Some 42 miles (67 km) to the west of Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom was a major center of the Dvaravati Kingdom, which thrived from the 6th to the 11th centuries AD.
The highlight of the town is the Phra Pathom Chedi, on Phetkasem Highway. This huge monument, housing a large standing Buddha image, is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Thailand. The original stupa (a non-Thai chedi) on this site is thought to have been built sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 5th cen tury AD. It commemorated the first Buddhist missionaries in Thailand, allegedly sent here from India in the 3rd century BC. The building fell into decay in the 11th century and was not restored until the early 19th century, when King Mongkut had the old shrine encased in a chedi. The spire was completed by King Chulalongkorn. The chedi dominates the town and, at 395 ft (120 m) in height, is the tallest Buddhist stupa in the world.
Southeast of the chedi is the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum, which has a fascinating collection of locally excavated pieces from the Dvaravati period, including the stone Wheels of the Law 23 els from Chedi Chula Prathon, a 7th to 8th century monument east of town.
West of the chedi is the early 20th-century Sanam Chandra Palace. Parts of the palace are open to the public, and the peaceful grounds are a good place from which to view the palace’s unusual mix of architectural styles.