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NORTHERN THAILAND'S HIGHLIGHTS

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By Kanjana

Rayong is a province known for its wide variety of attractions. Located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, it has about 100-kilometer long coast. Along this impressive coastline, there are many beautiful beaches offering relaxation and recreation to visitors. The province also boasts a most popular island on the east coast, Ko Samet, renowned for its white sandy beaches, exotic corals and crystal clear water.

Apart from a variety of fresh seafood, Rayong is also blessed with a great number of fruit orchards of which rambutan, mangosteen and durian are the most famous. Thus, it is a heaven for seafood and fruit lovers. As fruits are abundant from May to July, this is the best time to visit Rayong. You can indulge in as much as fruit as you like.

The history of Rayong dates back to the 10th century when the great Khmer empire ruled the area that is today known as Cambodia and the eastern part of Thailand. The archaeologists made this assumption from the remains of laterite walls found in Ban Khai District of Rayong.

Rayong played a significant role in the history of Thailand during the second fall of Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1767. Phraya Tak (who later became King Taksin) fought his way out of Ayutthaya with only 500 soldiers on January 3, 1767, shortly before Ayutthaya fell on April 7, 1767 to the invading Burmese army. He travelled first to Chon Buri, a town on the Gulf of Thailand’s eastern coast, and then to Rayong. During a short stay there, he built up a navy, and then went on to Chantaburi to assemble forces to fight back against the Burmese.

On November 6, he attacked Ayutthaya with 5,000 soldiers, and regained independence within seven months. Then Phraya Tak crowned himself as King Taksin and set up a new capital in Thonburi, situated on the western side of the Chao Phraya River.

Today, there is a King Taksin Shrine located at Wat Lum Mahachai Chumphon in Muang District of Rayong to commemorate the occasion when he led the Thai army to liberate the country from Burmese occupation.

Beautiful Islands

Ko Samet (Samet Island)

This is a small island in Rayong province, located about 6.5 km off the coast of Ban Phe, Mueang district. It is famous for numerous splendid beaches with white silky sand that have drawn thousands of visitors throughout the year. It has been one of popular tourist destinations for Thais and foreigners alike for a long time. With its close proximity to Bangkok, Ko Samet is a favorite weekend getaway for city people. The island is well-developed to be an excellent tourist destination.

Ko Samet boasts a number of fine white sandy beaches. Some popular ones are Sai Kaew, Wong Duean, Ao Phai, Ao Wai, and Ao Phrao. There are dozens of resorts, guesthouses and bungalows along these beaches, as well as restaurants and bars.

Sai Kaew Beach is generally considered the island's most beautiful due to its long stretch of fine white sand and crystal clear water. With over one kilometre in length, it is also the island's longest and has the greatest number of hotels and resorts.

Song Duean Beach, the second largest beach of Ko Samet, is a 500-meter long half moon shaped beach with the most fantastic sunrise on the island. The sand is as fine as on Sai Kaew and the atmosphere is truly pleasant.

Besides its beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea, Ko Samet offers so many activities that make it a perfect getaway for groups, families, or lovers. The best time of the year to visit is during October – April when seas are calm.

How to get to Ko Samet

Public ferries and speedboats depart for Ko Samet from several piers in Ban Phe. But the largest one is Nuan Thip Pier. Departing every hour from 07:00 to 19:00, the large ferries disembark at Nadan Pier on the north coast of Samet after a 40-minute cruise. The ferries return to Ban Phe every hour from around 08:00 to 18:00. The speedboats can drop you anywhere on Samet within a half hour, with prices depending on which beach you go.

Ko Thalu

This small island is located about 12 km east of Ko Samet. It has a steep high cliff on the west of the island and white sandy beaches on the east and south sides. Its main feature is a large hole at the base of the cliff which seawater can pass through. Due to the stunning coral reefs and marine life, Ko Thalu is a favourite site for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Ko Man Nai

Located approximately 5 km off shore from Laem Mae Phim, this small island has been develo-ped into a Sea Turtle Preservation Sanctuary under the royal initiative of Her Majesty the Queen. The island has one beach, about 100 metres in length, and is only accessible during the daytime. No overnight stays are allowed. The waters in this area have some beautiful coral, ideal for scuba divers and snorkellers.

The nearby attractions are Ko Man Klang and Ko Man Nok which are well-known for their white sandy beaches and some boutique resorts.

Beautiful Beaches along Rayong’s Coastline

There is a long chain of beaches in Rayong stretching from west to east along the province’s coastline with the Gulf of Thailand. Below are famous beaches listed in order of their locations.

Phala Beach

Located in Banchang District, this 6-km long beach is connected to Phayun Beach. It is quite peaceful and ideal for swimming. There is a shady walkway parallel to the beach, flanked by casuarina trees.

Phayun Beach

This beach is connected to Phala Beach, but is much quieter. The beach offers great opportunities for tourists to unwind in tranquility. Hotels and bungalows are available as perfect hideaways.

Saengchan Beach

This is the nearest beach from Rayong city, located about 6 km from the city. It is quite different from many other beaches because the beach’s appearance looks like many small bays connected together. There are stone barriers extending out from the beach to prevent beach erosion and these barriers create small bays along the beach which make it suitable for swimming.

Mae Ram Phueng Beach

This is one of the most famous beaches in Rayong. With 12 kilometres in length, this white sandy beach is the longest in the province. The tall casuarina trees along the beach area make it more shady and attractive.

At the middle of the beach, there is a small public park decorated with large and small white rocks, palm trees and shady seating areas suitable for relaxing and picnic. There are also many food stalls and shops offering fresh seafood dishes.

Suan Son Beach

This 5-km long beach is situated about 2 km east of Ban Phe Market. It is a very nice stretch of beach and suitable for swimming. There are rows of tall casuarina trees lined on both sides of the beach road, providing broad shade and peaceful atmosphere. In fact, the name “Suan Son” means casuarina garden. The large shaded area on this beach makes it an ideal picnic area for local people who love to come here on weekends.

Laem Mae Phim Beach

Laem Mae Phim is a 5-km stretch of beautiful beach in Klaeng District. Backed by casuarina and sea almond trees, the beach slopes gently into the blue sea, making it a safe playground for children. That’s why this beach is perfect for family holidays. It’s full of children on weekends and quieter during weekdays.

Apart from swimming, there are many activities to do here such as riding speed boat or banana boat, kayaking, and cycling on the beach road. Laem Mae Phim has many hotels and resorts as well as a long row of seafood restaurants.

Other Attractions

Khao Chamao – Khao Wong National Park

Khao Chamao - Khao Wong National Park is a relatively small park covering an area of 84 km². The park is situated mainly in Rayong Province with a smaller part in Chantaburi Province. The park is famous for its verdant forests, limestone mountains, caves, and waterfalls. There are two nature trails for tourists to explore the lush forest, one is 2 km long and the other is 3 km. The park provides bungalows and a campground with tent rentals.

Khao Chamao Waterfall is the main attraction of the park where the national park headquarters is located. The waterfall comprises of 7 levels, which are accessible by a 1.7-km walking trail. The second level features the main pond called Wang Matcha which is home to a large number of brook carp.

Klong Pla Kang Waterfall, located 5 km north of the park headquarters, is a 7-tier waterfall worth visiting. There are several ponds suitable for swimming.

Prasae River Mouth

It is an interesting riverfront village in Klaeng District. The community here has recently been developed to attract those who are interested in how locals live. Laem Son Viewpoint is an ideal place to enjoy panoramic sea view under pine trees. Another attraction is HTMS Prasae Memorial. This US frigate was built in 1943 and originally named “USS Gallup". It was decommissioned in 2000 and docked permanen-tly at Prasae River Mouth. Visitors are allowed to tour the ship.

Thung Prong Thong

Thung Prong Thong means golden field in Thai. Located in the area of Prasae River Mouth, this is a 2,400 acre luxuriant mangrove forest. It plays an important part in local ecotourism due to its 2.6-km long wooden walkway. The long pathway allows you to walk through the forest, and see the large mangrove field turn golden when lit with sunshine.

Ban Phe

Located in Muang District, this small town boasts a large market selling fresh and dried seafood. All types of dried seafood can be found here such as shrimp, fish, shellfish and squid. A wide variety of seashell souvenirs are also available at cheap prices. Besides, Ban Phe is a very busy fishing port and also the departure point for the popular Ko Samet island. A number of boat piers are located along its coastline.

Wat Pa Pradu

Established during the Ayutthaya period (1351 – 1767), the temple became a second-grade royal temple in 1990. The highlight is a 12-metre-long reclining Buddha that lies on the left side -- supposedly the only left-leaning reclining Buddha in Thailand. Covered in gold leaf, it is one of Rayong’s most highly revered Buddha images.

Sunthon Phu Memorial Park

This memorial park was built to commemorate one of Thailand’s greatest poets, Sunthon Phu (1786 – 1855), who lived during the early ages of Rattanakosin Era and was later honored by UNESCO as a world’s great poet.

Originally the location of the poet's home, the memorial park is a well maintained memorial and a nice place to visit. His statue is in the centre surrounded by famous characters from his most famous literature, Phra Aphaimani. On June 26 every year, which is Sunthon Phu Day, a celebration is held at the park. The event features performances and puppet shows related to Sunthon Phu's works alongside recitals of his poetry.

Orchard Tours

Fruit orchard is a must-visit place for those who enjoy eating fruits. There are lots of fruit orchards in Rayong open to the public. They range from large commercial style to small family-run type. The best time to visit is from May to July which is the harvest period. You can tour the orchard on foot or in a vehicle which looks like an open sided trolley bus.

A most appealing and fun activity that you can do is picking your own fruits and enjoying the flavors of those freshly-picked ones. After touring around the orchard, you will feel refreshed with a large fresh fruit buffet which offers a wide variety of fruits including rambutan, mangosteen, mango, banana, pineapple, papaya and durian, the most famous and expensive fruit. You can eat them all as much as you like, and also purchase some as memorable souvenirs.

How to get to Rayong

By car
Route 1: Drive along Sukhumvit Road (Highway No.3), passing Chonburi city, Bangsaen, Pattaya, Sattahip and then Rayong. Total distance 220 km.
Route 2: Drive via the Motorway (Highway no.7). When reaching Bang Lamung, turn left to Highway No. 36 and drive on for about 60 km to Rayong. Total distance 180 km.

By bus
Air-conditioned coaches leave the Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) about every 40 minutes, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Minivans are also available. The journey takes about 3 hours.

Tourism Authority of Thailand:
153/4 Mu. 12, Sukhumvit Road, Taphong, Mueang, Rayong 21000. Tel: +66 3865 5420 - 1
E-Mail: tatryong@tat.or.th www.tat-rayong.com



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