Nakhon Sawan Province is in the North of Thailand about 240 kilometers north of Bangkok. It is important as it is regarded as the source for the Chao Phraya River which flows all the way south to Bangkok and out into the Gulf of Thailand. One of the latest attractions in the city is the Nakhon Sawan Tower which gives some fine views of the surrounding countryside.
The Nakhon Sawan Tower was completed on 19th August 2008 at an estimated cost of 52.7 million Baht. It is 32 meters high which is the equivalent of a ten storey building. In comparison the Banharn-Jamsai Tower in Suphanburi is 123 meters high. However, the tower in Nakhon Sawan has an advantage as it is built on the top of a hill.
Nakhon Sawan Tower is on Khiriwong Temple Hill overlooking the city. This is the location for the famous Phra Chula Manee Golden Pagoda which you can see in this picture. In the distance you can also see the Nan, Ping, Wang and Yom Rivers which merge together to form the Chao Phraya River. This is the most important waterway in Thailand.
On the first floor of the tower there is the information center and ticket office. The tower is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Fridays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the weekend. Ticket price is 20 baht for adults and 10 baht for children. On upper floors there are OTOP shops selling locally made products and a restaurant. The viewing platform is on the 10th floor where there are telescopes available.
It seems that a number of provinces in Thailand are starting to build their own aquariums that rival if not surpass the one in the basement of Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok. One of the latest ones to be built is at Bueng Boraphet in Nakhon Sawan. It was officially opened in 2008 and as you can see in this photo, it’s built a bit like Noah’s Ark, though this one contains freshwater fish.
The aquarium is built in the shape of a “krachaeng” boat. It is 35.3 meters wide and 105 meters long. This kind of boat was often seen floating along the river in Paknam Pho transporting goods. The aquarium was built to commemorate the 80th Birthday of H.M. The King. The fish tunnel that you can see here is 24 meters long.
Inside Bueng Boraphet Aquarium, the natural environment of freshwater fish has been imitated. The majority of these species are from the Chao Phraya River and the marshes of Bueng Boraphet. As well as the fish tunnel, there are also 30 fish tanks, marine fish tanks and a touch pool. All of the labels of the exhibits are in both Thai and English. It’s not a very large aquarium, but the admission price of only 49 baht for adults and 19 baht for children makes it good value for money. In comparison, the one in the basement of Paragon is something like 900 baht.
Behind the aquarium there is a Crocodile Farm with daily shows. There are six rounds per day starting at 10:30 a.m. and repeating every hour until the last show at 3:30 p.m. As well as the show you can walk around the crocodile pens. Entrance is only 30 baht for adults and 20 baht for children. Again, this is very good value for money.
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The most important date on the festival calendar for Nakhon Sawan is the annual Paknam Pho Chinese New Year Festival which lasts for 12 days and 12 nights. The highlights are definitely the two “Chao Por-Chao Mae” Processions which take place in the evening and then the following morning. I recently attended both of these parades through the city and I must say that it was the most impressive Chinese parade that I have seen for a long time.
Chinese migrants have been settling down all over Thailand for hundreds of years. Many of them came to Nakhon Sawan where they built numerous shrines around the city. The two most famous are Chao Pho Thepharak Shrine and Chao Mae Taptim Shrine. Their popularity started nearly a hundred years ago during a cholera outbreak when hundreds of people died. Devotees of these two shrines burnt sheets of paper with Yantra on them and drank the ashes believing that it would both prevent and cure them of cholera. Amazingly it worked.
Since 1914, the people of Nakhon Sawan have organized the Chao Pho Chao Mae Pak Nam Pho Fair and Procession during the Chinese New Year to bring good fortune, prosperity and luck. The pictures on this page are of the night procession through the town. It features various processions such as lion parade, dragon parade, angel procession and the goddess Guan Yin procession. Thousands of local people and tourists lined the route.
If you have time it is worth going to both the night and day versions of the parade. You won’t be disappointed as they both have a great atmosphere and are distinctly different. The highlight for me was the illuminated dragon dance. It was certainly very energetic and I felt exhausted watching it. The dragon weaved in and out and round and round at a breakneck speed. The carriers of the dragon seemed to have unlimited energy. It wasn’t that easy taking a picture as they were moving so fast. But, it didn’t matter as I kept finding myself just standing and staring, mesmerized by the movement of the dragon.
As well as lions and dragons there were also marching bands, dancers in colourful costumes, acrobats standing on each other’s shoulders and literally hundreds and hundreds of other people. The parade was so long that it took them easily four hours to complete the parade route. I decided it was probably best to stand at the start of the parade as I knew from past experiences that there wouldn’t be many smiles at the finishing end. Just tired faces.
The colours, the sights and the sounds of the parade should prove to be a feast for all of your senses. I think I managed to get some good photos during the night parade but the parade the following morning is certainly easier to photograph. The evening parade started at 7 p.m. and the morning one at 7 a.m. It is best to arrive early as roads will be closed. It will also allow you time to get photos before the parade starts. Of the two parades the evening one had more people watching but I was still able to walk up and down the parade route taking pictures.
The next Chinese New Year is on 23rd January 2012. The Paknam Pho Chinese New Year Festival will take place on each side of that date. I will be posting a full schedule on our Thai Festival Blogs as soon as it is released. I would suggest that you go for at least two nights and three days as there are plenty of other activities going on during the 12 day parade. There are also a number of tourist attractions in the area which I will tell you about another day. In the meantime, check out our free online Thailand Guidebook for Nakhon Sawan.
UPDATE: I have posted more pictures in my Facebook Photo Album
Nakhon Sawan Province is in the Lower North of Thailand and is about 240 kilometers from Bangkok. It lies on the main route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I have passed through it many times though I have only spent the night there twice. It is not really a tourist town but it is worth a visit if you have time. I am heading up there today and will spend the weekend in the city for their celebrations for the Chinese New Year. They have a large Chinese community and it should be good.
When you first arrive in Nakhon Sawan the first place that you should head to is Wat Kiri Wong on Kao Dawa Deong hill. This has some great panoramic views of the city below and the countryside beyond. Nakhon Sawan is also famous for being the place where the four rivers Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan come together to form the Chao Phraya River. So, if you ever wanted to see the source of this mighty river that passes through Bangkok then you should head up to Nakhon Sawan.
On top of this hill there is also a beautiful Sukhothai style golden chedi. It is unusual as you can actually go inside. Don’t forget to look up as there are some beautiful murals on the ceiling. I will be in Nakhon Sawan for the Chao Pho Chao Mae Procession which is the most important event of the year for people of Chinese descent. There will be dragon dances and parades and of course plenty of delicious food to eat. I am really looking forward to it.
You can follow me live on this trip as usual on my twitter account @RichardBarrow and also on Facebook. I will write a full report about the trip here when I get back.