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 was formerly situated 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.
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 Tambon Thana, Amphoe Nakhon Chaisi, was relocated to Nakhon Pathom.
BKS public 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 go every 10 minutes from 04:10 until 21:30.
There are also 2nd class buses to Kanchanaburi every 15–30 minutes.
In addition there is a non-stop minibus service between Bangkok's Victory Monument and the Big C Superstore in Nakhon Pathom. You can also ask to be dropped off directly in front of Phra Pathom Chedi. The Victory Monument is far more convenient than the Southern Bus Terminal, and is on the skytrain light rail system. But the departure point from Victory Monument is hard to find, being located under the expressway, about 50 metres north of the roundabout, on Phahon Yothin Road (look up and around for the huge advertisement screen for the direction). At the other end, 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 at 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.
- Wat Sisathong . 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.
- Phra Pathom Chedi. Towering over the low-rises of central Nakhom Pathom, at 120 meters 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 is theoretically 20 baht, although this is loosely enforced at best.
- Sanam Chan 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.
- 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 located close to 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|