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Written by SeenThat on 28 Jan, 2010
One of the most romantic city names in Thailand, the City of the Moon is a Southeast Asian major center for rubies and sapphires; maybe because many visitors find themselves in the urge of buying precious rings. However, there is more to Chanthaburi than a…Read More
One of the most romantic city names in Thailand, the City of the Moon is a Southeast Asian major center for rubies and sapphires; maybe because many visitors find themselves in the urge of buying precious rings. However, there is more to Chanthaburi than a romantic river and gemstones. Chanthaburi was occupied by the French from 1893 to 1905 as part of the complex process of borders definition between Siam and French Indochina. The French influence can be seen in the architecture of many buildings including the largest Catholic cathedral in Thailand. Troubled Indochina provided a steady stream of refugees and migrants. Christian Vietnamese began reaching from the late 19th century, and then three waves arrived in the 20th century during the 1920s, the 1940s and then in 1975 after South Vietnam collapsed.These created a town that looks pretty much as part of Cambodia or Vietnam, with Colonial French styled shophouses next to a quiet, slow flowing river, plenty of tropical fruits and an exquisite variety of cuisines awaiting the traveler. The town is surrounded by lush forests and well-fed waterfalls.AccessAlmost 250 kilometers away from Bangkok, Chanthaburi is easy to reach. Direct buses leave from Ekkamai – Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal – on an hourly base from 4:30 AM and from Mo Chit – the Northern Bus Terminal – from 6 AM. The town can also be reached from Rayong and Trat. By car, leave Bangkok through Highway 34 until Chonburi and then take Road 344 to Chanthaburi.There is a border cross leading to Pailin in Cambodia. However, this cross is open only to Cambodian and Thai citizens. If wishing to reach Cambodia, take a bus to Aranyaprhathet for reaching Angkor, or to Trat and advance from there to Had Lek for reaching the beautiful border cross next to the Gulf of Thailand.PromenadeMost visitors would find themselves riveted to Thanon Si Chan and Thanon Thetsaban, the two roads forming Chantaburi’s promenade next to the river. They are east of the bus terminal and the King Taksin Park and run parallel to the river along a sharp loop that forms downtown’s eastern border. This is the commercial, culinary and romantic heart of the town, hosting most of the gem shops and restaurants. The French styled shophouses are as charming as in Phnom Penh and the food offered not less varied than there. The gem shops are active mainly during weekends when dealers arrive from all over Southeast Asia and even India and Sri Lanka can be seen stocking up. PailinSometimes political borders are misleading. Chanthaburi looks and feels like a Cambodian town from the Colonial Period and owes its prosperity to nearby Pailin across the border. Pailin – a small town west of Battambang, and accessible to foreigners only from there – is the main mining center in Cambodia. It is notorious for having been the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge. Most of its gemstones are transferred for trade to Chanthaburi.AccommodationsThere are no luxury accommodations in town, at least if judging from the structural aspect. If taking into account the cultural surroundings and the beautiful riverside, then every single spot in town is luxurious.For those spending a few days in town, the River Guesthouse is probably the best option. Located next to the river loop on 3/5-8, Thanon Si Chan, it offers clean rooms and breakfast for up to 350 baht.FoodChanthaburi offers a very interesting culinary mix, with many restaurants along the promenade selling noodle dishes in Chinese and Vietnamese styles. Moreover, Indian curries and chai can be also be found due to the presence of Indian gem dealers.Furthermore, Chanthaburi is famous all over Thailand for its fruits. As a rule of thumb, fruits follow a pattern in Southeast Asia, the closer to the Mekong Delta, the better the fruits are. Here, rambutan, mangosteen and durian are especially abundant. Little known, mangosteen is probably one of the tastiest fruits in the world. In June the city hosts a fruit festival.The Catholic Cathedral of ChanthaburiArchitectonically, Chanthaburi is dominated by a single and very important structure. The Catholic Cathedral of Chanthaburi is located amidst a beautiful garden on Chanthanimit Road, across the Chantaburi River from downtown. A bridge connects it with Thanon Rim Nam, the riverside promenade; this separation from downtown adds to the edifice’s singularity. The uniqueness doesn’t stop here; Christianity in Thailand was introduced by the Portuguese to the Ayyuthaya Kingdom, the Santa Cruz church in Thonburi being nowadays the main reminder of this fact, while this church has French origins and is related to Christian groups from former Indochina.A small chapel church was built here in 1711. Several reconstructions were performed until the French built it again in 1906 and transformed it into the largest cathedral in Thailand, substantially larger than the Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok. Built in Gothic Style, its two spiky towers were dismantled in 1940, during World War II, to protect it from destruction. The lower structure became less conspicuous and successfully survived that war. Close