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.