The story of Mae Nak is a well known and popular Thai ghost story which has been the subject of many movies, television series, and books. Folklore claims that this story is based on actual events that took place during the 1800s.
During the reign of King Mongkut a beautiful young woman named Mae Nak lived by the Phra Khanong canal (Thai: คลองพระโขนง) in Bangkok with her husband, Mak.
Mak is sent to fight in a war leaving behind his pregnant wife. Mak is injured and barely survives. He returns home to his doting wife and child, or so he thinks. A friend visits and sees Mak living together with Nak. The villagers, knowing that Nak died in childbirth several months previously, realize what is happening, that Mak is spellbound by Nak’s ghost. People who attempt to tell Mak, or who know too much, are killed by Nak’s ghost, who becomes more and more aggressive due to her inability to accept her early death and her desperate desire to stay with her husband.
Eventually a respected Buddhist monk arrives and takes charge and in a tearful farewell Nak repents, leaving her husband to live his life. The centre of Nak’s forehead is cut out and kept in a waistband which the monk wore until his death. Legend states that the waistband later became the possession of His Royal Highness Prince Chumbhorn Ketudomsak.
Mae Nak’s story is popular because her true love and devotion for Mak inspires many people.
There is a shrine dedicated to her memory at Wat Mahabut (Thai: วัดมหาบุศย์) in Bangkok. The shrine consists of a low building under large trees with a roofing that encompasses the tree trunks. The main shrine has a number of minor shrines surrounding it. There is a wide fenced area around the shrine with a gate towards the Wat Mahabut temple compound and another more elaborate roofed gate facing the canal (Klong Phra Khanong).
In addition to adorning the statue of Mae Nak and her baby with gold leaf, the faithful also make offerings of coloured cloth that are wrapped around the trunk of the tree inside the shrine compound. Other offerings are fruits, lotus flowers, incense sticks and a collection of dresses. Among the most poignant offerings are clothing and toys left for her child.
Offerings are also made outside at the Phra Khanong canal itself by the shrine, where living fishes, turtles, birds, eels and fish etc are are brought in buckets to the edge of the canal and released. This is done to make merit (Thai: ทำบุญ).
The easiest way to get there is to take the Sky train to On Nut Station, then backtrack a short way until reaching On Nut Road, intersecting with Sukhumvit Road.
About 1 km down On Nut Road, on the left, there is a small lane signposted as soi 7. Wat Mahabut and the Mae Nak shrine are at the end of the lane, with the shrine at the far side of the larger temple compound near the canal known as Klong Phra Khanong.