Motorists who whizz along the elevated section of Boromratchonnanee Road (Pin Klao-Nakhon Chaisi Road) on their way to the lower Central Region or the South are bypassing some real hidden gems in the streets below. Many of the red-shirt protesters who gathered on Utthayan Road in Phutthamonthon the other day probably didn’t realise they were so close to such fascinating destinations either. The major Buddhist centre at Phutthamonthon is reasonably well known, but there’s a trio of unique museums in this locality that deserve more patronage and at least five floating markets that offer hours of innocent pleasure.
The safest and most convenient way to explore these attractions is by car (or by boat to some of the floating markets). And the best time to visit is on a weekend when all the markets and museums are sure to be open. If you exit the city via Phra Pin Klao Bridge, near Sanam Luang, the first area of interest you reach is the outlying city district of Taling Chan, location of no less than five floating markets: Talat Nam Wat Saphan, Talat Nam Wat Champa, Talat Nam Wat Taling Chan, Talat Nam Khlong Lat Mayom and Talat Nam Taling Chan. At the last two, which tend to be the most popular, you can hop on a boat which will take you on a tour of all the other markets, the tariff being in the region of 100 to 150 baht per head.
If you’re leaving the capital via Boromratchonnanee Road, once you pass Phutthamonthon Sai 4 Road it won’t be long before you get to one of the country’s most important Buddhist centres, Phutthamonthon. Construction of this religious hub in Nakhon Pathom province was initially planned to coincide with celebrations of the year 2500 in the Buddhist calendar (1957), but in the event it wasn’t finished in time, not opening until 1982. It houses the biggest and what some consider the most beautiful Buddha statue in the whole country, Phra Sri Sakkaya Thossapollayan Prathan Phutthamonthon Suthas, which portrays the Enlightened One in a walking posture. This large complex also contains a museum dedicated to Buddhism, a library of Buddhist texts, a capacious prayer hall and several pavilions.
If you’ve spent the morning meditating or relishing the serene atmosphere at Phutthamonthon and are heading back to Bangkok, you could break your journey at the Thai Human Imagery Museum, the country’s first waxworks, which is located at the kilometre 31 marker on Boromratchonnanee Road. A relatively recent addition to the standing exhibits there is a rendition in wax of the Lord Buddha delivering his first sermon to his first five disciples.
Another interesting stopover would be the Thai Film Museum, a most comprehensive repository of artefacts from the domestic movie industry. Located on Phutthamonthon Sai 5 Road, this purpose-built celebration of all things cinematic depicts the history of the motion picture from 1897 to the present day through the selective use of rare old tools and equipment, photos, mock-ups of significant venues (the office of a famous local director, for instance), multimedia presentations and screenings of short films at an in-house cinema furnished with a motley collection of vintage seats rescued from cinemas that were renovated or went out of business.
Exploring the fascinating film world of yesteryear may give older tourists a hankering to linger a bit longer in the past, so why not take a trip down memory lane by dropping into the House of Museums. Situated in Soi Khlong Pho 2, off Phutthamonthon Sai 2 Road, this three-storey building is chock-a-block with memorabilia from 1940s and 1950s Thailand, everything from vintage adverts and packaging for branded consumer goods to clothes, toys and common household objects from an earlier, more innocent era.
So opportunities for finding peace of mind, food for thought (and for the stomach) and having a nostalgic wallow in the “good old days” can all be found within a 30km radius of our capital.
Phra Sri Sakkaya Thossapollayan Prathan Phutthamonthon Suthas, the principal Buddha statue at the large Buddhist centre of Phutthamonthon, was designed by renowned Italian sculptor Corrado Feroci, known to his many Thai students as Professor Silpa Bhirasri. The statue was originally intended to be only 2.14m tall, but its height was later altered to 15.87m to make it equivalent to 2,500 krabiad (a krabiad is an old Thai unit of measurement equal to 1/4 inch and 2500 refers to the year in the Buddhist era, equivalent to 1957, which the Phutthamonthon complex was erected to commemorate). The image was made from 17,543kg of thong samrit, bronze mixed with a high percentage of gold, and comprises 137 separately forged components. It portrays the Lord Buddha in the act of walking, lifting his right foot to step forward, with his right arm at his side and his left hand raised, palm outwards, in front of his chest. This posture represents an occasion when the Lord Buddha was about to depart heaven after spending time meditating during Phansa (Buddhist Lent) on a rock called Banthukampol Sila-art, under a holy tree called Parichat.
Other must-sees at Phutthamonthon include a pavilion where a copy of the Tripitaka (Buddhist Canon), inscribed on slabs of marble, is stored and four symbolic sites meant to represent the locations where the Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, delivered his first sermon and left this world for nirvana. Lots of people tend to visit Phutthamonthon in the cool of the afternoon to pray or pay their respect to the Buddha statues, tour the sacred sites, feed the scores of fish that live in a big pond near the pavilion containing the Tripitaka, ride bicycles or exercise under the shade of trees in the large compound. Every Sunday, devout Buddhists come here to listen to sermons delivered by respected monks and to make merit.
About the author
- Writer: Pichaya Svasti
Position: Life Writer