A Travel Guide to Ratchaburi, Central Thailand
A day of exploring art and nature in Ratchaburi town.
Ratchaburi Town has long been overshadowed by the province’s big tourist attractions such as Damnoen Saduak floating market, Chetsamian Market and, of course, the very popular Suan Pueng district at the foot of the mountains near the border with Myanmar. But now the city center is buzzing with a nascent art scene to go with the nearby natural beauty and delicious food.
Nature in Town
Ratchaburi city center is surrounded by stunning limestone mountains that appear to rise out of nowhere, meaning a fresh breath of nature is just 15 minutes away. Start at Khao Ngu Park, with its picturesque lakes and staggering mountain views. The defining sight here is the giant Buddha image sculpted into the eastern cliff face. This mountain, which was a mine until 1987, is an important religious site, home to four caves which house carved Buddha images. Archeologists believe that these images can be traced back as far as the 13th century in the Buddhist calendar (around 700 AD) to the era of the ancient kingdom of Tawarawadee. Beware, though, a giant troop of monkeys roam the area, too. Another must-visit is Khao Kanchan, which offers a panoramic view of Ratchaburi. At 141 meters, it’s the highest mountain in the province and it’s most idyllic at sunrise and sunset. Here, there’s also a shrine which houses a beautiful Buddha image called Praputtanirokantaraichaiwat Chaturatit, or Pra Si Mummueng, one of four given by King Rama IX to four provinces in four directions: Lampang (north), Saraburi (east), Pattalung (south) and Ratchaburi (west).
Arts and History
You often see old buildings transformed into museums but Ratchaburi National Museum (Woradej Rd., open Wed-Sun 8am-4pm) is a special case, a pink palace standing out in the center of town. The one-story venue was built in 1922 as a city hall but was turned into a museum in 1991 and heritage listed by the Fine Arts Department. Inside are five exhibitions which recount the geography, history and archeology of Ratchaburi. Right next door is another beautiful architectural sight, a yellow building built in 1873 to be the headquarters and residence of the King’s regent in Ratchaburi. Today it’s part of the museum as a temporary exhibition space. Beside it is d Kunst Gallery (323 Woradej Rd., open daily 10am-7pm), founded by Silpathorn ceramic artist Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, who transformed the century-old wooden house into a gallery dedicated to contemporary arts. The second and third floors house a café and an exhibition space. On the Mae Klong riverside of the gallery you’ll find the concrete embankment covered with graffiti from by Bangkok street artists like Alex Face, P7 and Mamafaka. If you want an even wider space in which to appreciate your art, head to Wasinburee’s Tao Hong Tai Ceramics factory, a giant art playground where visitors can enjoy coffee in the garden among all sorts of weird and wonderful objects, including a giant sculpture of Lolay-Thaweesak Srithongdee’s iconic and alien-like “Dollar.”
Ratchaburi is famous for its rich variety of food and the city center delivers treats at nearly every turn. Start with the yummy tom yam noodles at Guaytiew Khai Khun Mam (114/10 Ratyindee Rd. [next to Prompaet Hospital], 081-644-5406, open daily 7am-5pm). For more than 50 years, the place has retained a strong reputation for its bowls of great tasting noodles with soft boiled egg. On top of their signature guaytiew khai, they also offer delicious treats like pork satay and old-school kao gaeng (prepared food) options like moo ruan (soft fried pork), which is cooked in an aromatic local soy sauce. Come evening time, you shouldn’t miss a stroll around Sanamya Market on Woradej Road, your best bet for finding delicious street eats. Right next to the market’s giant clock tower is Khao Tom Sui Hor (Hia To) (open daily 4:30pm-1am), a 40-year-old stall that sells yummy tam-sang (made to order) dishes. Famous dishes include kha gai super (braised chicken legs in spicy soup), steamed seabass in spicy lime sauce and stir-fried ginseng leaves in oyster sauce, which is popular in the Ratchaburi area. As for dessert, head to Hia To’s neighbor, Den Thai Ice-Cream (open daily 2pm-2am, 086-814-8916). Apart from its deliciously creamy coconut ice cream, the stall is also famous for such offerings as its ice cream shake with green soda, ice cream with corn soup and, our favorite, ice cream filled with egg yolk that explodes like lava when you cut it by a spoon. The market is jam-packed with many tasty treats made with time-tested recipes, so make sure you set aside plenty of time to wander around.
How to get there
By car: The trip takes about two hours. Take Rama II Road (Highway 35) until you reach Petkasem Road (Highway No.4) then turn right and travel a further 30 minutes.
By train: 12 trains depart daily for Ratchaburi from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station from 9:20am to 10:50pm. For more information, call 1690 or visit www.railway.co.th
By bus: Buses depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal from 5am to 7pm.
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