The town's main attraction is Phra Pathom Chedi, a 127 m stupa, which marks the approximate location of the region's first exposure to Buddhism and Indian civilisations.
Nakhon Pathom used to be by the sea but the shifting coastline now places it about 50 km inland. Archaeological findings date back to the 4th century and the first mention of a stupa was in the year 675 CE.
While Nakhon Pathom was a prosperous city during the pre-Angkorian Dvaravati period; it was the Angkorian Empire that left a greater mark in the 11th century. However, shifting landscape and the altering of the river course caused drought that led to the abandonment of Nakhon Pathom in favour of the new riverside settlement of Nakhon Chaisi.
The ruins of the Angkorian stupa inspired King Rama IV to build the current giant, which was completed in 1870. He also commanded that the Chedi Bucha canal be dug to facilitate transport.
During the reign of King Rama V, the construction of railways led to more changes. The population of Thana Subdistrict, Nakhon Chaisi District, was relocated to Nakhon Pathom.
Government buses (lines 83 and 997) leave from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal. The trip costs 40 baht in first class and takes about an hour in good traffic. Buses leave every 10 minutes from 04:10 until 21:30.
There are 2nd class buses to Kanchanaburi every 15–30 minutes.
In addition there is a non-stop minibus service between Bangkok and the Big C Superstore in Nakhon Pathom. You can also ask to be dropped off directly in front of Phra Pathom Chedi. In Nakhon Pathom, Big C is on the main road through Nakhon Pathom, and has plenty of four-wheel and two-wheel taxis to take you to your final destination. Cost is 60 baht each way.
Nakhon Pathom is an important rail junction. It is where the line to Kanchanaburi/Nam Tok diverges from the main north-south line. Therefore long distance trains that connect Bangkok's Hualamphong station to the south stop there, as do the trains from Bangkok's Thonburi station to Kanchanaburi and the bridge over the River Kwai. Connections to and from Thonburi are quicker than those to Hualamphong.
From Bangkok, driving on the old route of Petchkasem Rd (Hwy 4) passing Aom Noi, Aom Yai, Sam Phran to Nakhon Pathom or driving on a new route from Bangkok, passing Buddhamonthon, Nakhon Chaisi to Nakhon Pathom. The new route is Rte 338 and originates on Pinklao Road. The elevated part from Pin Klao Bridge to Buddhamonthon 2 Rd is toll-free and cuts down travel time considerably.
- 1 Wat Sisathong (Wat Sisrathong, Wat Sisa Tong). The famous temple of Phra Rahu, the god of darkness. Worshippers often offer Rahu eight black offerings: black chicken, black jelly, black liquor, black rice and black pudding. In 1997, Khunying Phankrua Yongchaiyudh, Prime Minister Chavalit's wife, sought help from Phra Rahu to keep her husband's coalition government together. Seeking the blessing from Phra Rahu to repel bad luck is a common practice. Wat Sisa Thong is most popular with Rahu followers as it has a giant statue of Phra Rahu, said to be the largest in Thailand.
- 2 Wat Samphran. A 17-story-tall pink cylindrical building, with whole height encircled by a red-and-green dragon sculpture.
- 3 Phra Pathom Chedi. Towering over the low-rises of central Nakhom Pathom, at 120 m this massive brick stupa is the largest in the world. It also makes a respectable claim to being Thailand's oldest Buddhist temple, dating back to the 6th century AD, although the present structure is mostly the handiwork of King Mongkut (1853) and his successors. There is no entry into the stupa itself, which is said to house a relic of the Buddha, but you can circumambulate the stupa in the inner courtyard and admire the giant golden Buddha on the southern side (always packed with worshippers). Also take some time to look around the many smaller temple halls around the chedi. Entrance fee is 20 baht, although this is loosely enforced at best.
- 4 Sanam Chan Palace (Sanam Chandra Palace). Previously summer residence for King Rama VI. Right in front of the palace is a monument of Yah Leh, his beloved dog. Also wander around the beautiful Silpakorn University campus attached. Every Wednesday there is a student market selling T-shirts, and the cafeteria near the lake provides excellent Thai food every day at rock-bottom prices.
- Wat Phra Pathom Chedi Ratchavoraviharn (วัดพระปฐมเจดย์ราชวรวิหาร): This is a first-class royal monastery. The temple houses Phra Pathom Chedi, the largest pagoda in Thailand. Phra Pathom Chedi is the official provincial symbol of Nakhon Pathom.
- Nakhon Pathom Palace (พระราชวังนครปฐม): At the command of King Rama IV, the palace was built near the Phra Pathom Chedi, similar in concept to those palaces in the Ayutthaya period whereby the king commanded that a palace be built on the perimeter of the temple housing the Phra Buddhabat (Buddha's footprint).
- Neun Wat Phra Ngam (เนินวัดพระงาม): Prince Damrong Rachanuphab explained that the origin of the name Wat Phra Ngam (temple of magnificent Buddha images) was due to the beauty of the discovered earthen Buddha images, the temple was given its name. All of the discovered artifacts date back to the Dvaravati period, which are the same age as those found around Phra Pathom Chedi.
- Phrabat Somdej Phra Monkut Klao Chaoyuhua Museum (Sanam Chan Palace) (พิพิธภัณฑ์พระบาทสมเด็จพระมงกุฏเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว): The palace was constructed at the command of King Rama VI in 1907 when he was crown prince. Sanam Chan Palace covers a vast area with a big court in the middle, surrounded by ring roads, with water canals on the outer perimeter. The beautiful halls in the middle of the Palace include:
- Phiman Pathom Hall (พระที่นั่งพิมานปฐม): It is the first hall to be built in the Sanam Chan Palace. It is of European architecture, a 2-storey building in which King Rama VI resided before his ascension to the throne. As for the Phiman Pathom Hall, it now houses a part of the Nakhon Pathom City Hall. Apirom Reudi Hall (พระที่นั่งอภิรมย์ฤดี) is a two-storey hall to the south of Phiman Pathom hall. It houses the offices of the Nakhon Pathom City Hall.
- Vatchari Romya Hall (พระที่นั่งวัชรีรมยา): This is a two-storey hall. It was built in Thai-style: multi-layered roof with colourful tiles on the turret; with a swan-like finial on the roof ridge, representing the head of garuda and small finials jutting out of the two corners of the gable.
- Samakki Mukmat Hall (พระที่นั่งสามัคคีมุขมาตย์): This is a Thai-style hall. It was a meeting hall for King Rama VI and also where he held court. The hall was also used as a khone theatre (khone is a Thai play performed by dancers wearing masks). It is used as a meeting hall of Nakhon Pathom Province.
- Phra Tamnak Chali Monkol-asna (พระตำหนักชาลีมงคลอาสน์): The two-storey building is of European architecture, plastered in caramel-yellow, with roof tile in red. It was used as a temporary residence of King Rama VI.
- Phra Tamnak Mari Ratchrat Banlang (พระตำหนักมารีราชรัตบัลลังก์): This is a two-storey wooden building painted in red. The building is opposite Phra Tamnak Chali Monkol-asna and is connected via a walk way.
- Phra Tamnak Tabkaeo (พระตำหนักทับแก้ว): This is a small building that used to be a temporary residence during winter. After a renovation it is a residence of the Palad Changwat of Nakhon Pathom. Around 450 rai (180 acres) of land to the rear of the building is now the campus of Silpakorn University.
- Phra Tamnak Tabkwan (พระตำหนักทับขวัญ): This is a teak building with a palm leaf roof. At the command of King Rama VI, the teak building was constructed to preserve traditional Thai architecture. It is also used for merit making and sometimes classic Thai performances would also be held at this building.
- Thevalai Kanaesuan or Phra Pikkanesh Shrine (เทวาลัยคเณศวร์ หรือ ศาลพระพิฆเณศวร์): It was built to house the image of Phra Pikkanaesuan (or Ganesh), the Indian god of arts. The shrine is in a large field, in front of the Sanam Chan Palace.
- Ya-Lei Monument (อนุเสาวรีย์ย่าเหล): The dog, Ya-Lei, was very close to the heart of King Rama VI. The king was very fond of Ya-Lei, so much so that Ya-Lei was envied, and was later shot by an envious person. King Rama VI was much saddened when Ya-Le died and commanded that a copper statue of Ya-Lei be cast and placed on a pedestal in front of Phra Tamnak Chali Monkol-asna.
- Neun Dhamma Sala (เนินธรรมศาลา): The physical appearance is that of a hill with a tunnel opening that is believed to connect Wat Phra Mayn to Wat Dhamma Sala. From hearsay, there are various valuable treasures like ancient pottery but which may not be taken out because there is a treasure guardian spirit watching over.
- Wat Phra Mayn (วัดพระเมรุ): It is an abandoned temple that nowadays resembles a large hill. Also discovered here are other artefacts which include bronze Buddha images as well as arms, thighs, and hands from a laterite Buddha image, Yaksa Deva (Thai mythical giant gods), Lotus Lion Deva, and stucco relief from the stupa ruins.
- Phra Padhone Chedi (วัดพระประโทณเจดีย์): As Wat Phra Padhone Chedi is in the middle of the ancient city of Nakhon Chaisi thus several artefacts were discovered during excavations. Some of the discovered items include Buddha images, heads of Buddha images and Buddha images in terra cotta, as well as a bronze figure of a garuda gripping naga under its claws, which is the official symbol of King Rama VI.
- Neun Phra or Neun Yai Hom (เนินพระหรือเนินยายหอม): This area was once an ancient temple and that the hill must have been a large chedi that was in the temple compound dating back to the Dvaravati period, or earlier, roughly about 1,000 years ago.
- Buddhamonthon (พุทธมณฑล): A huge upright Buddha image, in walking attitude, measuring about 15.8 metres marks the centre of the area. King Bhumibhol Adulyadej granted the name Phra Sri Sakkaya Thosapol Yan Phratan Buddhamonthon Sutas to the Buddha image. Important Buddhist ceremonies and festivities are held here, such as the Visaka Bucha Day, Makabucha Day, Asanhabucha Day, and Loy Krathong Festival among others
- Open Study Centre or College in the Palace (ศูนย์การศึกษานอกโรงเรียน หรือ วิทยาลัยในวัง): The centre mobilises an ancient school of Thai arts called Chang Sib Mu or 'the ten master crafts', the Thai arts that stem from local wisdom and expertise that Thais managed to retain from their forefathers.
- Misiem Yip Intsoi Arts Garden (สวนศิลปะมีเซียมยิบอินซอย): The garden houses masterpieces created by Madam Misiem Yip Intsoi for educational purposes.
- Don Whai Market (ตลาดดอนหวาย): Behind the Don Whai temple is a market that still retains an appearance of a market dating back to the King Rama VI period.
- Rose Garden (สวนสามพราน): There are a multitude of beautiful floral displays of great variety. A Thai-style houses; parts of the area are hotel, lodges, and golf course. It also features an attractive Thai cultural show that commences daily in the afternoon.
- Thai Human Imagery Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์หุ่นขี้ผึ้ง): The museum displays lifelike wax/fibreglass sculptures in vivid detail. These breath-taking real-looking human figures of various characteristics and also replicas of important people are displayed in many sections such as the Great Buddhist Monks, former Kings of the Chakri Dynasty, and One Side of Thai Life: Thai Chess, Thai Family, and Abolishing of Slavery, among others.
- Wat Klang Bang Kaew (วัดกลางบางแก้ว): The temple houses a chapel, a vihara, and a Buddha image, all of which are very old and assumed, archaeologically, to have been built in the Ayutthaya period. There is a Phra Phuttha Vithinayok museum, exhibiting historical remains, artefacts, as well as utensils of the late monks: Luang Poo Boon (Phra Phuttha Vithinayok Boon Kanthachoti) and Luang Poo Perm (Phra Phuttha Vithinayok Perm Punyavasano).
- Thai Farmers' Lifestyle Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์วิถีชาวนาไทย): The house cum museum displays equipment, utensils, and tools, used in rice farming. Also in the compound is a handicraft training centre that trains townspeople to make various products from water hyacinths (pak tob chawa).
- Fish Sanctuary (อุทยานปลา): The place is a natural fish sanctuary, which is the habitat of various species of fish typical to the Tha Cheen River.
- Wat Lampaya Floating Market (ตลาดน้ำวัดลำพญา): The floating market was initiated by the Lampaya Subdistrict Cultural Council and Lampaya temple. It is a centre of trade for fruits and vegetables as well as agricultural produce.
- Thai Soang village (หมู่บ้านไทยโซ่ง): The village is home to Thai Soang or Thai Soang Dum (Thai Soang usually wear black dresses) or Lao Soang, who migrated from Ban Nong Prong, Khao Yoi District, Petchaburi, who have a distinct culture and tradition of their own.
- Herbal Grove, Wat Plug Mai Lai (สวนป่าสมุนไพร วัดปลักไม้ลาย): An entrance to the temple can be seen on the left. More than 500 kinds of herbs abound in the grove which covers an area of 92 rai (36.8 acres) and in a tranquil ambiance.
- Kasetsart University, Kamphaeng Saen Campus (Botanical Garden): In the university compound, there are number of projects to educate farmers and the general public that include scaled-down projects such as an agricultural technology project, an irrigation system initiated along with the Royal project, an Entomological Park where various species of butterflies are housed, a pilot vegetable plantation plot, and Suan Saen Palm (garden of a hundred thousand palms), which collects various kinds of ornamental palms.
- Kamphaeng Saen (เมืองเก่ากำแพงแสน): this is an ancient town that is worth visiting. It is used as a Boy Scout's camp. The interesting attractions of Kamphaeng Saen include unchanged ditches and earth dikes surrounding the ditches.
- Sight-seeing by boats: there are tours of canals, visiting fruit orchards and orchid farms, this includes:
- Klong (canal) Mahasawat (ล่องเรือเที่ยวคลองมหาสวัสดิ์): A boat ride to see the fruit farmers at work on two sides of the canal, touring orchards of pomelo, guava, sweet coconut, and orchid farms.
- Tha Cheen River (ล่องเรือแม่น้ำท่าจีน): is the place to witness natural ambience along the river and conjoining canals.
- Fruit orchards along Nakhon Chaisi River (Tha Cheen River) (ล่องเรือเที่ยว ชมสวนผลไม้ แม่น้ำนครชัยศรี (แม่น้ำท่าจีน)): The fruit orchards are in Tambon Bangchang, Tambon Klong Chinda, and Chinda Market, all of which are renowned for grapes, mangos, sweet coconuts, and rose apples, as well as floral gardens and other ornamental plant gardens. Plants and agricultural products can be bought directly from farmers. There are cruise services available at Samphran District Office (terminal of Bangkok-Samphran line bus), via Chinda canal and Bangchang canal, passing rose apple orchards, coconut orchards, and orchid farms.
- Pomelo orchards in Nakhon Chaisi (ชมสวนส้มโอนครชัยศรี): Touring of pomelo orchards can be done in Nakhon Chaisi
- Suan Thai Tawee pomelo orchard (ชมสวนส้มโอสวนไทยทวี): This orchard is in Samphran District.
- Banchong Orchid Farm (ชมสวนกล้วยไม้ บรรจง ออร์คิดฟาร์ม): The orchid farm is in Samphran.
- Olan Lake Water Ski (โอฬาร เลค วอร์เตอร์ สกี): On Buddhamonthon IV Road, Klong Yong-Bang Pasi Subdistrict. It is the centre of various water sports including five-pole cable ski and regular water skiing.
- Nakhon Pathom Food and Fruits Fair (งานเทศกาลอาหาร และผลไม้นครปฐม). Annually held during the Chinese New Year, around January–February, within the grounds of Phra Pathom Chedi to promote agricultural products and industrial products of the province. It aims to also promote the fruits that are grown in Nakhon Pathom such as pomelo, sweet coconuts, guavas, and bananas. It also features Chinese buffet arrangement contests and fruit contests.
- Songkran Festival (ประเพณีสงกรานต์). Held annually from 13–17 April around Phra Pathom Chedi. During the festival, there are many activities such as the of Songkran procession floats, Chinese Dragon and Lion Dances, Bathing of the revered Phra Ruang Rodjanarit, sand Chedi building, Thai opera, and local entertainment.
- Buffet for Elephant and Elephant Queen Pageant (งานเลี้ยงบุฟเฟ่ต์ช้าง และประกวดราชินีช้าง). Held annually on National Labour day (May 1) at the Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo to show gratitude to elephants living in the grounds. The Elephant Queen Pageant is held to find a rather plump lady who could interpret and display the elephant’s gentle character.
- Wat Rai Khing Festival (งานนมัสการปิดทองหลวงพ่อวัดไร่ขิง). Held annually from the 13th day of the waxing moon to the 4th day of the waning moon in the fifth month of the lunar calendar. There are many goods sold, from various government units and also from farmers. The fair also features fruit contests and there are many kinds of entertainment at night.
- Phra Pathom Chedi Festival (ประเพณีนมัสการองค์พระปฐมเจดีย์). The fair takes place annually from the 12th day of the waxing moon to the 4th day of the waning moon in the 12th month of the lunar calendar. It is held on the grounds of Phra Pathom Chedi. At night, various entertainments are provided.
- Loy Krathong Festival (งานประเพณีลอยกระทง). It is held annually on the 15th day of the waxing moon in the 12th month of the lunar calendar (November). The festival is held at Sanam Chan Palace, and features beauty pageants, Krathong contests, hanging lantern contests, and local entertainment, among others.
- Sweet pomelo (ส้มโอหวาน): A major product of Nakhon Chai Si District.
- Fragrant coconut juice (มะพร้าวน้ำหอม)
- Khao lam (ข้าวหลาม): sticky rice mixed with coconut milk and grilled in a bamboo cane.
- Night Market (west side of the pagoda). 18:00 to 23:00. Many hawker stalls offering a variety of cheap food.
- Flying Ice Cream. Ice cream excellent Khao Lam (ข้าวหลาม) (sticky rice and coconut milk cooked in bamboo). The sweet pomelo (ส้มโอหวาน) and fragrant coconut juice (มะพร้าวน้ำหอม) are also notable.
- Ratchaphreuk ((although there's no English signage)), Thanon Ratchadamnoen (on the left a few minutes' walk towards Sanam Chan from the Chedi). Recognisable by its plastic table and chairs in a comfortable beer garden. Occasional karaoke. The food is good traditional Thai, but you will be tested on your knowledge of Thai cuisine as there is no English menu.
- Any Order (Raan A-haan Taam Sung), Rajdamnern Rd (toward Sanamchan Palace from the Chedi, at the far corner of the first block on the right, opposite side of 7-Eleven, if you face towards Sanamchan). Open daily until midnight or 01:00. Clean and cheap with English menu.
- Yuer Mai, Rajdamnern Rd (around 5 mins on the left hand side, opposite side of Catholic Church). Nice and simple Thai dishes, air conditioning.
An easy day-trip from Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom won't leave you feeling the need to stay the night. But if you want a slow trip, there are plenty of provincial style hotels: designed for Thais, and straight out of the 1970s. At the Nakhon Inn, for example, they haven't changed their brochure since the early 1980s, and the photos of the rooms still match exactly to the rooms, but they are comfortable and prices are very reasonable.
- Mitsampant Hotel, 2/11 Rachadamnern Rd (above the Mitsampant electric appliance store, right next to the chedi on the west side across from a Shell gas station), ☏ . More or less clean, light and airy, with owners who speak English. Rooms from 200 baht a night, 300 baht for three people. A handout of local map in English is available for free for all tourists. €4.90.
- Mitpaisal Hotel, 120/30 Prayapan Rd, ☏ . Six-storey hotel near the air-con bus station to Bangkok and the fruit market, less than half a kilometre to the north of the chedi. Better than the Mitsampant and Nakhon Inn, but the price is still affordable. The room and bath are very clean. A handout of the local map in English is available for free with very helpful insight of area of attractions including transport to other popular provinces.
- Nakhon Inn, 55 Rajivithi Rd, ☏ . Large hotel in a small cul-de-sac off the road which the Bangkok buses travel. Very close to the chedi, and a 15 min walk to Sanam Chan. An Internet cafe is located in a shop outside. Opt for a room which overlooks the chedi, as the rooms on the other side sits directly above a school otherwise you'll be woken by the screaming chorus of children. Rooms have clean baths and beds, and a fridge. Has a restaurant and lift. The reception staff have limited English. From 300 baht a night.
- The Royal Gems Golf Resort, ☏ . One of the best courses in South East Asia. The estate consists of 250 plots with houses, condos and a hotel. Also a business centre and banquet hall. From 2,000 baht.
- Whale Hotel, Rajivithi Rd. Has an attached restaurant and nightclub. It is the best situated hotel to visit Silpakorn University and Sanam Chan Palace grounds, although it is a bit far from the chedi. The most expensive hotel in town.
- Damnoen Saduak — the best-known floating market in Thailand. From Nakhon Pathom, taking bus No 78. from the Bus Stop in front of Police Station (Kwaa-Pra Road). It would take about 1 hour to get there. Buses come every 30 mins. The first bus comes approximately 06:30. The best time to catch the bus is around 07:30-08:00, otherwise the tour buses from Bangkok will get there first and it will be too touristy. The market really starts around 08:00 and closes around 11:30.
- Kanchanaburi — site of the Bridge over the River Kwai and the start of the Death Railway
|Routes through Nakhon Pathom|
|Bangkok ←||N S||→ Ratchaburi → Butterworth|
|Bangkok ←||N S||→ Kanchanaburi → Nam Tok|
|Bangkok ←||N S||→ Ratchaburi → Sadao|