Home to the biggest chedi in Thailand, this charming and busy little town is within easy reach of Bangkok. Are many English teachers making Nakhon Pathom their home?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
"It has a big chedi." You can't argue with that.
And while the chedi itself may or may not be all that interesting to many, it plays a big role in the history of how Buddhism came to Thailand. Suffice it to say, Nakhon Pathom (or “first city” in English) was once upon a time ground zero for one wave of Buddhist civilizational spread eastwards from India.
More salient to most folks, however, is what there is to do around the chedi here in modern times. The big parking lot on the north side becomes a relatively famous fresh food market in the evenings; look for the flying ice cream guy and expect excellent crispy Thai oyster omelets!
Between the chedi and the train station just a 10-minute work north there are classic Thai-Chinese style markets inside of each block. You might not even know they’re there if you didn’t venture inside. But once you do, you’ll find different areas of friendly noodle stalls, garland sellers, fresh meats, snacks, the usual. It’s a little hot, but at least it’s shady! Nice for photographing local market life too, I’d say.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
If you are happy with twenty five thousand baht a month there are several universities, including Silipakorn and a Rajaphat. But keep in mind that the very low salary numbers you’ll see for these positions are not the whole story. They don’t include housing allowances nor higher pay for any courses taught above the minimum 12 hours a week or so. It does add up! As long as you’re not the type who’d rather do anything else than even the lightest academic toil, opportunities for proofreading papers and other projects will also reward you. So that 25k number can realistically double or even triple. It depends on you.
Both university campuses in Nakhon Pathom city offer a good working environment, with Silpakorn having a particularly nice campus. But watch out for the notoriously huge monitor lizards crawling out of the water like so many prehistory monsters! Check out the fine art buildings - some amazing student work is always on display.
There are also a handful of public and private primary and high schools in town. Most of which offer a pretty standard salary, but on the bright side, as Nakhon Pathom is one of the most affluent towns in Thailand, it isn’t hard to organize private work beyond the basics.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Not far at all. There is a bus that runs from the train station in Nakhorn Pathom to Sai Tai Mai in Pinklao. It runs every few minutes and it takes less than an hour. There is another bus which goes up Petchkasem if you like sitting in traffic.
If you drive, you can be on the banks of the Chao Phraya downtown within an hour if there’s no traffic along the way. Of course, there is always some traffic along the way.
Lo! Ground has been broken along Petchakasem road, not far from the Silpakorn campus, for a big new Central mall, maybe even the large “festival” type ones. The town could really use one of those!
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
Well it isn't Bangkok but there are a few discos, plenty of restaurants and some bars. The bars are only ever busy if Manchester United or Liverpool are playing. 123 disco is packed on the weekends if Thai discos are your thing. You also have the usual assortment of karaoke bars.
The student area near Silpakorn these days offers a few ‘hipster’ type bars where live music might include songs a bit more up to date than Zombie. Craft beer? It’s popping up! There’s even a tasty bakery run by a few friends with experience as chefs in the US.
Overall, the town offers your standard Thai fare. For splashing out, try the “volcano shrimp” place on the highway.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
The more expensive apartments in Nakhorn Pathom, basically Bangkok style and quite nice, are 8-10K baht a month and they often come fully furnished. I have heard of terraced town houses going from as low as 5,000 baht a month. Moobaans just outside the city center are where you’ll find townhouses for 4-8k, depending on their age. Some of the older ones have a lot more trees (and of course, the shade they provide) and a sense of community while with the newer ones you get overall better design.
If you drive, be careful! For some reason those in charge of Nakhon Pathom feel the need to skimp on traffic lights at a number of really busy intersections that seem to be begging for them. Not sure why...keeps things exciting, anyway.
Prices are definitely on the rise as more and more farangs relocate to Nakhon Pathom. That being said, my furnished Western-style studio apartment is only 3 blocks from the Chedi (one of the main areas of town) and I pay around 6,500 for rent each month.
Shopping malls, department stores?
Central Salaya is technically in Nakhon Pathom but is approximately 20-30 minutes from the town. There is a Big C and a Tesco Lotus.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Staring isn't a problem but people will usually point out to their mates that you are a farang. Nice of them, I sometimes forget. A good beating is pretty unlikely.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Motorcycle taxis are the main form of public transport within the town but it is probably better to get your own scooter or bicycle. Unlike other provincial cities of the same size, there are no tuktuks or taxis to be found. Songthaews, but not many. Buses? Nope! It’s actually a bit of a public transportation blank space here.
Main advantages of living there?
The town itself is very pleasant. As I said, it is an affluent town and there is a lot more civic pride here than in lots of other Thai towns. You can even walk on the pavements. It is worlds apart from Bangkok but you can go up to town for shopping, Western food or the night-life any time you feel like it.
There’s a very cool annual swing dancing event that takes place with the chedi as a backdrop. It’s actually one of the coolest and most unique free events in the Bangkok area, I’d say.
If you’re sick of the urban landscape, pop across the border into Ratchaburi province for sleepy river-side villages or some pretty neat artist cooperatives here and there. Or head north towards the rural Kasetsart campus where they raise cattle for above-average Thai beef and have a big agricultural fair that lasts for a couple of weeks each year.
And what are the downsides?
Western tastes are just not catered for in Nakhon Pathom town quite as fully as in Salaya for international restaurants and cafes, etc. Salaya is home to some larger universities with more of an international bent and has a French, Italian and other international restaurants.
One thing I found in Nakhon Pathom town was the prevalence of trucks rumbling through the city (not downtown, but pretty close!) bringing raw materials from the fields and factories into the Bangkok zone. These huge trucks make a lot of noise, raise a lot of dust, and generally don’t make for a calm and relaxing vibe.
As long as you don’t live right on one of the routes they travel through, you’re fine though.
Any local attractions?
Pra pathom chedi is the second biggest in the world. It gives the town a bit of character. The night market there is pretty good if you fancy going out for a cheap evening meal. The grounds of Silipakorn University and adjoining Sanam Chan are nice. The province has a couple of floating markets. I have met a few people who have come to Nakhom Pathom specifically to play golf.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
Most of the farang in Nakhon Pathom are ESL teachers. Generally they are pretty friendly. There isn't one particular place where you are likely to come across them, but you won’t be shocked to run into a few in the bar/restaurant zones around Silpakorn, at the chedi evening food carts, or one of the Western restaurants scattered around.