There's an old legend that says the Gulf of Thailand once extended further north, and the city of Nakhon Pathom was a bustling harbour on the Gulf.
While there's some doubt about the legend, there's no doubt the city has been a centre of Buddhist learning for well over a thousand years. Nakhon Pathom's pride and joy, the Phra Pathom Chedi, bares testament to this.
The city revolves around the Chedi -- said to be the tallest Buddhist temple anywhere in the world. The chedi's extensive outer grounds are a popular place for the locals to eat, chat and lay about and while Nakhon Pathom is not so much a place travellers come of itself, (most visitors are package tourists making a side-trip form the nearby Damnoen Saduak Floating Market) there is a trickle of travellers who do make it here.
The Phra Pathom Chedi Fair, running for ten days at the end of November, is the biggest party Nakhon Pathom puts on. Hundreds of food and amusement stalls set up within the Chedi's outer gates and revellers and pilgrims come in their thousands to shop, play and pay homage to the monument.
Visitors can walk pretty much anywhere about town, and there are tuk tuks and samlors available for those who need them. It's difficult to get lost when walking around as wherever you are you always have the towering Chedi to use as a point-of-reference.
There is a municipal office on the east side of the Chedi that is supposed to offer tourist information, but you're better off asking at one of the hotels.
Nakhon Pathom is 58km south-west of Bangkok and about halfway to Kanchanaburi -- making it a handy spot to break up the trip -- if you're in a real rush, you can see the chedi from the train!
By Stuart McDonald.