A Bustling Fishing Town south of Bangkok
Samut Prakan is a bustling fishing town only a half hour drive south of Bangkok. Because of its closeness to the capital, it continues to be part of the bigger picture – or in this case, the metropolis. The town is situated on the estuary of the Chao Phraya River, which continues its flow into the Gulf of Thailand.
This may not be the real reason why you should take the time to venture out to Samut Prakan, but it does, however, offer a route to some rather interesting sites in the near vicinity. Samut Prakan is also a safe alternative to the relative chaos and confusion, many tourists often feel when touring the capital.
The province in which Samut Prakan is located is basically divided into two distinct regions. On the western side of the river, you’ll find mostly rice fields, prawn farms and a few mangrove forests. You could give these a miss unless of course, you’re doing your thesis on agriculture in Thailand. Maybe not.
To your left or to the east of the river, you’ll find the urban centre complete with its dull industrial factories. However, you’d probably want to give this one a miss. I’d prefer to show you some of the more interesting places where you should spend your time.
Crocodile Farm and Zoo
You may want to visit Thailand’s biggest Crocodile Farm. It’s a few kilometres south-east of Samut Prakan on route 3, the old Sukhumvit Highway. There’s a rumour doing its rounds that this crocodile farm and the adjacent zoo, is the largest of its kind in the world. You can do the maths. But no matter what the outcome, the farm certainly has its fair share of ferocious beasts.
There are sixty thousand of these creatures wandering around the park, albeit in their respective enclosures of course. They consist mostly of local fresh and saltwater species but some are from the Nile River while others are South American Caimans. In all probability, there will be a lot more by the time you get the chance to visit, as the farm has a breeding program in place.
Crocodiles are hatched and raised in large tanks with netting put in place to protect them against mosquitoes which are known to bite their eyes causing serious blindness. In the breeding section, you can see crocodiles hatching and their various stages of growth. Once the crocodiles are fully grown many are skinned and their meat sold to restaurants in the town as well as in Bangkok.
A visit to the souvenir shop here will reveal how the skins are transformed into handbags, wallets, key rings and various other items. Oh! What a terrible shame. If you are the type of person willing to forgive and forget then the highlight of your visit to the farm would be the wrestling shows held throughout the day.
Handlers here enter a pond teeming with crocodiles and then unceremoniously toss them around. Rather roughly I might add. While this may seem frightening if not a little dangerous at times, you have to remind yourself that the reason the crocodiles seem less likely to bite, is because the beasts have become somewhat lethargic, especially after their afternoon nap’s been interrupted.
Ancient City of Muang Boran
Once you’ve spent a portion of the day at the crocodile farm, why not take a drive to the Ancient City of Muang Boran. For it’s here where you’ll find an amazing cultural theme park displaying numerous replicas of important monuments and temples, all of which are scaled down to one-third of their original size.
The park was the brainchild of a Bangkok millionaire with a passion for art and history. You could start your day here before going to the crocodile farm as they are both close to one another.
Isn’t it rather strange that a worthwhile attraction such as this, is billed as the largest outdoor museum of its kind in the world. It is no coincidence either that two of the world’s largest projects just happen to be in Thailand, let alone in the same town. I must give the Thai people credit because when they turn their attention to producing enterprising assignments, there’s no stopping them.
Places of Interest
Also in the vicinity is the magnificent Wat Asokaram. It is one of the province’s newest (built in 1962) and most important meditation temples. What’s particularly striking on arrival at the temple is the dazzling whiteness of its superstructure.
The thirteen Chedis seem perfectly placed upon a three-story building complete with four porches. The reasoning behind the number of Chedis is represented as the same number of duties that monks perform when on their religious rounds.
More Places of Interest in Samut Prakan
If you still have some time, visit the three-headed Erawan Museum containing a collection of art objects and antiquities as well as numerous cultural heritage items. From there you can pop down to the market near the docks for a bite to eat.
The warmth and charm of the Thai and Mon people set the pace for the local community here. You must try one of their fried mussel pancakes known as Hoi Thot.
Then cross the river by ferry to the famous Wat Phra Chedi Klang Nam. It’s a temple constructed on a solid piece of land situated right in the middle of the river. The land was the result of the river shifting its course.
In the good old days, the kings would often stop off at this temple on their way in and out of the country on state visits. It’s here where they would pray for success on their outgoing journey or offer thanks to their return journey.