Have I told you, that I really have a thing for murals? One of the largest collections that I have accumulated over time through my trips is the mural painting collection, ranging from the ancient ones in Turkey, Iran, Egypt, to the more recent ones in France, Italy, and all.
This might be the reason why I like to visit religious places everywhere, although I’m not religious at all. Through the paintings we can learn many things; from the faith held by the locals, through ways of life, cultures, traditions, or even a sense of humour of artists.
Of all temple murals in Thailand, I think one of the most famous is the murals at Wat Phumin in Nan province, north of Thailand. I visited there long time ago and couldn’t remember much (except for the famous couple Pu Man – Ya Man one). Luckily I had a chance to be there again last January to admire the detail.
The history of this Hoop Tam (which means colorful murals in Isan or Northeast Thailand) is quite complex, and that might be why the murals here a quite unique. When the Thai Lue artist Thit Buaphan painted them in 1894, Nan, which was part of Lanna, was still a kingdom that was a vassal state of Siam. Siam ordered Nan to give some land to France to be part of the French Indochina (so Siam can be independent), so this might be why we can see lots of Westerners in the paintings, although the main story is about the story of Gaddhana, which is part of Jataka tales (which is about orphanhood, just like Nan was left by Siam to fight with the French).
We also see a lot of the local life, like women wearing Pa Sin (traditional sarong for women), tattooed men smoking, etc. What’s similar to Hoop Tam in Isan Region is the use of blue color which, when combined with red and white, makes a unique color scheme.
What I love about Nan is the hint of the Thai Lue culture that is quite different from other parts of Thailand, and the character is clearly portrayed in the murals. It seems that they like a slower pace of life and they seem to have a sense of humour as well. The Thai Lue people in Nan are originated from Xishuangbanna in China, and as a Thai visiting there you really feel the difference.
– Airasia Thailand has flights from Bangkok to Nan everyday. Check the flights at Airasia. The airport is quite close to the town center so it should take around 20 minutes to get to the temple.
– If you arrive in the morning, visit Khaosoi Ton Nam for a bowl of curry noodles. It is located next to the market next to the temple.