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Naga Sighting at Nam Pae

A Naga was sighted by crowds in the Mekong, about 40 km
East of Nong Khai on September 20, 2006.

Photo 1. Locals gather on the Southern bank of the Mekong, watching the Naga.

It was the afternoon of September 20, 2006. The day after the September, 2006 military coup in Thailand. We received a phone call saying that a Naga had been sighted in in the Mekong River on the edge of Nam Pae, a small town about 40 km East of Nong Kai. People had been traveling from around the area to see the Naga. "It's very visible! Hurry! Come quick!"

Today had been declared a holiday by the junta, so the roads were pretty clear.  It seemed remarkable to me that I did not see one policeman during the entire drive. Even the two semi-permanent roadblocks we passed, which squeezed the main roads down to one lane in each direction, were unmanned. As such, we made good time. The trip from Udon Thani to Nam Pae took just a little over two hours.

As we crossed the bridge on Highway 212 that crossed over the small river that formed the Eastern boundary of Nam Pae at about 15:30, a seelor, packed with people turned off the road and headed east.  We turned left onto a small road that lead to the Mekong, being passed by several vehicles carrying people away from the river.

It was late afternoon and the air was a little hazy. Dozens to hundreds of people lined approximately 300 meters of riverbank. A vendor cooked crapes under the umbrella on her cart. Another vendor sold soft drinks from under a thatched roof. A lot of the people seemed happy and also excited. Most focused their attention on the river. I walked along the river bank until I reached the area with the most people, and then stopped and looked out over the river.

Every now than then, sometimes at intervals of a minute, sometimes, several minutes, a whorl would form from a ripple in the river, perhaps caused by a rock under the surface of the water, and it would spin down river.  Whenever a particularly strong whorl, or ring shaped wave appeared, people would chatter excitedly. The larger the whorl, the louder the chatter.

Some people were sure they were seeing the Naga. This was an excellent time for a Naga to appear. Thailand had just experienced its first coup in 15 years. Okpansa, the end of Buddhist lent,  and with it, the annual display of Naga Eggs, was only weeks away. The air was hazy and the whorls were forming 10 to 20 meters out in the river, so its was not possible to see the whorls clearly. But that didn't stop people from clearly seeing the Naga, even to the point of describing its features.

With the camera (A Sony 4.1 Megapixel Cybershot) zoomed in all the way, I took several still photographs and some short videos, as offered below.

Photo 2. When seen through the afternoon haze, an especially large ripple
elicited loud excited chatter from the crowd. Its clear how it could be perceived as
a serpent-like Naga just breaking the surface of the water, when seen through the afternoon haze.

Photo 3. A complete whorl is near the middle of this picture. Whorls such as this one could last up to a minute
and drift several meters before melting back into the river.

Photo 4. (MPEG video - 2 MB) This woman (above) is showing the man next to her where
the Naga is. She was absolutely most enthusiastic observer I came across. See how she
emphasized point to the man to her right. Click on the image above to see the MPEG video.

Photo 5. (MPEG video - 2.8 MB) You can see how this whorl, as it spins downstream, could
be recognized as a Naga by a believer. Listen to the excited voices in the background.
Click on the image above to see the MPEG video.

I am trying not to make any conclusions here about whether or not a Naga made an appearance that day, let alone whether or not Nagas exist. I cannot say that I saw a Naga, though I will readily admit that I did not expect to. It is clear to me that many people are convinced that they did see a Naga, and for them, Nagas are as real as the sun in the sky.

Also of possible interest are my Postcards from Thailand pages.

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Last updated 24 September,  2006