Rayong may be famous for its succulent fruit - particularly that of the pineapple, rambutan, mangosteen,
but it's better known by for its bronze statue of Thailand's most respected poet Sunthorn Phu. (more about this later)
At the heart of the busy market town there is an attractive local tourism office where you can acquire all sorts of essential information regarding the whole of the east coast of Thailand as well as fact files as far as the Cambodian border.
However, you have to take into consideration that the main attractions are not so much in the town itself but rather outside of town. Possibly one of the nicest places to seek a little solace is along its 100 kilometre coastline where there are several pristine, but quiet beaches and ten islands teeming with marine life.
If you make a right turn from the center of town and travel about 20 kilometres (12 miles) past Rayong, you will come to a turn off, which will then take you to the slightly old, but busy and prosperous fishing village of Ban Pha on the coast.
The village occupies land between the beach and the estuary. Once there you'll most certainly come across several women dressed in somewhat weathered black shirts, sarongs and straw hats covering the ground with tangerine coloured shrimp in order for them to dry out in the tropical sun, all to familiar in Thailand.
As you travel even further east from the fishing port of Ban Phe on the coastal road, you will pass a number of fishmongers and believe it or not, just as many barber shops. (Now could be a good time to have your hair cut) That is before entering the kilometre-long pine forest of Ban Pha Phrae National Park.
This national park displays a rather refreshing change of scenery from the scrub-land preceding it and is a popular picnicking spot for locals as well as Thai tourists.
Incidentally, there is also a scenic location a short distance southwest of Ban Phe where you can enjoy both waterfalls and sunset viewpoints at Khao Laem Ya, an area covered in scrub forest. From the cape you will have breathtaking views across not only Mae Ramphueng Beach but also Koh Samet Island.
Each year in May fruit orchards deliver an amazing harvest, making the province famous for its fruit festivals. The venue of the main festival switches between the Mueang and Klaeng District of. It's a wonderful time for you to enjoy watching the floats decorated with fruit, parade through town. Not only that, there are also fruit and beauty contests as well as a fruit and seafood fair.
Seafood products such as a shrimp paste known as Nam Phrik Kapi and a fish sauce known as Nam Pla - both of which is the source of salt in the Thai diet, and are sold at market stalls alongside dried seafood and Thai condiments known as Sine Qua Non as well as all the tropical fruits of the region.
Incidentally Nam Pla is made from a small silver fish found in the Gulf of Thailand. The fish are then allowed to decompose for up to seven months in order for them to produce a rather ruddy liquid which is then filtered and promptly bottled
The first beach you reach east of Ban Pha is at Suan Wang Kaew which in itself has an appearance of a hilly landscaped garden that stretches all the way to the shore. It's a favourite Thai picnic spot known as the beach park or pine park and is complimented with a long stretch of crystal white sandy beachfront. The few restaurants jutting out to sea serve superb seafood and provide you with some excellent views.
Further up is Laem Mae Phim, a popular Thai beach resort where some great seafood restaurants line the top end of the beach. The area is safe for swimming with water sports such as wave riding on banana boats and inner tubes on offer.
This stretch of coast has seen little development and is absent of vendors selling cheap goods, though there are some interesting pottery items available. It's not unusual to have almost the whole beach to yourself during the week.
Koh Samet is famous among the locals as the setting for an epic story of their most respected poets, Sunthorn Phu. On Hat Sai Kaeo known as the glass sand beach, the longest and liveliest on the island, you will find the statue of prince Phra Arpaimanee, on which the epic tale Sunthorn Phu was said to have written.
It was also his first poem. Phra Arpaimanee was inspired by the surroundings of Koh Samet then known as Koh Kaew Pisadan where Sunthorn Phu finally settled.
The poem tells the story of the prince who, after travelling around Thailand with his flute, was later exiled to an underwater kingdom ruled by a ravenous giantess who was madly in love with him. After seeing the giantess bite the head off a buffalo, the prince manages to escape to Koh Samet with the help of a mermaid.
the giantess follows the couple, but is defeated when the prince plays
his magic flute, sending her to sleep. Upon escaping the prince is
subsequently betrothed to a beautiful princess. They get married and
lived happily ever after with a son, Husakorn, who had the body of a
horse and the head of a dragon.
Five kilometres from Laem Mae Phim Beach there is a magnificent monument built to commemorate Sunthon Phu who had lived in Klaeng northeast of Rayong during the early Rattanakosin era two centuries ago.
You'll find the bronze statue of the poet at the site as well as bronze statues of a few of his literary characters, especially those from the famous Phra Arpaimanee poem. Lovers of poetry in particular will surely appreciate their time spent here.
The streets of Klaeng are lined with several appealing, but old-style wooden Thai houses, but its main attraction is the imposing Wat Saranat Thammaram temple located at the market. If you should be visiting the town of Chanthaburi on your way to
Ko Chang Island
you can go directly from Chon Buri via Klaeng.
Possibly the best way to get to Rayong from Bangkok 220 kilometres (140 miles) away, is to travel by car. The most popular route would be to start your journey from Bangna-Trat Road (Highway 34) via Bang Phli and Bang Bo District in the Samut Prakan Province and then along highway 3 past the town of Chon Buri and the popular resort towns of Pattaya and Jomtien.
The trip should not take you more than about three hours at a comfortable speed - That is, of course, outside rush hour traffic.
It is also possible to travel on the motorway starting from Phatthanakarn Road in the Prawet District of Bangkok towards the town of Si Racha. Then just before Pattaya, switch over to Highway 36 and travel along this route for approximately 50 kilometres before reaching your destination.
Choosing to go by taxi to Rayong will set you back around 3,500 Baht to 4,500 Baht depending on your generosity.
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