Heavenly Nakhon Sawan
Heavenly Nakhon Sawan is a city and province roughly half way between Bangkok and Chiangmai.
It’s not visited very much by non-Thais although it makes a great stopover if you’re heading north by road from Bangkok, as it is right on the main north bound Highway 1.
There is a long history of Thai-Chinese influence in the province, which is very visible in Nakhon Sawan city.
You may well ask why it’s ‘Heavenly Nakhon Sawan’. That comes from it’s ancient name which translates as ‘City of Heaven’ or ‘Heavenly City’.
1. Nakhon Sawan City
Khao Kiri Wong (aka Daowadung) rises above the city and is a landmark clearly visible from the north-south Highway 1.
Two landmarks sit near the peak -- Wat Kiriwong, and Nakhon Sawan Observation Tower.
Wat Kiriwong is famous for it’s beautiful golden Prajulamanee pagoda which sparkles in the sunlight and is visible from a quite a distance.
The pagoda has four floors which include some beautiful Buddha images, and stunning artwork depicting the life of the Lord Buddha.
The highest level has some wonderful vistas of the city and surrounding countryside.
If you’re feeling fit then hike up the 3km road (which is off the Nakhon Sawan-Phitsanoluk Road, a short distance from Highway 1) to get to the top. l guess the rest of us will find a ride!
A couple of hundred meters from Wat Kiriwong, the Nakhon Sawan Observation Tower stands tall on the peak of the hill with lovely views of a good distance around the city and beyond.
The 10 storey tower is 32m high. Inside, are an information centre, OTOP handicraft shop, restaurants, and an internet café.
Those fascinated by astronomy can observe the celestial sights outdoors on the third floor on days when the tower is open after dusk.
The local scenic views can best be enjoyed using the telescopes on the tenth floor.
The Nakhon Sawan Observation Tower is open to visitors on Monday to Friday from 10am to 4.30pm, while on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays it’s open later until 7pm.
Both Wat Kiriwong and the Observation tower can be accessed by turning right off Highway 1 (after crossing the Ping River Bridge) into Highway 117 and passing Sawan Park. At the next intersection turn right again into Highway 3523 and follow the signs. The road climbs for 3km up the hill. The observation tower is past Wat Kiriwong.
The River of Kings
Nakhon Sawan is the origin of the Chao Phraya River, as the Ping River merges with the Nan River to form the Chao Phraya at Pak Nam Pho district.
At the convergence point, the difference between the two rivers can be clearly seen as the Nan River is reddish in colour while the Ping is more green.
The Chao Phraya forms the major artery of Thailand flowing through many central provinces before passing through the heart of Bangkok and then out into the Gulf of Thailand at Samut Prakan.
A great viewpoint, and an interesting visit anyway, is from the Chaopho Thepharak-Chaomae Thapthim Shrine which overlooks the convergence point.
The lovely Sawan Park (also known as Paradise Park) sits alongside the main Highway 1 near the Phitsanoluk exit.
You’re unlikely to miss the colourful giant Chinese dragons guarding the entrance to the 314 rai (about 0.5sq km) park that surrounds a picturesque lake of 4 rai.
This was originally a large swamp but the city fathers created a beautiful retreat for their citizens, which includes plantations, waterfalls, an entertainment stage, and sports area.
A road and cycle track also circle this restful city oasis.
The local culture is very evident in the elegant Thai-Chinese architecture of the many pavilions and bridges. The park is the focus of the annual lively and fun Chinese New Year festival.
2. Bueng Boraphet
Beung Boraphet is the largest natural freshwater lake in Thailand covering 132,737 rai (about 212sq km).
The lake, sometimes called the ‘Northern Sea’, is home to 148 species of animals and 44 species of plants. Rare species include the white-eyed river-martin and Siamese tiger fish.
You can take a boat tour of the vast waterway from the main pier at a reasonable price.
One of the main attractions is the freshwater aquarium, a 49m long building in the shape of a traditional rice barge, where there is also a 24m long underwater tunnel to view the fish in their natural environment.
If you fancy getting up close and personal there’s a ‘touch pool’ where you can have a close encounter with Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks and Sea Urchins.
Bueng Boraphet has some accommodation available, plus a variety of side attractions including a crocodile farm and a rather sad monkey show. There are several places to eat local food and to buy local products.
The most fun way is to take a boat from Nakhon Sawan City’s riverside market the 6 or so km to the lake. Otherwise either hire a car and driver or book a tour with a local agent.
3. Khao No
Khao No and it’s neighbour Khao Kaeo jut up out of the flat landscape like a row of rocket ships waiting to take off.
A steep rough stairway leads from Wat Khao No at the base of Khao No mountain, then changing to almost vertical metal ladders up past a cave to the top from which there are wonderful views of the surrounding scenery.
At the cave mouth there is a large reclining Buddha, while inside the cave are thousands of roosting bats.
At dusk the bats leave the cave en masse to hunt for food, weaving strange patterns in the evening sky.
There are troops of aggressive monkeys on the hill which beg for, and sometimes steal, food from visitors.
There are a few places to eat and buy souvenirs at the base of the mountain.
Climbing the mountain can be risky so be warned!
Khao No is in Ban Daen subdistrict, Banphot Phisai district, on Highway 1, 45km from Nakhon Sawan city.
4. Wat Pa Siriwattanavisut
This unique temple was the personal project of of King Rama 9’s sister Princess Galyani Vadhana, and was built in the rough shape of a Royal ship.
Very unusually the temple building also incorporates a Royal palace on the 1st floor of two chedis.
The second floor has bronze statues of eight of Thailand’s great kings, and a museum.
On the third floor is a 12 meter high pagoda containing relics and statues of the Buddha.
From Nakhon Sawan City it’s quite a long way. Find a car and driver is the best solution. Otherwise take Highway 3004 going east until you see the intersection with Highway 1145. Turn right onto that road and follow it until it until you see Highway 4024. Turn left onto that road and look for signs pointing to the temple.
5. Chansen Ancient City
The historical ruins of Chansen have been dated back about 1000 years to the Dvaravati period.
The city was moated and an important local defensive and trading center.
Many ancient artifacts have been excavated, including Buddha images, figurines, lamps, stone lotus bases, and polished stone axes.
Other ancient items of metal that were found include earrings, and bronze blades.
The beautifully designed Chansen museum on the site has an extension collection on display of the many items recovered. It also has an exhibition of the lifestyle of the Dvaravati people.
Chansen Ancient City is in Takhli district. From Nakhon Sawan follow Highway 32 towards Chainat for 52km then turn left onto Highway 1 towards Takhli district. Watch for Highway 3196 and turn right onto that road. Follow it for 28km and then turn right again just before a railway track. You’ll see Wat Chansen easily; the museum and ancient city are right there.
That’s our preview of some of Heavenly Nakhon Sawan’s great attractions. Of course there are plenty more you can find in this fascinating province
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