Chanthaburi (จันทบุรี), 245 km from Bangkok, is the capital of the eponymous province in Eastern Thailand. It is a useful transport hub for accessing the islands Ko Chang and Ko Kut and also several of the border crossings with Cambodia.
Chantaburi is notable for tropical fruits, particularly durian, and gems. The surrounding hills are rich with verdant forests and scenic waterfalls. Nearby are quiet fishing villages and peaceful beaches.
There are three bridges over the river in central Chanthaburi: one to the north, this is the one you will cross if coming from the north; about 500 m south of this is a footbridge facing the cathedral; then about 400 m south west of this, around a bend in the river, is a second road bridge. The both banks of the river between the two road bridges have a small collection of bars and restaurants.
Chanthaburi has long been inhabited, with neolithic artefacts having been discovered in the region.
Chong was the first Mon-Khmer hunter-gatherer community to have settled in the eastern forests in what are now Chanthaburi, Trat and Rayong Provinces in ca. 13th century CE. The first settlement in Chanthaburi was near Khao Sa Bap. The forest area, especially on the boundary between Chanthaburi and Trat, was abundant in herbs and forest products such as gamboge, lac, wax, cardamom, eaglewood, rattan, cinnamon, etc. Deforestation for cultivation as well as habitation by Thai and Chinese people has shrunk the forest. Hunting and gathering has been made illegal, so the hunter-gatherers were forced to change their lifestyle and become urban labourers or farmers. Most of the "Chong" now live at Ban Khlong Phlu in Amphoe Khao Khitchakut.
A new city was established in 1657 CE at Ban Lum on the west bank of the Chanthaburi River. At the fall of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya in 1767, King Taksin the Great, then Phraya Wachiraprakan, led a troop of some 500 soldiers to break through and head eastward to occupy Chanthaburi. He took 5 months to store foodstuffs and recruit a troop of 5,000 Thai and Chinese soldiers to regain the independence of the kingdom. Monuments and memorials built to commemorate the historic event well reflect the pride of the people of Chanthaburi.
The city was relocated to the highlands at Ban Noen Wong in the reign of King Rama III to prevent a Vietnamese invasion, but due to its distance from water sources was moved back to Ban Lum in the reign of King Rama V. Chanthaburi was occupied by France for 11 years in a Thai–French dispute. Thailand had to surrender its territory on the left bank of the Mekong River to France in return for Chanthaburi, which was later established as a province in 1933.
Chantaburi is about 4 hours by bus from Bangkok.
The nearest border crossing with Cambodia is at Ban Pakard, which faces Phsar Prum in Cambodia. It is 1–2 hours from Chantaburi by minibus (~100 baht) or songthaew (~40 baht). Pailin is a further 18 km (USD4 by motorbike taxi) from the border. If direct connections to Ban Pakard are hard to find, take any northbound bus on Hwy 317 (i.e., to Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, or Aranyaprathet). Ask to get off at Pong Nam Rong (โป่งน้ำร้อน, write it in Thai so you can show it to the bus driver). In Pong Nam Rong, songthaews connect with the border crossing. Northbound buses will call at Aranyaprathet, the busiest Thai-Khmer crossing. For coastal Cambodia, head to Trat in Thailand and continue to the Koh Kong border from there.
The province is accessible by 5 routes:
- Hwy 3, start from Bang Na, Bangkok, via Chon Buri – Bang Saen – Si Racha – Pattaya – Sattahip – Ban Chang – Rayong – Chanthaburi, a total distance of 330 km.
- Hwy 36, start from km140 on Sukhumvit Rd in Bang Lamung, Chonburi, turn left at Krathing Lai T-junction via Pira Circuit to end at Choeng Noen, Rayong Province, a distance of 60 km, then turn onto Hwy 3 for 108 km to Chanthaburi, a total distance of 308 km.
- Hwy 344, the Ban Bueng – Klaeng route, saving a distance of up to 70 km, start from km98 on Sukhumvit Rd in Chonburi, via Ban Bueng in Chonburi Province, Wang Chan and Klaeng in Rayong Province, a distance of 110 km. Continue on Hwy 3 for 58 km to Chanthaburi, a total distance of 266 km.
- Linking the northeast and the east, start at km200 on Hwy 33 from Kabinburi of Prachin Buri Province, turn right at km230 in Sa Kaeo Province onto Hwy 317, continue for 189 km via Wang Nam Yen, Soi Dao, Pong Nam Ron, Makham to Chanthaburi, a total distance of 219 km from Kabinburi.
- Motorway – Hwy 7, start from Si Nakharin Rd in Bangkok and end in Pattaya, Chonburi, a distance of 90 km. Then continue on Hwy 36 for 50 km and Hwy 3 for another 108 km, a total distance of 248 km.
From Bangkok Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) on Sukhumwit Rd
- Air conditioned Bus Transport Co., Ltd., there are buses leaving daily, for more details, Tel. +66 2 3912504; Chanthaburi office, Tel. +66 39 322197.
- Cherdchai Tour Tel. +66 2 3912237; Chanthaburi office, Tel. +66 39 350357.
- Pornnipa Tour Tel. +66 2 3915179; Chanthaburi office, Tel. +66 39 311476, +66 39 311278.
- Suparat Tour Tel. +66 2 3912331; Chanthaburi office, Tel. +66 39 350223.
Non-air conditioned bus. There are non-scheduled buses leaving the Eastern Bus Terminal, for more details: Tel. +66 2 3912504.
From Mo Chit 2 or Northern Bus Terminal (Chatuchak) on Kamphaeng Phet Rd
- Transport Co., Ltd., there are buses leaving daily, Tel. +66 2 9362852
- Cherdchai Tour Tel. +66 2 9360199
- Pornnipa Tour Tel. +66 29 362256-7
- Suparat Tour Tel. +66 2 9363888, +66 2 9363939
Buses are also available from Chanthaburi to other provinces including Aranyaprathet, Nakhon Ratchasima, Trat, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Saraburi, Buriram, Prachinburi, and Tak. For more information, contact the Chanthaburi Bus Terminal at Tel. +66 39 322197.
Victory Monument (Anusawaree Chai) in Bangkok has minivans to many nearby cities, including Chantaburi. The van to Chantaburi takes anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours depending on the driver and traffic. It makes one stop about an 75 km outside Bangkok. The van stops in Chantaburi just outside town at the Tesco Lotus. The vans also leave from the Tesco going to Victory Monument.
The vans usually run from 06:00-20:00. They leave every hour, but make sure you arrive 20–30 minutes before the time you want to leave, because when the van is full (13 people) it will leave and another van may not be available for another hour. The cost is 200 baht each way (Sep 2011).
- The City Pillar & the Taksin Maharat Shrine (On Tha Luang Rd in front of the Taksin Military Barracks). Opposite stands an old building (former town hall) which was erected during the reign of King Rama VI.
- Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Chanthanimit Rd on the river bank). This Catholic cathedral is the largest in Thailand. Built in 1909, it is of neo-Gothic architectural style. The original spires were taken down during World War II to make it less conspicuous as a target; they have since been replaced.
- Hat Khung Wiman, Hat Khung Kraben, Hat Laem Sadet, and Hat Chao Lao (About 30 km from town. At km310 of Hwy 3 is a right turn to Hwy 3399 which leads to the area. Or one can proceed from Tha Mai district on the route passing through Wang Tanot Dam). Peaceful beaches in Tha Mai District. There are accommodations for tourists, particularly at Hat Chao Lao where there are several hotels and bungalows. About one kilometre off shore from Hat Chao Lao are ranges of shallow water coral reefs covering an area of 14 square kilometres. Glass-bottomed boats are available. Over at Ao Khung Kraben are nature trails to study mangrove forests.
- Khai Noen Wong (at Tambon Bang Kacha). Established in 1834 during the reign of King Rama III. The town was moved from Ban Lum to this new location because of its high ground (which was more suitable for defending against the invading Vietnamese). The laterite walls and bricks from the old town were also dismantled and moved to the new site. A severe drought during the reign of King Rama V forced its return to the original site at Ban Lum.
- Khao Laem Sing. A small hill 172 m above the sea, to the east of the mouth of the Chanthaburi River. It has a cape jutting into the sea which looks like a sprawling lion. There is an old fortification called Pom Phairi Phinat built during the reign of King Rama III.
- Khao Laem Sing Forest Park (The Tha Mai-Bang Kachai road, 25 km from Tha Mai, passes through Wat Khao Laem Sing right up to the park HQ on a hill. Alternatively, visitors can charter a boat from Laem Sing Beach to Ao Krathing Beach, just 400 m away, and walk up to the park). Camping is allowed on application. Hat Ao Yang is a small beach some 2 km before the park. Cool and shady, it offers accommodations for visitors
- National Maritime Museum & Underwater Archaeological Office (in Khai Noen Wong). exhibits on Thailand's merchant marine and items discovered from underwater archaeological explorations from all over the country. There are also exhibits of ancient sailing routes and products. An exhibition chamber deals with the history and culture of Chanthaburi.
- Old Town at Khai Noen Wong. Square-shaped with extensive laterite walls mounted with large cannons. Each side had its own ramparts and defensive moats. It was regarded as a powerful military camp of the time. The town's principal temple was Wat Yothanimit.
- Taksin Maharat Memorial (Liap Noen Rd (near park)). The equestrian statue is guarded by statues of his four royal guards. The expression on the king's face clearly shows the resoluteness and determination to restore the national independence. The pond is stocked with a large variety of fish.
- Wat Phai Lom (Across the Chanthaburi River (from Si Chan Rd) and left 1 km from the bridge, around 800 m off the main road). The Rama III-era Ubosot features wall murals on all four sides portraying the story of Lord Buddha with Chinese floral designs as well as illustrations of foreigners. There is also a ubosot of Western architectural influence attesting to Chanthaburi's artistic and cultural contact with the Western world.
- Wat Phlup (At Bang Kacha, southwest of town, on the Chanthaburi-Tha Mai-Khung Wiman Road). The site of an old community during the late Ayutthaya period. Special features are two ancient pagodas of different styles and an old Thai wooden pavilion.
- Wat Thong Thua (4 km from town, Sukhumwit Hwy). The site of an ancient bot which was built in a Khmer-style temple. It has a large collection of ancient Khmer sculptures such as lintels, sandstone door columns carved in various designs, and an inscription stone. Nearby is the Muang Phaniat archaeological site with laterite base of Khmer religious sanctuary and moats marking the town limit to the south. The ancient town is believed to have dated from the 12th-16th century (Buddhist Era).
- Khao Wong. Limestone hills standing in a circular cluster with cliffs. It contains stalagmites & stalactites. There are passages connecting some of the chambers. The walking trails outside offer views of varied plant life. There is no natural light inside the cave. The best time for cave exploring is between Feb-Apr. In other months they tend to be flooded (rainy season).
- Tham Khao Wang, Ban Khao Wongkot, Kaeng Hang Maeo District (About 40 km before Chanthaburi (Hwy 3 at km286:Ban Kong Din) left turn into the park, 11 km or turn into km288 (Talat Na Yai Arm)). Part of the Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park.
Chanthaburi-Krathing Wrathing Waterfall Route
- Chamsom Crocodile Farm and Zoo (Sukhumvit Hwy to km324 (Khao Rai Ya intersection), then turn left, around 4 km further), ☏ . Daily, 08:00-18:00. The facility is surrounded by fruit orchards. There is an elephant show Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00 and 15:00.
- Oasis Sea World, 48/2 Moo 5 Paknam Laemsing (From Chanthaburi, take taxi/songthaew, about 300 baht for a group), ☏ , fax: . Swim with dolphins. Some tour operators offer one day trips there (from Bangkok/Pattaya) for 1,600-6,000 baht. 180 baht for park, 400 baht to swim with dolphins.
- Gems Market (At Si Chan Rd & Trok Krachang (centre of town)). The commercial centre of the gem business. Even though actual gem-mining in the province is not extensive, Chanthaburi remains a major centre for gem dealings with stones from abroad being bought and sold. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, it attracts a large crowd of gem dealers and visitors.
- Reed Mats (Ban Bang Sa Kaeo & Ban Samet Ngam). Mats woven from kok reed. Among the products are handbags and coasters.
Local seafood products worth trying include The Kuai Tieo Mu Lieng (pork noddle soup with local herbs) and Mu Chamuang (pork sweet-sour curry).
Fruit: the best durian, rambutan, and mangosteens in Thailand. Durian snacks such as durian kwuan and crispy fried durian thot krop are nice.
- Chanthorn Pochana. Called a "legendary restaurant" by The Nation newspaper, it has been in business for nearly 60 years and was the first restaurant in the province to receive the culinary hallmark of Shell Chuan Chim. The restaurant has two outlets in the Maharaj and Benjama Rachutit areas. Here you can find pork curry with cha muang leaves that is cooked to order or packaged in a can to take home. Also good is the som tum with shredded young durian, chicken massaman with durian, stir-fried long bean with shrimp paste and dried shrimp, as well as pad Thai with the province’s chewy rice noodle called sen chan.
- 1 Chatrium Golf Resort Soi Dao Chanthaburi (โรงแรมชาเทรียมกอล์ฟรีสอร์สอยดาวจันทบุรี), 224 Moo 2 Tambol Tabsai Amphoe Pong Nam Ron (Pong Nam Ron District at km 42 On Chanthaburi - Sa Kaew road), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 1400 hrs, check-out: 1200 hrs or noon. A 47-room hotel with a year-round outdoor pool, 18-hole golf course, and a terrace. Guests can also enjoy a fine dining experience at the resort's restaurant. Free WiFi throughout the property. Bike rental is available. 2,100 baht.
- Muang Chan Hotel, 257-259 Sri Chan Rd (Exiting the main bus terminal, turn left onto Saritdidet, and proceed up the hill. After about ten min walking, turn right onto Benchamarachuthis, at the T in the road, in front of the Kasemsarn Hotel. After five min, just past Khwang Rd, see the hotel on the right side of the street. From the Northern Terminal, the one with the turquoise-coloured fibreglass arch over the driveway, turn left onto Thaluang Rd and proceed up the hill, crossing the street to the right side when convenient. After ten min, turn right onto Benchamarachuthis in front of the police station. After ten min, just past Khwang Rd, the hotel is on the right side of the street.), ☏ , fax: . Showing its age a little, but excellent value in the heart of Old Town. Room has en suite bath with cold shower. Free Wi-Fi officially only available in the lobby, but signal can be picked up in the rooms as well. Staff speak very limited English, but are friendly. Fan rooms: 250-400 baht. Air-con rooms: 350-600 baht.
- The River Guest House, 3/5-8 Srichant Rd (Next to the more southerly road bridge in the town centre, on the west side or the river (technically it's on the north bank given a small bend in the river)), ☏ . Check-out: Midday. Riverfront location, free Wi-Fi, free English newspapers, rooms include both windowless boxes and those with river-facing balconies, air-con, TV and en suite bath. 150-500 baht.