An Un-Touristic Weekend in Nakhon Pathom
Oftentimes, revelation comes in an easy form. Just open your mind and
chances are you will get a new perspective from even the things that you thought
you had known already so well.
Producing food stories and video segments for ThaiPBSWorld.com allows us
to do some travelling on the job. Our recent trip was to Nakhon Pathom — a major
province about 50 kilometres west of Bangkok. This being a major province
because it has a historical significance through its ancient and iconic stupa as well
as it being the major producer of many of Thailand’s famous fruits, among them the
GI-protected pomelo which we have presented to you in our previous column and
This part of Chao Phraya Delta has settlements harking back many
centuries. The iconic stupa or Phra Pathom Chedi is in fact a very ancient stupa
with an unknown origin. The first recording on its existence appeared during the
reign of King Rama IV or King Mongkut who ruled Siam during the years 1851 –
1868. This is the tallest stupa in Thailand, one of the principal stupas since the era
of Dvaravati culture during the 6th to 8th centuries.
The discovery of Phra Pathom Chedi — the name that means the first holy
stupa, bestowed also by King Mongkut — made the city. Since this stupa this grand
and magnificent could not be ignored, first came the major restoration that took the
whole village. Royal troops from the capital city, craftsmen, artists, masons,
woodworkers, everyone that could lend a hand, were there. New establishments
were founded, new businesses arose, and a new ruler-straight long canal was dug
as the main waterway towards the stupa during the course of that lengthy
restoration. Later, Nakhon Pathom became a royal outpost for King Rama VI who
had the gorgeous complex of Sanam Chandra Palace built the early 1910s. Today,
visitors to Nakhon Pathom will make sure they have enough time to explore this
wonderful reminiscences of Nakhon Pathom heyday.
We were impressed most of how un-touristic Nakhon Pathom is. And the
locality and originality of the place are reflected through the foods available. I am
talking about Nakhon Pathom City and not the more visited riverside trading district
of Nakhon Chai Si. Mornings at Nakhon Pathom usually starts with their morning
market that takes place along the sides of the iconic ‘Chedi Bucha’ canal — the
man-made canal dug during those years of stupa restoration. If you look at the
map, you will see that this canal runs straight into the front of the stupa. This
signifies the true ‘front’ of this revered place, and not the current entrance at the
back. Along this canal are stalls after stalls of fresh produce, everything you can
imagine in edible forms and more. This market takes place every single morning,
nonstop, and our destination was this old-establishment of chicken noodle shop
that sells Thai chicken in clear broth that you can choose between rice and noodle.
Thai food in Nakhon Pathom also blew our mind—with their unabridged
tastes and portions. Coming from Bangkok where foods can be more decorated
and storied for marketing than flavoured for taste, we were so impressed with their
local meals that we are now planning to go back for more.
Nakhon Pathom is a town known for being the place of scrumptious BBQ
Pork, campus of Silpakorn University, and we also discovered that this province is
also the base of an artisanal and farmstead goat cheese farm—all made by hand
and by a Thai veterinarian who employs her solid scientific background to make the
delicacies. Please stay tuned to our next episode.
Last and not least, we also visited the famous Sanam Chandra Palace which,
as exquisite as it is, is considered a backyard playground for many Nakhon Pathom
natives. The palace is open to public as a jogging ground each morning from 05.00
– 09.00 and from 16.00 – 20.00. During the day, visitors can stroll in for a visit. But
comes weekends, you can venture inside the two main buildings with a guided tour.
But if you want to be super lucky like we were, go there during the last weekend of
the month when the gorgeous Phiman Pathom Mansion is also opened for public
viewing. A guided tour through the gorgeous place also unveils a royal sight of the
Ganesha shrine that was intentionally built by King Rama VI to align with Phra
Pathom Chedi — truly a magnificent and sacred moment of our visit.