A little known gem north of Bangkok
on the Chao Phraya River
The town of Nonthaburi is located just a short distance north of Bangkok, yet not many tourists ever seem to get to visit this rather pleasant place. I wonder why. Perhaps it’s possible that no effective marketing has ever been in place to attract new visitors. Or is it because the town is so well known for that smelly durian fruit that so many tourists want to avoid. Surely not. Nonetheless, the town offers a refreshing alternative to the chaos and pollution of the capital.
There are several good reasons why you should endeavour to give this town a try, one of which it to capture a large slice (no, not necessarily the fruit) of the peaceful provincial life and pleasant atmosphere that prevails here. The town is only about ten kilometres (six miles) from the outskirts of Bangkok and although easily accessible by road, the best way to reach the town is via the Chao Phraya River.
A leisurely riverboat cruise is also a great way to avoid the notoriously congested traffic too. There are a fair number of riverboat express piers dotted around the river in which to hitch a ride. It’s probably best to try and find one nearest to where you’re staying.
Exploring Nonthaburi with a Boat Cruise
The journey takes little less than an hour and offers several interesting sights along the way. The first of which is at the Royal Boat House near Wat Sam Phraya Pier where some of the royal barges are kept. The best ones are housed at the Royal Barge Museum in Thonburi, which is well worth a visit should you have more time in Bangkok. It would have to be on another occasion, though.
Once you pass the Krung Thon Bridge on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, you’ll notice a small community of rice barges. In fact, you’ll probably see quite a few of these barges pass you by on the river. As you approach the pier at Nonthaburi you’ll be able to see the half-submerged temple of Wat Khian.
Exploring Ko Kret Island along the Klong Om
Spend some quality time admiring the local sites and sounds while strolling around Nonthaburi. You’ll find it a lot less stressful than that of Bangkok city. Pause for a bite to eat at one of the local eateries around the colourful and lively market on the riverside pier. And since you are here, don’t forget to take special note of the durian fruit decorations on the promenade’s lampposts too.
Thereafter, take a slow-paced boat cruise from the pier along with the Khlong Om. The journey will take you through durian plantations past local riverside houses towards the tiny river island of Ko Kret. Accessible only by boat, the island is home to a community of craftsmen famous for their distinctive pottery style.
Wat Chalerm Phrakiet on the West Bank
One of the worthwhile excursion you may want to try while exploring Nonthaburi and its surrounds is a river boat ride to Wat Chalerm Phrakiet. The temple was built in the 19th century by Rama III as a gift for his mother and occupies the site of a 17th-century fortress on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River.
The most striking features at Wat Chalerm Phrakiet are the superb details seen on the doors, gables and window frames of the Bot. They are all so intricately crafted with many of them containing exquisite porcelain tile work. Just behind the temple is a golden Chedi which was later added by Rama IV. Also around the grounds, you’ll find Chinese-style statues including one of Santa Claus.