Category Archives: Nakhon Pathom

Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo

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.

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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. Visit our sister site at for more excursion ideas. For the next two months at, I will be giving you ideas every week for new tourist attractions in Bangkok and excursions in the surrounding provinces. I already have a lot of trips planned.

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. Visit our sister website to locate the palace on the satellite map. is a member of the internationally acclaimed Paknam Web Network. All of these sites are family friendly and have no mention of the bar scene or the seedier side of Thailand. We presently have about 50 websites in the network with new ones being added every month. Some of the sites include,,,,,,, and If you have a blog about Thailand, then you are welcome to submit it to our blogroll at

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.

You will find other ideas for day trips and excursions from Bangkok at our sister site Also visit the Photo Album for more pictures that I took of this location.

Thai Human Imagery Museum

Thai Kings of the Chakri Dynasty

On the Western outskirts of Bangkok, in Nakorn 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.

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 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.