Bangkok to Rayong
Immediately following the TBEX Conference which you can read about here , a group of us set off on a new adventure, to visit Rayong and Chanthiburi on what the Thai Tourist Authority, who were our hosts for the trip, had affectionately named the Phat Thai Route.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Bangkok behind us, our trip was to take us to Rayong and Chanthiburi – two provinces which I had not heard too much about but which were being introduced to us as part of a “2015 Discover Thainess” campaign to encourage tourists to explore Thailand in a different way than usual.
“Tasty Fruits, advanced industries, great fish sauce, beautiful Samet island, and Sumthon Phu, best known poet”
It’s a 200 kilometre trip from Bangkok to the Prasae River which was to be home for the evening and so we set off at 8 am and headed East and then South towards Rayong.
First stop was a very each lunch stop at Tam Nan Pha restaurant, 167/6 Moo 7 Phe Muang Rayong 21160 Thailand which is a natural style resort and spa set inside a tropical garden. We entered through a manmade tropical rain forest and meandered our way through the grounds amidst waterfalls and plenty of rainforest greenery to the open style restaurant which came complete with an indoor mist display giving the feeling of dining in the rainforest. Having not left the sandy shores of Dubai in over six months, it was beautiful to see so much greenery and enjoy the sound of running water.
To be honest I was tempted to stop my journey there and abandon the group to relax in the beautiful resort since it has accommodation, a spa and a natural pool etc, but lunch was calling and I made my way to the table where we were served a large sharing lunch with tasty giant prawns, ohhh so good duck which melted in the mouth, crispy fried thai style chicken, chicken with basil and a whole range of different dipping sauces which thai cuisine is so famous for. For dessert, we were served snake fruit but alas my belly was full and I moved to a coffee which was the perfect ending to a beautiful meal. I was glad we arrived early, we had the restaurant almost to ourselves and got a chance to enjoy the peace of the rainforest before the lunchtime rush.
With our tummies completely full and our appetites well and truly sated, we drove to Songsalueng Natural Agriculture Centre, 322/2 Mu 8, Songsalueng, Klaeng, Rayong Province where we met the very charismatic Somsak Khruewan, a village headman who founded the Centre as part of the “1 Rai, 1 Million” project which centres around using the land area of 1 Rai (40 m x 40 m) to make an income of 1 million baht (approx 100,000 AED or £18,000) as part of a Kings project for sufficiency and sustainability. Walking around the Centre, we were shown various projects which were employed at the centre including farming and fishery, agricultural, water preservation and even bio gas production. The trip was really interesting and via interpreters and a lot of hand gestures and smiles we were shown how imagination and creativity can produce real results that have great impact.
Leaving the Centre behind us, we drove to the Prasae Community where we hopped into brightly coloured Tuk Tuks for a quick transfer to Tung Prong Thong (the golden mangroves). Situated on a small river tributary a short walk along the raised wooden walkway provides “a picturesque view of a host of mangroves trees which have yellow and green leaves creating a golden field: – or so the guidebook told us – we arrived just as the heavens opened and a torrential tropical downpour left the group huddled under umbrellas trying to keep dry whilst my Thai companion and I, who both live in Dubai and haven’t seen rain in over a year, jumped for joy in the rain and celebrated the warm rain, which left us both soaking wet but extremely happy much to the puzzlement of everyone else in the group who clearly thought we were mad and perhaps had had too much desert sun !
Leaving the river and mangroves behind us we took a short Tuk Tuk trip above the river to take in some scenic views of Prasae before taking a quick ride to the riverside to quickly view the HTMS Prasae Memorial, a US gunship which served in World War II and the Korean War. We didn’t have time to board or look around, but did have a few minutes to take a few snaps of the street food including these wonderful dried squid which were waiting to be further flattened in a giant press, quickly chargrilled and served with a spicy sauce – sounds yum but we didn’t have time to stop and try, nor room in our full bellies if I’m honest.
Leaving the memorial behind us, we took a short ride to our accommodation for the night which was Chansamut Homestay. Winding our way single file through the village in a small procession of tuk tuks, you get the impression that few tourists come here, which on one hand is great as it’s always good to find new places unspoilt by tourists, but also a shame as the place is beautiful and our driver said they would love more people to visit as it would help with the economy – it’s a tough call, but I say go, explore and enjoy, spend some cash and support the local businesses then leave taking with you memories and leave it very much as you found it, quiet, unspoilt and a true hidden gem.
Our homestay was situated beside the river, we had the whole homestay to ourselves, with a range of individual rooms and a dormitory there’s something for everyone. I had a beautiful two tiered room with bed space for four people and a beautiful view of the river which was just a deck away from me. It’s a casual and relaxed bare foot affair, there’s a great communal feel to the place, plenty of seating on dockside at communal tables and chairs and a collection of bright deckchairs facing the dock perfect for whiling away an hour or two with a book and a beer.
With no time to spare, we were chasing the sunset after all, we boarded the resort fishing boat and took a sunset cruise along the river where we dined on freshly caught crab, green lipped mussels, raw prawns which were amazing and so much more, perfectly paired with a can (or two) ok, probably more of ice cold Thai beer.
Our evening ended dockside, where, finishing off the beer, we gathered together and spent time sharing travel stories whilst one of our talented members knocked out some amazing music on the piano until one by one we left the group to retreat to sleep.
Early next morning most of the group took a trip back to the golden mangroves and to enjoy a casual breakfast whilst exploring the riverside walks of Prasae, in hindsight perhaps I should have done this too, but actually I had a bit of a lie in (the bed was just perfectly comfortable and who can resist crisp white sheets … ), and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of fresh crabs al fresco and enjoyed watching the world go by me as the riverside woke up – perhaps I didn’t make the wrong choice after all or maybe, just maybe I’ll have to go back and take the early morning stroll again….
The next part of our trip was to take us to Chanthaburi, a new province to me, and a new blog post too read more here soon …
And finally …
What about Sunthorn Phu? Well, we didn’t meet him that’s for sure (he died in 1855) ! Described by some as Thailand’s Shakespeare or Chaucer as well as the People’s Poet of Thailand, his work has been recognised by UNESCO for it’s eminence and there’s even an annual celebration of his work. With a chequered past and a love hate relationship with different reigning Kings at the time, he was Poet Laureate when he died. Not much of his work has been translated into English but I do love this piece, which in some way describes my ‘drunken’ love and total intoxication for Thailand :
“We may be drunk,
But we are also intoxicated by love.
I cannot resist my heart.
And though we are drunk,
Tomorrow the sun will shine,
And that drunkenness will have passed.
But when night falls, the intoxication of love will return.”