I was jolted wide awake as our van suddenly stopped on a narrow street beset by old, two-story wooden houses. It was already late in the afternoon and we were told to alight. Right here? I asked, still trying to make sense of this less-than-ten-foot wide road with local vendors hawking thick noodles right by its crumbling colonial-style covered porch. Are we gonna sleep at the home of this old lady by the frying pan?
|A BEAUTIFUL DAY TO BE OUT AT SEA|
We started out for Chanthaburi—a province 245 kilometers away from Bangkok (about 4 hours by bus)—from Rayong quite early. I didn’t even know we already crossed the border until we alighted at the KUNG KRABAEN BAY ROYAL DEVELOPMENT STUDY CENTRE [KHLONG KHUT, THA MAI DISTRICT, CHANTHABURI |+66-3936-9216-8 | GPS MAP 12.582604, 101.890578]. And I wouldn’t even know we were already in Chanthaburi until I set the location for my Instagram (follow please, haha), it was that close to where we were staying at Rayong.
|THE WATERS AT KUNG KRABAEN BAY IS JUST TOO TEMPTING TO SWIM ON!|
Crossing a wooden causeway leading to the sea, we were warmly greeted by the center’s staff before briefing us on their project; that is developing a healthy ecosystem for Chanthaburi’s coastal areas. They demonstrated how they make artificial reefs, cultivate oysters and harvest crab eggs so they can be returned to the sea before the snapping creatures themselves are sold to the market.
|NO PIZZA FOR THESE TURTLES!|
I wandered along the deck, standing on a wooden platform some meters above the emerald waters, and saw huge turtles, a variety of fishes and even sharks set inside the pens. We were told that these animals are being cared for before being released back to sea. The fun part was we got to feed them too with pails of small fishes we brought from a vendor outside.
|THE VIEW FROM NANG PHAYA HILL|
|LOVE LOCKS; MADE IN CHINA|
Back on our van, we rode through the eastern coastal road of Thailand before stopping at the NANG PHAYA HILL SCENIC POINT [NA YAI AM, CHANGWAT CHANTHABURI | GPS MAP 12.591193, 101.881290]. The sun was on its zenith and I was profusely sweating as I reached the viewing deck set on the top of the promontory. It was quite scenic, but what caught my attention were the multitudes of rusting padlocks set by lovers on the railings of the deck. The trunks of the trees also didn’t escape the declarations of love by mad romantics who have visited the place.
|DRIED EVERYTHING, ANYONE?|
But what should’ve been a quick go-see turned into an hour stop as my companions brought packs after packs of dried street food right at the foot of the hill; dried squid, dried bananas, dried durians, dried fishes, dried everything.
|NOW, HERE’S A LEGIT PLACE TO EAT LUNCH IN|
As if we still haven’t had enough snacks to fill our tummies with, our next stop was J PEN RESTAURANT, a typical hole-in-the-wall eatery in Chanthaburi. What distinguishes this from all the others in town is their signature yentafo noodles.
|YENTAFO PINK NOODLES, CARE FOR A BITE?|
It was my first time to try out this Thai dish and I was shocked to find the soup to be pink in color. Like bright, shocking pink. The whole thing is an ensemble of strange unrecognizable seafood creatures, fishballs, blood pudding, some greens and rice noodles; all swimming on this pinkish mess.
|CRISPY ON THE OUTSIDE, SOFT ON THE INSIDE, SPICY ON THE SIDES|
I have mixed feelings about yentafo, while it does taste delectable, its color and texture of its seafood simply didn’t go well with me. Good thing, they also served us with tofu, which I went bonkers for; it went extremely well with the accompanying Thai chili dip.
|COLORFUL REED MATS|
The BAN SAMET NGAM CHANTHABOON MAT HANDICRAFT CENTER [NONG BUA, CHANTHABURI | +66-3931-1565 | GPS MAP 12.545736, 102.097219] was set next on our itinerary. We witnessed, and a few even joined, in creating mats from locally available reeds in the province. These are then made into bags, plate mats, purses and are usually bought as souvenirs.
|THE TOOLS OF THE WEAVING TRADE|
|LET’S WEAVE IT ON!|
To be honest, I’m not really into weaving, well I guess most people are really not into that, lol, but they’re usually very interesting to photograph. So while my buddies hunkered down and weaved, I took photos.
|BAAN LUANG’S COLONIAL-STYLE ARCHITECTURE ALONG THE CHANTHABOON WATERFRONT|
Sleepy from lunch, I dozed off as we sped towards the Chanthaboon Riverside Community where our lodging, the BAAN LUANG RAJAMAITRI HISTORY INN [SUKHAPHIBAN ROAD, WATMAI, CHANTHABURI | +6688-843-4516 | CHECK RATES | GPS MAP 12.612398, 102.113800] is located.
Indeed, I was a bit disoriented as I stepped down the riverside town; the street was so narrow, it looked more like an alley than an actual road. It took me a few seconds to recognize our hotel, a restored 150 year-old house of a local aristocrat.
|BAAN LUANG’S OPEN-AIRED MUSEUM-LIKE LOBBY|
The plank-floored lobby is set with old books, photographs and artifacts from a bygone era; its whole interior looking more like a museum rather than a boutique hotel. It is quite charming, to say the least.
|I WANT THIS ROOM!|
It sits right beside the Chanthaburi River and my room, one of only twelve, opens to the al fresco dining deck right along it. I thought my room was great, but that wasn’t until I saw my friend’s lodging, it has its own balcony right above the river. Envious is me.
If I were to judge this riverside town from our hotel alone, I know I’d be having an exciting time in the area. I love heritage towns and that seems to be Chanthaboon’s strongest point. I can’t wait to explore its streets and marketplaces, but first, a quick nap seemed in place.
THANK YOU TO THE TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND FOR THE TBEX ASIA 2015 INVITE