Photo: Welcome to Chanthaburi.

Introduction

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With a city full of heritage architecture and great food joining waterfalls, mountains, fruit farms, fishing villages and beaches out in the countryside, Chanthaburi is one underrated destination. Look no further if you seek to step off the tourist trail in Thailand’s eastern Gulf region.


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Translating as “City of the Moon”, Chanthaburi draws its share of Thai tourists but most foreigners overlook it—and they’re missing out. The provincial capital’s cultural mix always leaves us intrigued, and the eponymous province boasts gorgeous scenery from the seacoast to mountains that reach above 1,500 metres. Chan, to use the shortened name, is also easy to reach from tourist hotspots like Ko Chang, Ko Samet and Bangkok.

A classic old town. Photo taken in or around Chanthaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

A classic old town. Photo: David Luekens

From the faces of inhabitants to the buildings lining the streets you’ll see influences from the Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Chong (Mon/Khmer), Shan and even the French, who ruled the province from 1893 to 1905. A handful of expats from Africa, the West and elsewhere in Asia have also settled here, often to chase fortunes in the gem trade that sparkles through town.

Dozens of heritage houses lean over the Chanthaburi River in Chanthaboon old town, a fascinating neighbourhood to explore. It’s been carefully revitalised and promoted in recent years, and while you’ll now find a few boutique hotels, the community has largely preserved its old-school look and identity. Several families cook up the same soups and sweets prepared by their ancestors a century ago or more—do bring an appetite.

At the City Pillar Shrine. Photo taken in or around Chanthaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

At the City Pillar Shrine. Photo: David Luekens

Cross a footbridge from the old town to find Thailand’s largest cathedral anchoring a community of Vietnamese Catholics whose descendants arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries. Chan also takes pride in its role during the Siam-Burma War of the late 18th century, when general (later king) Taksin hunkered down here to regroup. Often of Chinese descent, many of the warriors who helped Taksin drive out the Burmese hailed from Chan.

Rolling hills and high rainfall levels make Chanthaburi province ideal for cultivating herbs, vegetables and fruits such as rambutan, longan, mangosteen and, king of them all, durian. Producing a significant portion of the global supply of this spike-shelled, foul-smelling but delicious fruit, the province is durian mad. If passing through in May you might join in the durian-eating contest at the Chanthaburi Fruit Fair.

Don’t miss the <em>kuay chab</em> at Ba Mai. Photo taken in or around Chanthaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

Don’t miss the kuay chab at Ba Mai. Photo: David Luekens

Seafood—and soft-shell crab in particular—is another specialty of Chan, best enjoyed on a side trip to the coast. While the mainland beaches don’t stack up to most beaches in the islands, some of the coastal roads are spectacular and vast stretches of sand lie virtually empty at Laem Singh and Chao Lao, among others. You could also head up-province to check out waterfalls cascading through the jungle in a pair of national parks: Khao Kitchakut and Nam Tok Phlio.

The province’s northeastern reaches share a border with Cambodia and while most travellers use the far more popular crossings at Had Lek or Aranyaprathet, Chanthaburi province’s quiet Ban Pakard crossing is handy for heading straight to Pailin and on to Battambang. See the transport page for details on reaching the border from Chanthaburi town.




Orientation
Capital of Chanthaburi province, Chanthaburi town is set along the Chanthaburi River, some 20 kilometres north of the eastern Gulf of Thailand coast and 220 kilometres east of Bangkok. Though it’s home to more than 100,000 people, the city feels relatively small and quaint if you stick to the riverside old town and central market area just west of the river.

The Alongkorn Chedi. Photo taken in or around Chanthaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

The Alongkorn Chedi. Photo: David Luekens

Also known as Chanthaboon Waterfront, the old town runs from north to south along narrow Sukhapiban Road on the river’s western bank. At its centre stands the Chinese-style Wat Khetnaboonyaram, a handy reference point with its western side bordering north-to-south running Benchamarachutit Road. Follow that south and you’ll hit Si Chan Road, another bustling street studded with gem shops along with several banks.

A few hundred metres west of “Wat Khet” is the city’s centerpiece, a three-tiered fountain guarded by Chinese-style dragons in the middle of a traffic circle. Head west from there to pass through a sprawl of fresh markets on the way to Taksin Maharat Park with its wide ponds and jogging lanes built around a statue depicting Taksin leading soldiers into battle on horseback. The bus station is a few hundred metres north of the park.

Great things start small. Photo taken in or around Chanthaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

Great things start small. Photo: David Luekens

East of the river stretches a more modern part of town hosting Chanthaburi’s own version of Chatuchak Market beside a large Robinson shopping centre. From there you can take Sukhumvit Road (Route 3), a major highway leading southeast towards Nam Tok Phlio National Park and Trat province. Sukhumvit also runs west from Chan into Rayong province and eventually reaches all the way to Bangkok.

Smaller highways lead north to Khao Kitchakut National Park and a fruit-growing region around Soi Dao district near Cambodia—both very scenic areas. South and west of Chanthaburi town, another bunch of back roads lead to the mainland beaches of Laem Singh, Chao Lao and Kung Wiman, among others, with several viewpoints and fishing villages scattered in between.

We love the old town. Photo taken in or around Chanthaburi, Thailand by David Luekens.

We love the old town. Photo: David Luekens

The main police station is off Thaluang Road, just east of the City Pillar Shrine on the north side of town. The private Bangkok Hospital stands just west of the police station on the same road. You could also use the cheaper Prapokklao Hospital, situated just west of Taksin Maharat Park.

Bangkok Hospital Chanthaburi: 24/14 Thaluang Rd; T: (039) 319 888
Chanthaburi Police: Thaluang Rd; T: (039) 311 145
Prapokklao Hospital: 38 Leab Noen Rd; T: (039) 319 666

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chanthaburi.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chanthaburi.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Chanthaburi.
 Read up on how to get to Chanthaburi, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Chanthaburi? Please read this.
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