10 Things To Do In Samut Prakan (Pak Nam)
A Thai Province Near Bangkok
Published October 15, 2020
As I become a more experienced traveler, I’m realizing that I really like to visit small towns. Granted, a town or city of any size can be a hit-or-miss. For example, my recent trip to a relatively small port city on the coast of Malaysia was pretty underwhelming. However, lesser-known places usually offer some unique experiences that can’t be found in national capitals or sprawling urban areas. I’ve had good luck with small towns in Taiwan, Belize, and Uruguay (just to name a few). But what about Thailand?
Since I had already been to Bangkok twice, I wanted to spend my third visit to Thailand doing something else. Flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok are always cheaper than to Phuket or Chiang Mai, so I was able to narrow it down to the provinces near the nation’s capital. I also wanted to stay someplace that wouldn’t require a long bus ride from the airport.
After a few days of consideration, I decided to check out Samut Prakan, the Thai province neighboring Bangkok to the south. Specifically, the small town of Pak Nam seemed like the obvious choice since it’s linked to the city center and the airport by the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System). It also looked far enough away from downtown to offer its own unique experience.
I definitely took a gamble when I decided to spend a few days in Samut Prakan. But it ended up being exactly what I was hoping for. Despite being only about an hour away from the center of Bangkok via the metro, Samut Prakan felt like a town untouched by tourism. Signs and menus are only in Thai. There are also a ton of temples in the area as well as other interesting monuments to see.
If you’re in search of an authentic and quintessential Thai experience, look no further than Samut Prakan. Here are ten ideas for how to spend a day trip or weekend getaway to the town of Pak Nam. Feel free to skip below to any of the activities that catch your eye!
- Explore the wet markets on the waterfront
- Admire the strange Samut Prakan Tower
- Check out the free temples in the town center
- Visit Wat Asokaram, a stunning white temple
- Take the ferry across the river to see Wat Phra Samut Chedi
- See a truly massive copper elephant statue at the Erawan Museum
- Grab street food for lunch
- Relax in one of the town’s cute cafes
- Have dinner at a night market
- Try craft beer on tap
The center of Pak Nam town is very compact and walkable. The first three activities on the list are all based in this area located on the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River.
1. Pak Nam Fresh Market
This lively market is a maze of stalls and vendors selling everything from fresh seafood to toys and gifts. It’s split up into a few sections and is surprisingly big.
What I liked about this market is the fact that it’s not a tourist attraction. People actually purchase groceries here. The floors are wet. It smells like fish. It’s not super picturesque, but it is authentic and worth a visit.
2. Samut Prakan Tower
If you spend any time walking around the town center, you’ll definitely notice this massive structure pictured below. It’s lit up very prominently at night, so I assumed it would be the perfect way to get a great view of the surrounding area from the observation deck.
Unfortunately, the tower does not appear to be open to the public. I tried going in and was turned away by security guards. If you make it close enough to see into the big glass windows on the ground floor, you’ll notice that the interior of the building doesn’t really look finished. However, there doesn’t appear to be any construction taking place, so I wouldn’t expect it to be open for visitors any time soon (read more here).
For now, you’ll have to just admire this odd landmark from the ground. If it opens and you’re able to go up, let me know in the comments below!
A number of temples are within walking distance of the town center. Here are two that I checked out.
Wat Phichai Songkhram
There are actually a couple of temples clustered together here, and all of them are beautiful. It was amazing that there were no other tourists here on a beautiful Monday morning. I had the place all to myself! In addition, it’s free to visit.
This is also a collection of a few temples located here (near Racha Market mentioned below). I personally liked Wat Phichai Songkhram a bit more, but since they’re only about fifteen minutes away from one another on foot, there’s no reason not to visit both.
It looks like these aren’t the only temples in Pak Nam. If you’re willing to walk a little bit further, you should be able to find more.
Outside of Town
There were also a couple attractions outside the town center that I recommend.
4. Wat Asokaram
Like the temples in Pak Nam, Wat Asokaram allows visitors to enter for free. I saw quite a few monks and nuns walking around the area, and a couple of people inside were praying. Be respectful by wearing long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders.
Nearby (to the south of the temple) there is a quiet little neighborhood. I enjoyed a short walk here to see the local houses, but I did encounter a pack of dogs. It wasn’t as bad as my recent close call in Malaysia, but stray dogs appear to be very common in both Thailand and Malaysia. Most seem docile but you never know when one might be aggressive. Just be aware and ready to back away slowly if you are approached.
5. Wat Phra Samut Chedi
If you have an hour or two to spare, be sure to take the ferry across the Chao Phraya River to check out this other temple. The ferry leaves frequently all day and only costs ฿6 each way. You’ll depart from this ferry dock and get dropped off here on the other side. The temple is only a few minutes away on foot.
I visited Wat Phra Samut Chedi right at dusk, and I’m so glad I did! The temple has a small path surrounding it, and tons of people were walking and jogging around it. What a beautiful place for an evening stroll, right? There were also people playing soccer, which made it feel like a community gathering place.
Despite the crowds, there were no other tourists here (as far as I could tell). Join the locals and take a few laps around the track before taking the ferry back to Pak Nam!
6. The Erawan Museum
I still can’t decide if the ฿400 entrance fee (approx. 13 USD) was worth it, but if you are willing to pay, you can go in and check it out up close. Inside the pink base of the statue is a beautiful, ornate hall with a stunning glass ceiling.
There’s also an elevator and staircase that will take you inside the actual elephant, which houses a somewhat unusual shrine. Unfortunately, there aren’t any windows, so don’t expect a panoramic view from the top.
Authentic Thai Cuisine
The last four items on my list involve eating and drinking. Culinary options in Samut Prakan are both plentiful and cheap.
7. Street Food
Street food is truly everywhere in Pak Nam, and you should absolutely take advantage of that! To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I ever managed to try street food in Bangkok. I just always ended up eating at fancy-ish places after being indecisive about what I wanted. In Pak Nam, there aren’t a ton of restaurants, but there are street vendors on almost every corner.
In addition to the standard choices like noodles and dumplings pictured above, adventurous foodies should get some street snacks as well. I tried a few different ones and couldn’t tell you what they were, but everything was delicious! If you recognize either of the two snacks below, leave a comment and let me know what I ate!
If you’re like me and need a cup of the good stuff to start your day, there are a couple of nice options.
This cafe and restaurant is a short walk outside the town center, but I loved the atmosphere inside. It’s got a botanical theme, and the restaurant is surrounded by a nice, lush garden.
Coffee By The Cop
There wasn’t anything particularly amazing about this place, but I just found it amusing that this little cafe was actually next to the town’s police station. They made a nice iced latte and it’s closer to the town center than Sanctuary.
9. Racha Market
This night market was the perfect place for dinner. With a few dozen vendors, you can find anything you might want. I just went for a simple bowl of noodles with pork, but I also tried a few meat skewers and a crepe for dessert.
10. GIVE ME SOME ALE
Last but definitely not least on the list is a tiny craft beer shop located near the Royal Thai Navy Academy BTS stop. It was a bit pricey so I only got one draft beer here, but the ambiance was amazing. I didn’t really see any bars in town, so if you’re craving a beer, this is the place to go!
Where I Stayed
I ended up staying at the Suwatchai Garden, a simple hotel near Sanctuary Paknam. I booked it on Airbnb, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a nice outdoor pool.
Small-town Thailand: Is it Worth a Visit?
The short answer: absolutely! You don’t have to take an exhausting bus ride to the most remote corners of this beautiful country to get a sense of what life is like outside of the major cities. Since Samut Prakan is accessible by BTS, it’s the perfect place to get a glimpse of ‘life in the suburbs.’
Have you been to Pak Nam before? What about some other locations in Samut Prakan Province? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!
This post was published on Oct 15, 2019