The city of Chanthaburi is located in Eastern Thailand in a province with the similar name, roughly 160 km from the Pattaya U-Tapao International Airport or about 240km from Bangkok. Its almost a 3 hours drive in normal traffic to get here from U-Tapao International Airport .
Chanthaburi the provincial capital, is a historical town fringing the Gulf of Thailand and is also known for its gem dealings and its tropical fruits.
The province has gone through important milestones in the Thai history, from King Taksin who broke away from the besieged Ayutthaya and ordering his soldiers to destroy all their rice pot before attacking Chanthaburi’s citadel, later regroup and march onto Ayutthaya to win it back from the Burmese, the to the Siam-Vietnamese War of 1833-1847 and the Franco-Siamese War of 1893 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn.
The French occupies Chanthaburi for 11 years as a result of the peace treaty, only to return it (and the Province of Trat) to the Kingdom after Siam handed over part of Cambodia.
All these historical events in Chanthaburi makes this province a very interesting place to visit, despite many tourist overlooking this area. I had a chance to spend a day just in the city (wished I had time to explore the outskirts) and I would like to share some of must see in the city of Chanthaburi during my five hour walking tour. We started off the day with a drop off at Wat Phai Lom and ended up with a pick up at the King Taksin Military Camp.
WAT PHAI LOM
Wat Phai Lom is the largest temple in the City of Chanthaburi and was designated as a Royal Monastery. Established in the late Ayutthaya era, the temple served as a Buddhism monk school for more than a hundred years.
The temple compound is quite big and has a few buildings on it, however the main attraction is in the Wihan Phra Non (which was the only building opened), a very large golden reclining Buddha.
From the Wat Phai Lom, we took at short walk to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.
CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic Church in Thailand and the community has been in existence in the province since the early 1700s when a group of Vietnamese migrant fled religious persecution in their homeland.
Five reconstructions later, we have the currently Gothic-style building completed in 1909, taking cues from the famous French Notre Dame with its two 20 meters high tower that makes this Cathedral one of the most prominent landmark in the city.
The current structure includes some very impressive stained-glass windows and an upstairs gallery which gives the interior the feel of a medieval hall.
The centerpiece in the inside of the cathedral is the statue of the Virgin Mary which is covered by more than 200,000 pieces semi precious gems donated by the local congregation, a fitting link between religion and the city’s famous gem trade.
STREET MURAL OF CHANTHABURI
Steps from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, you will find an alley where street artists have used walls to depict the history of Chanthaburi. Design wise is not as good as some of the street mural that I have came across but then its along the way to the Wat Chan Bridge to the Old Chanthaboon Waterfront Village, so you can probably spend some 10-15 minutes checking out the murals.
OLD CHANTHABOON WATERFRONT VILLAGE
As you walk across the Wat Chan pedestrian bridge from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, you will arrive into this 300-year old Old Chanthaboon Waterfront Village which is not only a scenic location but also of an interesting history.
As an UNESCO heritage award winning community, the Chanthaboon Waterfront Village provides a beautiful stroll thanks to the influence of Thai, Chinese, French and Vietnamese architectural designs. Many of these houses which were from the early Rattanakosin-era are now transformed into boutique accommodations, local museums and hip cafes.
The first place that I went for once crossing the bridge was Jed Ee Seafood Noodle Stall which is about 10 meters to the right on Sukhaphiban Road. The place is famous for their seafood noodles and since it was about noon, we decided to head there for lunch. I ordered a seafood noodle – they have option of seafood clear soup or tomyum, and I went for tomyum shrimp (you have option for crab, mantis prawn, squid, shrimp or all) with sen chan noodles (a local thin flat rice noodle originally from Chanthaburi). Amazing .. simply amazing – sour but not too spicy (you can add on your own chili flakes) and the shrimp is definitely very fresh. If you are a crab lover, I recommend for you to go for their local blue swimmer crab with your noodle. A must eat if you are here in the village.
After lunch we had a nice stroll along Sukhaphiban Road (the main road running parallel to the river), walking pass some nice old converted buildings like the Rimnam Chan Hostel, Tamajun Hotel, and also the very historical Baan Luang Rajamaitree.
I would say walking through the Chanthaboon Waterfront Village is a definitely must do if you are in Chanthaburi.
WAT BOT MUANG
Wat Bot Muang is a small temple on top a small hill at the corner of Thaluang Road and Sukhaphiban Road at the start (or end) of Chanthaboon Waterfront Village. The temple’s cendi is visible from the river and is one of the icon for the old heritage area.
From Wat Bot Muang, its probably a 10 minutes walk to the City Pillar Shrine, walking past the Chanthaburi Provincial Police Station, Chanthaburi Archieves of Thailand, Chanthaburi Provincial Court as well as the Public Library.
CITY PILLAR SHRINE
The City Pillar Shrine is located in front of Taksin Military Fort on Thaluang Road. Although it is fabled that King Taksin first built the shrine back in 1767, the current shrine was built in 1981. So since I was in and around the City of Chantaburi, I decided to drop by to pay homage to the city’s sacred object here at the City Pillar Shrine.
KING TAKSIN SHRINE
Walking across the entrance road to the Taksin Military Fort was the King Taksin Shrine. The beautiful nonagonal building is shaped like a helmet and is definitely one of the must visit attraction in Chanthaburi. The shrine and the blackened-brass statue of King Taksin that are enshrined within it are revered by many Thai people who makes frequent offerings of flowers and the likes in return for blessings from King Taksin who is known as an extremely kind-hearted monarch who always placed the betterment of his people before anything else.
If you happened to be in Chantaburi on December 28, you can join in the annual celebration of the King Taksin Shrine. It is a festival of large proportions where people give thanks in remembrance to the king for his kindness and for establishing the country to what it is.
KING TAKSIN MILITARY CAMP
Right behind the King Taksin Shrine you will find the King Taksin Military Camp. The Military Camp is opened to the public and you will find a nice French Garrison from around the late 1800s and some old barracks. There is also a museum in the camp but is only opened during the weekends.
I would say I had a lot of fun here at the City of Chanthaburi and would definitely love to go back to explore more of the province, especially away from the city center as well as the outskirt. From Chantaburi, one can also go on to the Province of Trat and visit lovely islands like Koh Chang and Koh Kood.