Thailand roadtrip: Chanthaburi Somdej Pra public park

Chanthaburi: Easy to Love

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When I had added Chanthaburi as part of our eastern Thailand road trip, I really didn’t expect to be much. To be frank, I had chosen it, because it was on the highway path and I had watched some videos about the unique food there. Essentially, it was more of a hey-why-not type of stop, but both Ryan and I became enthralled with the province and the city of Chanthaburi.

Thailand Road Trip: Chanthaburi calm
Even the cats welcome you to relax

Sometimes, you can’t put your finger exactly on why you like being somewhere — this was one of those times. We had originally planned a night as a stopover between Koh Kood and Bangkok. However, on our way to the island, we decided to break here for lunch, and as soon as we walked into the old town area, we both independently allocated in our minds a second night.

There’s a vibe here. Yes, like most of Thailand, there’s that certain rhythm of hustle and bustle, yet it’s still mellow. Yes, there are tourists here, but you’d have to look really hard. Most of them are Thai and outside of the well preserved Chanthaboon Riverside Community (aka old town), I counted 2 foreign tourists most of the time — umm, I’m referring to us. And as quintessentially Thai as this area is, it is just as international with influences of the Vietnamese who came in multiple waves (from 1920s through 1970s), Cambodian, Chinese, Lao and French. Though Thailand as a country was not occupied by foreign powers, Chanthaburi was briefly occupied by the French from 1893 to 1905. Also, because the area is a world hub for the gem trade, a contingent of Africans also work here.

Apart from the gem trade, the area is known for its fruit and vegetable production, especially the aforementioned durian. Being a coastal province, Chanthaburi also serves an important role in Thailand’s seafood industry. Now, I love seafood, but I also learned a little bit about some of the downsides of getting it on the cheap.

With such a confluence of cultures, Chanthaburi could have been a messy hodgepodge of identities. And maybe it was or is, but from our observation, the mix seems to coexist well. As we tend to keep our focus on food, we saw how this played out by the range of foods available. Interestingly, one item that is associated with Thailand, but harder to find here, was the papaya salad. I saw only 2 stalls in all the markets, whereas in other similarly large markets, I would have seen 6+ stalls. However, I’ve read that, they do have their own version using unripened durian in the spring to early summer.

Thailand Road Trip: Chanthaburi massage center
Not glamorous massage, but if you like intense Thai massage

An quick side note for enthusiasts of Thai massage, there is a spot located at Wat Klang which is by the old town and a block away from the Kasemsarn Hotel. You can get 2 hours for 180 baht, but be warned that you will leave in pain unless you ask them to tone it down.

It felt good to be here, and we even talked about it being a city that we’d move to if Thailand remained on our retirement list. Or perhaps Thailand is on our retirement list again, because of Chanthaburi. Strolling around the city, we felt noticed yet welcomed. Our discussions veered towards what we valued in our lives and if we could make a home here; there must be something in their water.

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