to the toilet, and then he disappeared in the night.

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Mae Nak shrine

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Discovering her husband escaped, Nak immediately followed. Mak saw the ghost of his wife (ghost of Mae Nak) chase and he hid in a bush of great compassion tree – folk, souls were so scared in the leaves of this tree. Later, Mak ran into the nearby temple of Wat Mahabut, a sacred place no soul can penetrate.

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In anger, Nak was angry with the people in Phra Khanong district caused her husband to leave. A magician summoned to capture Nak’s soul and trapped in a pot of earthenware vase and floated down the canal.

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mae nak lady and her child2

The end of this oral story had many variations. Some said that an old couple who moved to the living Phra Khanong area picked up the vase and they accidentally released Nak’s soul when it was opened. Some said the fishermen have done so.

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But later, Somdet Phra Buddhacarya (1788-1872), famous under the Chakri dynasty, Kingdom of Siam, he convinced Nak. The Zen master blew Nak’s soul into the skull in front of her own forehead and laced it to a belt. Rumors said that the belts were later kept by Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse (1880-1923) of the Kingdom of Siam.

Somdej Phra Buddhacarya (Toh Brahmaramsi)
Somdej Phra Buddhacarya (Toh Brahmaramsi)

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ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)

ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)

ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)

ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)
Dancers in front of the Mae Nak shrine, Wat Mahabut, Phra Khanong, Bangkok. Photo by Ryan White.

In another version of this legend, the Thai people believed that the Zen master convinced Nak that she would meet her husband under the afterlife, so she volunteered to throw away anything in this life to escape.

Find the truth

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The Thai historian Anek Nawikamul studied the legend of Nak and found an article in the Siam Praphet newspaper, by K.S.R. Kularb, published March 10, 1899. Kularb said the legend of Nak was based on the life story of Amdaeng Nak, the daughter of Phra Khanong, Mr. Khun Si.

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Amdaeng Nak also was dead when she was pregnant with her second child. Her son feared that his father would be redeemed and the property was later shared with his stepmother, and he made up a ghost story. He wears women’s clothes and throws stones at boats passing through the house, convincing everyone that Nak’s mother has done so. Kularb also thought Nak’s husband was Chum, not Mak.

Mae Nak Phra Khanong portraits
Mae Nak Phra Khanong portraits

Nobody could prove Amdaeng Nak’s Nak or Phra Khanong, because the information above did not coincide with popular folk legends in Thailand.

Not just a legend

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A scene in Ghost of Mae Nak movie

Nak’s story has spread widely in Thai society by sacrifice, devoted to her husband. This legend has been adapted into numerous movies, TV series, cartoons, comic books, and newspapers since 1959. Most recently, the comedy was mixed with horror elements Pee Mak 2013 and Maid Make Me Shudder 2 in 2014.

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Today’s temple is located in Wat Mahabut, 77 Sukhumvit Road. A statue of Nak and her newborn baby is placed in the middle of the shrine; in the worship area also has a baby’s mummy.

mae nak lady
Mae Nak lady and her children
Kuman Thong – Thailand's Golden Ghost Boy
Kuman Thong – Thailand’s Golden Ghost Boy

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Most of the worshipers are women who pray for their husbands or themselves are exempted from military service. People often wrap colorful bouquets around the Bodhi tree in the temple to pray, offering fruits, wreaths, lotus flowers and incense in the main hall. Nak portraits and toys are placed in the temple, while silk skirts are hung in the back of the statue of Nak. People come to the festival often release fish, turtles … down the Phra Khanong channel about 100 meters. There are also food stalls available for people and visitors bringing into the temple to pray.

ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)
Mae Nak Shrine at Wat Mahabut

ghost of mae nak mae nak phra khanong mae nak shrine mae nak temple wat mahabut temple (1)

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Monks at Wat Mahabut temple
Monks at Wat Mahabut temple

Wat Mahabut Temple – Mae Nak Shrine

Location: Wat Maha But, On Nut, Sukhumvit 77
Address: 747/1, Soi On Nut 7 | Suan Luang, Suan Luang, Bangkok 10250, Thailand
Telephone: +66 94 098 7789
How to get there: From BTS On Nut Station, walk north, head straight onto On Nut Road and walk for 10 minutes to find Wat Mahabut.

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