Rayong is one of the few provinces in Thailand where the vast majority of travellers skip the provincial capital while flocking to a nearby destination – in this case Ko Samet. Despite being an hour’s ride east of Pattaya and a mere 20 kilometres west of the Samet ferry piers, Rayong town sees virtually no foreign travellers. If that sounds intriguing, read on.
We reckon that travellers looking to step off the well-trampled track should at least stop by Rayong town on a day trip, if times allows. Venerable wood houses, Chinese shrines, Thai temples and a few gorgeous French-Indochinese buildings line Yomjinda Road in the old part of town. Hit the nearby coast to explore one of the largest fishing centres found this side of Bangkok.
Historically Rayong is best known as a resting point for the general and later king, Taksin, during his quest to rebuild an army that went on to repel Burmese forces from Ayutthaya in the late 1760s. Complete with life-size elephant statues, a shrine is dedicated to King Taksin at Wat Lum Mahachai Chumphon in the old town.
While cars and chemicals are counted among Rayong’s chief industries, fruit and seafood are its most famous local products. Each year during the rainy months, the massive Tapong Fruit Market bursts with durian, rambutan, snakefruit and mangosteen to the east of town off Sukhumvit Road. Small fish sauce factories join dozens of colourful boats and a literally breathtaking array of fresh seafood where the Rayong River meets the Gulf of Thailand.
The city’s location towards the west side of the province means that it doesn’t make a great base for exploring mainland beaches that are more easily reached from traveller-friendly Ban Phe. Though it’s only 10 kilometres east of downtown Rayong, the 12-kilometre-long Mae Ramphueng beach stretches beyond a cluster of industrial parks that chokes all traffic onto busy Sukhumvit Road. The city’s own beach, Haad Saeng Chan, is a great place to buy sun-dried fish. For swimming and sunbathing, not so much.
Tourist facilities are scant, English is not widely spoken and foreigners are few and far between in Rayong town. If that sounds awful, then don’t lose any sleep as you watch it slide by through the window of a bus. But if you’re up for venturing beyond your comfort zone to check out a more local-style slice of East Thailand, Rayong might be worth a stop. If you’re deciding between here and Chanthaburi, on the other hand, we’d suggest the latter.
Home to around 50,000 people, Rayong province’s eponymous capital city is located 170 kilometres southeast of Bangkok along the Gulf of Thailand.
Sukhumvit Nakhon Rayong Road – yes, the same Sukhumvit that starts in Bangkok – cuts through the city centre from west to east. Just north of Sukhumvit, the newer part of the city hosts the large Rayong Hospital along with several markets clustered around the main bus station between Sukhumvit Soi 39 and Soi 41.
Just south of Sukhumvit in the vicinity of south-running Taksin Maharat Road (aka Sukhumvit Soi 64), the far more charming old town spans a couple of kilometres along Yomjinda Road and Chumphon Road. Take Adunthampraphat Road south from Yomjinda to reach Si Mueang Park, a good-size green space once used as an execution ground.
Continue south on Taksin Maharat or Adunthampraphat and after a few kilometres you’ll reach the bustling Pak Nam Sodsai fishing community on either side of the Rayong River. Cross any of a few different bridges to reach Haad Saeng Chan, a long beach divided into numerous different sections by a system of break walls. Liap Chai Fang Road skirts the coast for several kilometres.
Several ATMs and banks are found near Rayong Hospital on Sukhumvit Road. The provincial police station is located just east of Si Mueang Park on Taksin Maharat Road.
By David Luekens. Last updated on 9th October, 2016.