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Chanthaburi l Pattaya l Rayong l Trat


The area between Chanthaburi and the Cambodian border is where you will find the best durians in the kingdom as well as luscious rambutan crop, thanks to the different climate pattern that receives the southwest monsoon. Gems, delicious fruits, handicrafts, beaches, an air of antiquity, and relics of the past make the Chanthaburi province a prime spot.

Chanthaburi, or the 'City of the Moon', is located beside the winding Chanthaburi River amidst rolling hills with a "melting-pot" community of Thai, Burmese, Chinese and Vietnamese. The town center presents a French-built lake, which is a favorite meeting and exercise place. The streets are filled with motorcycles while shops along the river and elsewhere sport an open facade, many revealing rows of grinding stone upon which artisans patiently cut facets on precious stones that are mined nearby.

Across the river, you'll find the largest Catholic church in Thailand. The French-style Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1880 and has a congregation that is made up of mainly Vietnamese who migrated to Thailand over the last two centuries. They engage in a number of businesses, such as the weaving of reed mats, handbags and purses in attractive shapes and designs. Many of these items are home-made and can be ordered from the nuns of the church. Laem Sing, the site of a Thai confrontation with European powers, is located nearby. Evidence of past territorial dispute is seen in the Tuk Daeng (Red Building), Customs House, and Kook Khi Kai (Chicken Dung Prison). The area's prime activity has been mining for sapphires and other precious stones, especially rubies. This has been going on since the 15th Century. The nearest gem-mining area is at Khao Ploi Waen (Hill of the Sapphire Ring). To reach it, travel to Khai Nern Wong, the old fort ruins, where a junction will lead to where the gemstones are traded and purchased.

An extra kilometer or so will lead to Khao Ploi Waen whose open pits in the hillside are up to 10 meters deep. If you have some extra time on your hands, take a peek at the refugee camps, which is an eye-opening experience. Khao Ploi Waen is located 200 km (125 miles) to the north of Chanthaburi from Sa Kaeo. The refugee camps are situated 60 km (40 miles) further up east on Route 33.

Fruit lovers will enjoy the orchard, which is filled with rambutan, durian, oranges and lychees. It is located along a small road at the 324-km marker of Route 3, directly opposite the Chanthaburi exit. The road leads inland for about 20 kilometers (13 miles), eventually leading to the Nam Tok Krating (Bull Waterfall), a cascade of small falls tumbling 400 meters (1,300 ft) across a granite face. Farther down Route 3 is the location of another popular waterfall, the Nam Tok Praew. Here, you will find makeshift stalls with women selling sticky rice and durian jam. Beyond that is the pyramidal chedi overlooking the falls. The chedi was built in memory of a consort of King Chulalongkorn who drowned while being rowed up the Chao Phraya River. A tragic death indeed.

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