Tag Archives: Nakhon Pathom

Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Pathom

Literally in the middle of no-where, in Nakhon Chaisi District of Nakhon Pathom Province, there is a sprawling private transport museum for lovers of any vehicles, both on land and in the air. This large collection of vehicles can be found at Jesada Technik Museum and is the brainchild of Mr. Jesada Deshsakulrith, a Thai businessman. The museum first opened to the public in 2004 though Jesada bought his first vehicle back in 1997.

I was completely lost when I stumbled upon this red double decker bus from London and the yellow school bus from America. Beyond no doubt, I had arrived. Jesada Technik Museum is ironically not served by any public transport. You will have to find your own way there from Nakhon Chaisi (see map). It is open every day from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Surprisingly there is no entrance fee to the well kept museum though donations are welcome.

The inspiration for the museum came after Jesada visited automobile museums in the USA and in Europe. He decided to collect antique and hard-to-find cars for his own collection. He started with a 1958 Bubble Car bought in Switzerland. His collection has now grown to 500 pieces which includes Airplanes, Helicopters, Tanks, Buses, Sedans, Bubble Cars, Motorcycles, Tricycles and Bicycles from around the world. There would have been a Russian made submarine as well but it apparently sunk while on the way to Thailand.

It is a credit to Jesada that all of the vehicles have been kept in excellent condition as you can see from these pictures. Not only on the outside but the inside as well. The upholstery is in very good condition. Also don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a “dead” museum as many of these vehicles are in good working order and have taken part in car rallies. I have also seen one of the red double decker buses out and about too at charity events. They actually have three London buses, one of which is open-topped.

The transport museum is probably not worth visiting on its own. Best to do it in conjunction with something else in the area. Visit our Thailand Photo Map website to see what else there is to see in Nakhon Pathom Province. Nearby is the riverside Thana Market which is a great place to have lunch.

Wat Lampaya Floating Market

There are quite a few floating markets around Bangkok these days. It is becoming more popular among the Thai general public. Most of the new ones I have been to recently are aimed at the domestic market. Wat Lampaya Floating Market in Nakhon Pathom Province is another classic example of this. When I was there recently I didn’t see any other foreigners despite the fact that it was quite popular with tourists and local people. I think I should be clear here that Wat Lampaya Floating Market is more of a riverside market. It is true that the restaurants are floating and that there are some vendors selling food on boats. However, all of these are permanently moored. It is not like the picture postcards that you might have seen of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. But, this one is more practical as everything is in the shade away from the harsh sun.

The floating market is situated on the Tha Cheen River next to Wat Lampaya. This is the same river as at Don Wai Riverside Floating Market. In fact there are very similar markets. They both offer good food. They are both open at the weekends from 6 a.m. to late afternoon. They also both offer boat tours along the river. On the bank of the river they are selling a lot of fruit and vegetables. There are also stalls selling plants, handicraft, clothes and other OTOP products. On the floating platforms there are restaurants and many food stalls. As well as feeding yourself you can feed some of the fat fish in the river. I found everyone to be very friendly and they were keen to chat with me. We were there shortly after 10 a.m. It wasn’t too crowded at that time so it was easy to move around. Most people came here for lunch. So, if you want to avoid the crowds then come early.

Without the boat tours, I don’t think it is really worth your trouble coming here. It is just another food market albeit one with a good view of the river. I like the way the boat tours are set up. They are more like the dining tours that they have on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok but a lot cheaper. What you do here is wander around the market and buy any food that you want to eat on the boat. We bought a variety of food that we could share including fried chicken, fish cakes, hoi tod, pad thai, satay pork and minced pork in an omelette. We also bought some drinks. Then we chose our boat tour. They have three different tours. The first one is at 10 a.m. and the last goes at 2.30 p.m. It doesn’t really matter which one you go on as the journey is more important than the destination.

It is best to buy your ticket at least half an hour before the boat is due to leave. This gives you a chance to reserve the seats and table that you want and then to go and do your food shopping. The tours are 60-70 baht for adults and 20-30 baht for children. The tours go to Wat Sukwattanaram (10 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.), Wat Bang Phasi (11 a.m. and 1.30 p.m.) and Wat Bang Phra (11.30 a.m. and 2 p.m.). They have pictures of each tour which will help you decide. But for us, we just chose the most convenient tour which was the one for Wat Bang Phasi. Wat Bang Phra is the famous one where they have the annual tattoo festival in March. We had in fact just been there. The trip to Wat Sukwattanaram looked interesting as the pictures showed a Thai Farmers Museum. Maybe I will do that one on my next trip here.

Our boat trip along the Tha Cheen River took about 90 minutes. We cruised north up the river for about 30 minutes. We then had a 30 minute break at the temple and then another 30 minutes to come back. It was nice to have that break though the temple itself wasn’t that interesting. I guess the highlight of the temple were the wild animals in cages. But I just felt sorry for them. I like doing boat tours and it is a good way to relax and enjoy some natural air-conditioning. It was an extra bonus that we could eat and drink as well. As it was a weekend, we were able to observe river life along the banks. There were some people in small boats and young children splashing in the water. Others were sleeping outside their wooden houses or doing some fishing for their mid-day meal.

I expect I will come here again. Though it would be best if you have something else planned for the rest of the day. It took me about 115 minutes to drive there from Samut Prakan. We drove on Highway 4 towards Nakhon Pathom. We turned right at Nakhon Chaisi and then left onto Highway 3223. The journey there is signposted in Thai and English. If you live further north in Bangkok you could try Highway 346. I have marked the location on Google Maps. I also suggest that you buy the map book “Bangkok & Vicinity: A to Z Atlas” published by PN Map as the floating market is marked. Your other options are to rent a taxi for the day for about 1,200 baht (it cost me 400 baht in petrol alone) or take a local bus from either Nakhon Pathom market to Lampaya or a mini bus from the Southern Bus Terminal near Kung Luang Restaurant.

Giant Dragon Temple at Wat Samphran

When you are travelling around Thailand and you use guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, you should never make the mistake of using it as a bible. Just because the guidebook lists five temples for a city, it doesn’t mean that other temples are not worth visiting. Sometimes you can find hidden gems that turn out to be the highlight. This temple called Wat Samphran that I discovered by accident is a classic example. You won’t find it in any guidebooks but the sight of this massive dragon wrapped around a building that is something like 17 storeys high is really mind blowing.

The other week I was driving along a familiar route to Nakhon Pathom. At Samphran, not long after the entrance to the Rose Garden, there is a statue for the Thai Police Force. A sign on the left said that this road leads down to the Police Academy close to the Nakhon Chaisi River. So, I thought I would go and do something different. I didn’t notice this dragon temple on the way down. I ended up at the Samphran District Office alongside the river. I made a note of the floating restaurants here. There weren’t many people there when I visited, but I thought it would be a nice place to eat towards the end of the day. Other than that, not much going on. So, I drove back up towards Highway 4. That was when I spotted this large building with a giant dragon wrapped around the outside.

I was compelled to go and take a look. However, if you want to take a picture like the first one, then you need to do so from afar. When I arrived I was greeted by some friendly nuns who excitedly gestured for me to go and take a closer look at the building. Inside there was a lift which was closed but I decided it would be worth climbing the stairs to the top. About a few floors up there was an entrance way which took us into the actual body of the dragon. I was tempted to climb to the top this way but it was dark and there were no signs of any lights. So, I continued climbing up the stairs. I think I got as far as the tenth floor when my way was blocked by a padlocked door. The place was pretty dirty on the inside and so I am not sure if many people actually use the inside of this building. On a couple of floors though it looked like some monks were living there. But there was an odour of something that smelled like bat droppings.

If you go to visit this temple then make sure that you also explore the grounds. There are also many other giant sculptures of various animals like an elephant, rabbit, dolphins and another large building in the shape of a tortoise! There are many hidden treasure here so explore the place thoroughly both upstairs and downstairs! To find the temple, take Highway 4 from Bangkok. Go past the Samphran Elephant Ground and the Rose Garden. You will soon go over a large bridge that crosses the river. A short while later you need to turn left where you will see a sign that says Police Academy. There is a statue here too. The small entrance to Wat Samphran is less than halfway down this road on the right. I have marked it for you on google maps. The next time you are exploring in Thailand, throw away the guidebook and get off the beaten track!

Rose Garden in Thailand

One of the major tourist attractions that can be done as a day trip from Bangkok, is the Rose Garden Riverside in Nakhon Pathom Province. Located along the Tachin River, the 70 acre resort is only an hour’s drive from Bangkok. But don’t be fooled by the name. It is not just a botanical garden. Although it started as a Rose Garden and restaurant over 40 years ago, over the years it has evolved and developed into a cultural center, together with a hotel, restaurants and a spa. Today, foreign tourists mainly go to the Rose Garden to watch the internationally acclaimed Thai Village Cultural Show as part of a day long tour that includes a visit to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. We went there a couple days ago and had a really enjoyable time. We also had a delicious lunch in a restaurant with grand views of the fast flowing river.

Tourists who turn up on the tour buses usually arrive at 2 p.m. just in time for the elephant and cultural shows. However, there is plenty of activities at the Rose Garden to keep you busy all day long. We were there for about six hours and the time went by very fast. In the morning we took part in the art and craft activities in a program called “Living the Thai Culture”. This takes place between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and costs 480 baht per person. Situated around the Thai Village, there are about twelve different bases where you can learn more about every day traditional life in Thailand. These include: Dancing and Musical Instrument, Garland Making & Fruit Carving, Traditional Pottery, Thai Martial Arts, Silk Processing, Traditional Weaving, Umbrella Painting, Thai Country Kitchen, Orchid Nursery, Thai Herbal Pavilion, Bamboo Dancing and Rice Farming.

Although this new attraction has been going on for three years, not so many people seem to know about it. So we nearly had the Thai Village to ourselves which actually worked to our advantage. At each base, we were given a personal demonstration. We were then actively encouraged to try these for ourselves which is almost a unique experience amongst tourist attractions in Thailand. How often do you get a chance to plant rice?. If you didn’t want to get your feet wet in the rice paddy, you could have a go at grinding the rice. If you are feeling artistic you could try making a fish mobile from palm leaves or carving a flower out of a carrot! Or if you feel a bit more energetic, you could have a go at the bamboo dancing or the sword fights called krabi krabong. At other bases we learned how Thai herbs are used in traditional medicine and also how to look after orchids. Seeing the silkweaving process was also fascinating and a learning experience for all of us. Although you can turn up at any time, it is best to arrive before 10 a.m. as you will need the full two hours to experience all the activities.

After our busy schedule during the morning, we were now hungry for a good lunch. The resort has seven different venues that cater for people of all budgets. From the basic 40 baht a meal to the more lavish international buffet of 460 baht per person. We chose the Inn-Chan Restaurant which provided fine views of the river. I remember seeing this restaurant the other month when I was on a boat tour from the Don Wai Market. We came as far as the Rose Garden before turning around. The Rose Garden also have their own converted rice barge which you can join for a tour up the river to a local temple. After our delicious lunch, we set off to explore the grounds. We walked around, but you can rent a bicycle for 60 baht per hour or even hire a boat to go on the lake for 40 baht for 30 minutes. As well as the large variety of exotic flowers in the garden, there are also many traditional Thai houses. One of them is used for wedding receptions. Another for a spa. The other seven houses can be rented out by hotel guests. The attention to detail every where is really impressive and something you don’t often see in Thailand. I particularly liked what they did with their interpretation of a floating market. Unlike Damnoern Saduak, the surroundings helped make our pictures more beautiful.

The highlight of any visit to the Rose Garden is of course the Thai Village Cultural Show. Most tourists turn up just for this event. Gates to the Thai Village open at 1 p.m. This is the same place which we explored in the morning. So we didn’t go in until later. This afternoon session costs 480 baht and so you have to pay again if you want to do both. However, many of the activities are not available in the afternoon as the people are getting ready for the performance. But there is still a lot to see, so it is worth going in as soon as you can. For example, you can ride an elephant for as little as 50 baht per person. Then there are the shops and interesting displays. There is a short elephant show at 2.15 p.m. and then the main cultural show is at 2.45 p.m. Then straight after the cultural show, there is a second chance to see the elephants in action. A small tip, some people skip the first round of the elephant show and go straight to the auditorium in order to make sure that they get a good seat. A sign says rows nearer the stage can get hot due to the spotlights. The best seats are obviously the ones in the central block.

The Thai Cultural Show is certainly impressive and gives you a long lasting memory. I was last here about seven years ago and I could remember it all. There is a cast of over 120 people who very cleverly tell you about many different aspects of Thai culture and the Thai way of living through a series of performances. For example, a Harvest Dance, Bamboo Dance, and a Thai Mythical Dance. We are also introduced to the different traditional clothes and dancing methods of all regions of Thailand. Then there are demonstrations of Thai sports such as short pole fighting and Thai boxing. There is even a grand procession for a young man who is about to be ordained. He rides in the procession on the back of an elephant. Another highlight is the Thai wedding ceremony. There is certainly a lot to take in during this 40 minute show. If you haven’t witnessed anything like this before in Thailand, then you will find that the Rose Garden offers an easy introduction to Thai culture.

You can easily book tours to the Rose Garden from your hotel. Or, you can go independently. If there is a small group of you, then you can rent a taxi from Bangkok for not much more than 1,000 baht. You can visit the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the morning, then either Nakhon Pathom or the Thai Human Imagery Museum before finishing at the Rose Garden. The tours are good, but some members of our ThailandQA.com forum reported that they were dropped off at the Rose Garden a bit late and missed the start of the show. They will also take you to a gem factory on the way back which is not advertised. You can also go by bus. Any bus leaving Bangkok for Nakhon Pathom can drop you off at the Rose Garden. Or you can do this on the way back from a trip to Kanchanaburi.

Do you need help in planning this trip? Visit the Paknam Web Thailand Forums for free advice 24/7.

MAP:

Latitude: 13.733851 (13° 44′ 1.86” N)
Longitude: 100.243729 (100° 14′ 37.42” E)

Samphran Elephant Ground

On the Western outskirts of Bangkok is the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo. They label it themselves as the “greatest elephant show in Thailand” and I think they are probably right. I went there yesterday with Nong Grace and she thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. In addition to the elephant show, they also have a crocodile show. Surprisingly I had never been before. In Samut Prakan, we have the “largest crocodile farm in the world”, which in addition to crocodile wrestling, it also has an elephant show. So, I couldn’t really see the point to travel out to Samphran as well. It is also a lot more expensive. But, I am now glad that I did make this effort.

The highlight is undoubtedly the Elephant Theme Show. I have seen quite a few elephant shows now and many of them have a similar theme. This usually invovles elephants doing unnatural acts such as walking a tightrope (Safari World) and disco dancing (Crocodile Farm). Some of the best shows I have seen so far were on the outskirts of Chiang Mai where they did demonstrations of how elephants were used for logging. But, the show at Samphran was all encompassing and gave better value for money. What I particularly liked from the start was the use of English narration and dramatic sound effects. One of my pet peeves are the tourist attractions that charge foreigners 400% more than Thai people and then don’t make an effort to give the foreigners value for money. Take Safari World as an example. Despite having to pay a lot more than Thai people, all of the shows were in Thai language. Samphran is a rarity in that they catered for the foreign tourists.

During the show, we saw how the elephants are not only revered by the Thai people, but how useful the elephants have been throughout their history. We were given demonstrations of how they caught elephants in the wild. Then how they were used for logging by picking up tree trunks with the help of their tusks and then pulling them along the ground. Next came some light humour with the Elephant World Cup. A herd of elephants came on wearing team colours for various countries. They did some various party tricks like picking up objects on the ground while racing down a course and dancing to disco music. They also tried some head stands. But the highlight was a penalty shootout using giant balls. Some of the elephants were pretty good at scoring while others were hopeless and knew it. The elephant with Ronaldo’s name on it was pretty funny. After scoring a goal, it got down on its knees and did a good impression of a footballer doing a victory dance.

The climax of the show was the big battle between the Siamese and Burmese armies. In the olden days, the kings fought on elephant back. Everything was recreated for the show in fine detail from the battle gear of the elephants to the uniforms of the soldiers. The show was certainly dramatic with not only the sword fighting but also the loud explosions. If you are going to the show with young children, you should get them to cover their ears for this part. At the conclusion of the show, there is an opportunity for you to go closer and take a picture with the giant elephants. Apparently, the elephant with the tusks in the picture at the top is father to twenty other elephants at this zoo. If you like, you can also buy sugar cane or a bunch of bananas to feed the elephants for only 10 baht. Compare this to the rip-off price of 40 baht over at Safari World for a small bucket of leaves for the giraffes. There is also an opportunity here to ride around the arena on the back of the elephant for only 70 baht.

Around the back of the park is a new area where you can have a longer elephant ride which lasts about 20 minutes. They take you around the garden and then passing through a dramatic waterfall and along an artificial river. This has been beautifully created and together with the colour flowers gives a colourful backdrop for any photo. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a friend who can take pictures for you. Just give your camera to one of the trainers and he will follow you around taking some beautiful shots. I think the price is a bit expensive at 400 baht per person. If you are planning on going to Chiang Mai or Kanchanaburi and want to do the tours that include elephant riding and bamboo rafting, then I would give this a miss if I was you. Better to do it in the real jungle. However, if you have limited time on your holiday, or you want some better controlled opportunities to have pictures of yourself on elephant back, then you might like to do it here.

We arrived at the park at about 11.45 a.m. During weekdays, the first scheduled show is the Crocodile Wrestling Show at 12.45 p.m. So we had timed this right. On Sunday and public holidays you will find that there is an extra round of shows in the morning starting at 10.30 a.m. While we waited, we wandered around to see what else was on offer. Near the entrance, there is an opportunity to have your picture taken with two tigers that were born at the park. This costs 100 baht for up to four people in one photo. They give you one print for this though you can use your own camera to take as many pictures as you like. Nearby were about half a dozen young elephants that were chained to the ground. Each elephant had a keeper to look after its needs. However, I did notice that one elephant was thirsty and without waiting for its trainer, it used its trunk to turn on a tap to get a drink of water. It even turned off the tap afterwards. Nong Grace was a bit nervous to go near them at first, but the trainer encouraged her by saying that they wouldn’t hurt. Surprisingly, she even went on an elephant ride around the park which she never wanted to do before.

The crocodile show lasted about 20 minutes. It was very similar to the one I had seen many times in Samut Prakan. The audience certainly loved it as there were gasps of horror and nervous laughter at all the right times. However, it wasn’t as good as our local one. Plus, there was no seating so you had to stand around for half an hour. But, if you haven’t seen anything like this before then it is worth watching. The ending was a bit disappointing. It kind of fizzled out and some people started to wander away without realizing they hadn’t actually finished. Maybe they should send some of their people over to Samut Prakan to get some tips on making a better show. As soon as the show finished, we then made our way over to the elephant ground for the show that I already talked about. Before this, they put on a magic show which was entertaining for the kids. This started at 1.15 p.m. and then the elephant show at 1.45 p.m. So, you basically go from one show to the next without a break.

After the last show, we wandered around some more, looking at the crocodiles in the pens and also the beautiful orchids. Nong Grace also had a great time playing on the swings in the playground. We were about to go home when she heard the dramatic music starting again for the second round for the elephant show. As she enjoyed it so much, she insisted on dragging us to go and watch again. However, I didn’t really mind as it was a good performance. Both the elephants and the humans were very enthusiastic and didn’t look a bit tired. Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.

The entrance fee for the park is quite high at 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for children. The Thai price is 80 baht for adults and 40 baht for children. It is a little sneakily that they don’t show the Thai price at the ticket office. I did actually stop here last month on the way back from Nakhon Pathom. But, I didn’t go in as I was a bit shocked about the high price. I did ask for local price like I normally do, but they would only offer the discounted price of 300 baht if I could show a work permit. I declined as I didn’t think at the time it was worth my trouble. But, I am glad I went back as it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. In the end we spent over five hours there! Take a look at my pictures and then make your own decision whether you want to pay as much as 500 baht admission fee. In their defense, the elephant show would have cost them a lot to put on. Also, I liked it that their prices for drinks and snacks were very reasonable. A small bottle of water was 10 baht compared to 20 baht at Safari World.

Samphran is on the main highway out of Bangkok on the way to Nakhon Pathom. It is very near the Rose Garden and Don Wai Floating Market. You could visit here after going to Damnoen Saduak in the morning. Or go to Nakhon Pathom in the morning and then stop here on the way back. You can either go here by yourself by bus or join tours from Bangkok.

Sanam Chan Palace

I have visted Nakhon Pathom three or four times, and on every trip I usually just visit the giant Phra Pathom Chedi . It is true that it is impressive, but then so is the nearby Phra Ratchawang Sanam Chan Palace with its unique mixture of Thai, English Tudor and French architectural styles. I suppose my only excuse for not visiting before is that it isn’t in the Lonely Planet. But then, I guess we should stop blindly following these guidebooks and go off exploring on our own. Sanam Chan Palace was built back in 1907 by command of King Rama VI when he was still the Crown Prince. He used it later whenever he was travelling in this region. Other members of the royal family also lived here at various times. Some of the important buildings built around the 800 rai plot of land are Phiman Pathom, Phirom Phakdi, Wachari Romaya and Samakkhi Mukkhamat.

The grounds of the palace are next to Silapakorn University. When I was there, there were quite a few students wandering around the gardens having their pictures taken at various locations. One popular viewpoint was this statue of Ya Le, the king’s favourite dog that always accompanied him. Unfortuantely he was shot dead one day and the king built this memorial in front of the Chali Mongkhon Asana building. Notice the turret of the building behind that makes it look a bit like a French castle. The exposed wooden beams on the other side, in the top picture, give it a Tudor look.

Other than the students, there weren’t that many people wandering around. I almost had the place to myself. I am not too sure but I got the impression that you can explore the grounds of the palace for free. I had difficulty in finding the main entrance and endeda up arriving through a back gate. The security guard there didn’t say anything. The buildings are all spread out and many of them are now a kind of museum housing artifacts and contemporary photographs. The first one I went in, pictured above, I was asked for my ticket. I told her honestly that I had come in the side entrance and asked her where I could buy the ticket. She pointed to a location on the far side of the park. But she let me in anyway. I eventually found the ticket booth. The prices were written plainly in English that foreigners were 50 baht and Thai people 30 baht. I have no problems with the two price system when they are honest enough to clearly show how much the Thai people are paying. I greeted the lady politely in Thai and for some reason asked her how much the ticket was. Straight away she said “30 baht” which somewhat surprised me. I wasn’t even going to ask if I could have the Thai price as the difference was minimal. But, that was nice of her to do that.

I had an enjoyable time wandering around the gardens and exploring some of the private residences of the royal family. There is also a traditional Thai house to explore. The main building, Phiman Pathom, is pictured above and is connected by a raised walkway to a more tradionally Thai temple like building. You are not allowed to take pictures inside and you also have to leave bags and shoes outside in lockers. But it is worth looking around in order to get a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Thai royal family in the past. You can even sneak a look into their bathroom and bedroom. There was no tour and minimal signs explaining what you were looking at. However, it was nice that we could proceed at our own pace. Around the back of this building are a collection of Land Rovers and Chevrolet vehicles used when H.M. The King and other members of royal family used visited various royal projects around the country.

The palace is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You will find it a short distance West of the chedi.

Phra Pathom Chedi

Despite its closeness to Bangkok, the city of Nakhon Pathom is often neglected by tourists. This is a shame because of the historical importance of the city. Nakhon Pathom is not only one of the oldest cities in Thailand, but it also marks the spot where Buddhism was first officially introduced into the Kingdom. The original pagoda is believed to date back over 1,500 years. In those days, the Gulf of Thailand reached as far north as Nakhon Pathom. Indian traders arrived in their ships and settled in this area. The introduction of Buddhism came via King Asoka who sent two missionaries to this land around 269 BC. Historians believe that it is this area that was known as Suvarnabhumi and that Nakhon Pathom could have been the capital. Suvarnabhumi means “Golden Land” and is the official name of the new international airport East of Bangkok.

There is a legend that recounts the building of the original stupa. It is very similar to the Greek legend of Oedipus. Court astrologers predicted that the new-born son of the King would one day kill him. Unable to kill her own son, the Queen had the baby abandoned in a forest where it was discovered by an old woman. He was given the name of Phya Pan. Later in his life he became a great warrior for the king of Ratchaburi. During a dispute that led to an armed conflict, Phya Pan led his soldiers into battle on elephant-back. His father recognized him just before he was then killed by his own son. Phya Pan then entered the capital triumphant and claimed the Queen as his wife, which was the tradition at the time. He was devastated when he found out the truth. He consulted the monks about what he could do to amend for these great sins. He was told to build a great stupa that would reach as high as a dove could fly. The original stupa, or chedi, was 39 metres high. A replica can be seen today in the southeast corner.

The town surrounding the Buddhist monument was eventually abandoned after the rivers dried up and the trading ships moved elsewhere. The jungle then cut off the area to the outside world and it became forgotten. It was then “re-discovered” by the future King Mongkut (King Rama IV) who at that time was a monk. When he later became a king, he commanded for the pagoda to be rebuilt. In 1853 A.D. a giant chedi was built to enshrine the original pagoda. Unfortunately this one collapsed during a violent rainstorm. It then had to be rebuilt and wasn’t completed until 1870 A.D. during the reign of King Rama V. By this time the height of the chedi was 120.45 metres high making it the tallest Buddhist monument in the world. A record that still stands. The diameter of the base is 233.50 metres. The chedi is solid and houses the relics of the Lord Buddha. The chedi was restored and improved upon during the next reign. The temple then became the royal chapel for King Rama VI. His ashes are interred in the base of the standing Buddha on the north side of the chedi.

Nakhon Pathom is only 56 kilometres West of Bangkok. It is easy to drive there along Highway 4. From Samut Prakan, it took me less than one hour to drive there early in the morning. There is no need for a map as the journey is simple and well sign-posted. You can, of course, also go there by bus from the Southern Bus Terminal or by Train from the Thonburi Station. At the weekend, there is a special train excursion that leaves Hualampong Station at 6.30 a.m. with stops at both Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi further down the line. I was at the station when the train arrived at 7.40 a.m. Everyone rushed out as they had only 40 minutes to explore Phra Pathom Chedi before they had to get back on the train. You could take this tour if you like (only 100 baht) or arrange your own trip. I would suggest staying longer. There is more to see in the town. There are a few cheap but clean hotels near the station. I ate my breakfast in the market in this area and then walked the short distance to the chedi.

Even though it was still early the complex was open for visitors and worshipers. I entered from the north where you can see the large Standing Buddha. But, you can enter from other directions. If you are there early in the morning like me, then you might want to go around to the Southern entrance to get a better picture as the sun will be behind you (see top picture). When walking around a chedi or any Buddha monument, you should do so in a clockwise direction. This will bring you greater luck. I actually walked around three times in the end so hopefully I brought myself a lot of luck. The first round was at the base of the chedi. Then I went up the steps to walk around the gallery which was, of course, much quicker. I then walked through the cloisters surrounding the chedi to walk again around the circumference. Here you will find a total of 25 bells in little bell towers. If you ring them with a wooden mallet as you walk around then your luck will be heightened. On the outside of the cloisters you will find numerous Buddha images depicting different postures and gestures of the Buddha. Many of them I have never seen before. There are also chapels where you will find larger Buddha images such as the Reclining Buddha on the Westeren side.

In the temple grounds there is also a small museum. In total I was here for just over two hours as there was a lot to explore and learn about. In my library at home I have a large collection of guidebooks. I often take Lonely Planet with me as it is usually very comprehensive and has some good town maps. However, over recent years they have started to cut down on information on some of the smaller towns. Some have even been cut out altogether. Nakhon Pathom gets only a page for the entire province. So, instead I took with me the ever faithful Thailand Handbook by Carl Parkes which often has interesting information about tourist attractions which are lacking from some of the other guidebooks. He also had a handy map of the town and all the important monuments surrounding the chedi. I found it indispensable. Unfortunately it is now out of print so you will need to find a second-hand copy. I also took the Michelin Tourist Guide to Thailand as I often find it useful for planning road trips to places not in other guidebooks. Sadly that seems out of print too as I would love to buy the latest edition.

Thai Human Imagery Museum


On the Western outskirts of Bangkok, in Nakhon Pathom Province, there are a number of big tourist attractions. These include the Rose Garden, Samphran Elephant and Crocodile Farm and the Thai Human Imagery Museum. All of these attractions are close to Don Wai Market and it is possible to do a combination of these in one day. From Bangkok, it takes about 45 minutes to reach here along Highway 4. Just follow the signs for Nakorn Pathom. After you pass the Rose Garden on your left and cross the mighty Nakhon Chaisi River, look out for Highway 338 on your right. The museum is a short way up this road on the left. Incidentally, if you continue on this road back to Bangkok, you will pass the giant standing Buddha called Puttha Monton. Unfortunately, when I was there recently, it was covered in scaffolding.


One of the Revered Monks

The Thai Human Imagery Museum is the Thai response to the famous Madame Tussauds in London. However, the sculptures featured in this museum are not made from wax for obvious reasons. Instead, the artists made them from fibre glass. The first figure was created in the early 1980′s and was of a revered Thai monk. More were to follow. In 1989 the museum was finally ready to be opened to the public. Nearly twenty years later they now have over 120 sculptures of famous people from Thailand and around the world. They also have some extraordinarily lifelike sculptures of people in every day situations such as playing chess and sleeping on a bench. The attention to detail is amazing and I had to look twice as I thought they were real people at first. Even the meditating monks look so real.


Traditional Children’s Games

The highlight of the museum, is surely the sculptures of the first eight kings of the Chakri Dynasty. The first three never had their pictures taken and so they are based on paintings. But, from King Mongkut onwards, they are very recognizable and it was an honour to be in their company. The youngest of the group was King Rama VIII who wasn’t on the throne for so long. In a nearby hall there is a sculpture of the late Princess Mother. Upstairs, there are showcases such as Children’s Games, Thai Literature and Sunthon Phu and the Abolition of Slavery. Most scenes have bilingual notices, though there is a lot more information written in the Thai language.


Abolition of Slavery

Although there is plenty to learn and to admire, I wouldn’t make a special trip all the way here just for this one tourist attraction. Make sure you see other things at the same time. Admission is 50 baht for Thai people and 200 baht for Foreigners. A sign says that if you can show your work permit then you will be offered a 100 baht discount. I didn’t notice that at first and as usual I asked politely in Thai whether I could get the Thai price as I was a teacher. Despite not having a work permit with me to show them, they let me in for 100 baht. Although I do not normally like museums that sneakily have two prices, I think 100 baht was worth the admission.

Don Wai Market

I am really happy that the Kanchanapisek Outer Ringroad has been finished. It now allows us to easily explore tourist attractions around the perimeter of Bangkok quickly and easily. So, last weekend I set off on a day trip to Nakhon Pathom, to the West of Bangkok. My destination was Don Wai Market. Some people call this a floating market. However, strictly speaking, it is a market on the banks of the Nakhon Chaisi River. If you come looking for a Damnoern Saduak Floating Market or even a Amphawa Floating Market then you will be disappointed. You won’t see many vendors selling their products on little boats. But, they all have their own attributes which makes them special. I personally enjoyed Don Wai Market and will certainly be going again.

Don Wai Market has been around for over a hundred years. However, it is only recently that it has started to become popular with daytrippers from Bangkok. From my own home, it only took 45 minutes which makes it almost a local source of good food. And I think that is why so many people go there at the weekend. The market was originally famous for the boiled ducks, but now there is a much greater variety of food. Not just curries and snacks, but also Thai sweets. Judging by all the pictures on display, a lot of celebrities and politicians also come to this market.

It is best to go to this market as early as you can in order to beat not only the heat but the crowds as well. It opens at 6 a.m. I arrived at 9 a.m. as I dropped in at Wat Rai Khing first to pay my respects to the highly revered Buddha image. They have a popular fair here in April. The temple is also famous for the fish sanctuary where you can buy bread to feed the fish. It is possible to catch a boat from here to Don Wai Market for only 60 baht. However, as I was early, it looked like they were waiting for enough people to make the journey worthwhile. As you can see from this picture, there weren’t that many people at the market when I first arrived. However, when I left at midday it was so crowded with people it took forever to move through the crowds. By that time I couldn’t wait to escape.

Tourists weren’t going to the market just to buy food. They were going to eat at one of the many floating markets that lined the river. In fact, there are so many of these restaurants that as you walk along the market you don’t get a clear view of the river. However, you do get fine views when you sit down to eat. Just don’t go too late in the morning. Maybe best to come here for a brunch. I was tempted to buy a lot of food to take home. Unfortunately, I had more places to visit on that day and so didn’t think it was a good idea to buy too much fresh food that might go off in a hot car.

To get to Don Wai Market is quite easy. I took the Outer Ring (Highway 9) from Samut Prakan. I then turned onto Highway 4 which is signposted Nakhon Pathom. Shortly after the Rose Garden you need to turn right onto Highway 3316. However, as you cannot do a direct turn here, you have to continue as far as the bridge over Nakhon Chaisi River and U-Turn under the bridge. Make sure you keep left for this. You will see a bigger sign for Wat Rai Khing rather than for the market. Keep going until you reach the market on the left. You cannot miss it nor the crowds. Make sure that you arrive early if you want to park a car. This costs 20 baht. There is more than one place to park. Just keep driving along the road.

Boat Trip on Nakhon Chaisi River

A good market near Bangkok is Don Wai in Nakhon Pathom Province. I was there recently to do a report for thai-blogs.com. It is a great food market if you enjoy Thai food. However, you can also join boat trips which makes it a more enjoyable experience. I thought I would only be an hour or two at the market before moving onto my next location. However, because of the boat trip I ended up staying all morning. As you know, I love boat trips and cruising down a river with natural air-conditioning is a fun way to spend the day.

There seems to be a number of different companies running boat trips at Don Wai. As you walk down the market it is easy to find them. Most organize two trips. The first lasts 75 minutes and costs 60 baht for adults and 30 baht for children. The second lasts 120 minutes and costs 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. The brochure is only written in Thai. However, they have basically the same route though obviously the second one goes further down the river. The first tour starts at 9.30 a.m. and continues at roughly one hourly intervals until late afternoon. The second tour starts at 10 a.m. on Sundays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays. This continues at roughly 90 minute intervals until mid afternoon. During weekdays there are only two rounds during the middle of the day for lunchtime crowds.

The boats are converted rice barges. Most have arrangements of tables and chairs. The boat didn’t actually go anywhere as such which was a bit of a disappointment. Our destination was the Rose Garden, but all we did was go that far and come straight back. However, what the trip is really about is buying food in the market and then taking that on the boat trip with you. I didn’t realize that but luckily a Thai family felt sorry for me and decided to feed me. People often do that. I don’t know why. As long as you bring some food along, and maybe a few bottles of beer, then you will have an enjoyable and relaxing trip. Maybe snooze a little. The people at the table next to mine certainly slept the whole way.

Overall, I did spend a good morning at the market. I would advise that you go as early as you can as it does get crowded by mid morning. I would suggest exploring the market first then taking a late breakfast on one of the rice barges. The 70 minute tour is plenty enough as the seats were a bit uncomfortable for anything longer than that. You will probably end up staying here for about 3 hours. In my next blogs, I will give you ideas of where else to spend the rest of the day.

MAP:

Latitude: 13.770961 (13° 46′ 15.46” N)
Longitude: 100.283675 (100° 17′ 1.23” E)