20 July 2018 | Ashlea Wheeler
When I discovered that I’d been chosen as one of the winners for the Tourism Authority of Thailand Bloggers Competition in 2018, I was stoked.
A few months back, I’d filled out the entry form and written a short story on my experience in Chiang Mai for the blogging trip competition entry. The effort I’d put into my story had paid off – I was picked as one of the 6 winners who would be sent on a 6-day trip to Thailand’s east.
The itinerary included flights to Bangkok, then a tour along the coastline through the provinces of Rayong, Chanthaburi, and Trat. Having been to Thailand only once before, I was beyond excited to see some areas of the country that were new to me.
On my previous trip to Thailand I’d visited fairly touristy areas where most people spoke some English, and I had really enjoyed spending time in those places, but the east was different… I was really surprised with its authenticity.
Here, you could see local farmers and fisherman going about their daily business along tons of spectacular natural scenery and amazing food. The tourists in this part of the country were not just from western countries but from nearby parts of Thailand and southeast Asia as well. I could find no other way to describe it except ‘the real Thailand’ – it was the perfect place for a true Thailand experience.
I’ve been posting photos of my adventures over on Instagram, but for a more comprehensive summary – here are the photos and highlights from my time in eastern Thailand!
Skipping through a fruit farm in Rayong
Suphattra Land Fruit Farm in Rayong Province grows a large selection of Thailand’s tropical fruits. I never expected a fruit farm to be so much fun! It was fascinating to watch the farm workers picking ripe fruit from the trees, and of course we got to sample them all afterwards (my favourite were the Rambutan – and odd looking ball with tentacles that tasted sort of like a lychee!).
The farm also had hands-down the best Papaya Salad that I’ve ever had (made with local ingredients and prepared right in front of me) and it had a bee farm where we could taste honey produced on site. Bus tours of the farm are available in English.
Visiting a fishing community in Rayong
The Ban Phe fishing community in Rayong is known for its seafood, and even though I’m vegetarian, I still enjoyed visiting this place. It was fascinating to watch the local fishermen at Sri Ban Phe Pier bring in their nets with fish, lobster, and crabs.
Feeding turtles at a sea life discovery centre
I didn’t really know what to expect from the Kung Krabaen Bay Royal Development Study Centre, but it turned out to be an eco-treasure. They had a number of marine animals (like sea turtles!) that were recovering from injuries and would be cared for until they’re ready to be released back into the wild. There were also sharks and gropers that we could feed, and an oyster farm where we helped make the strings of concrete beads that are then hung in the water for oysters to grow on.
While you’re in the area, stay nearby at Sand Dunes Chaolao Resort for an amazing beach sunset!
Exploring the riverside community in Chanthaburi
I never expected to see street art in eastern Thailand! The Chanthaboon riverside community along Sukhaphiban Road in Chanthaburi has become more colourful in recent years, with local artists decorating the old brick and concrete walls with murals. The historic buildings and numerous domesticated animals along this road were totally adorable. It’s also worth checking out the nearby gems market, as the area around Si Chan Road is Thailand’s biggest gems trade centre.
If you’re planning a visit, stay here at the Tamajun Hotel. This budget hotel has cosy rooms each with a gorgeous Thai charm, and the downstairs restaurant is absolutely lovely with tables on the balcony looking out over the river.
Visiting a catholic cathedral in Chanthaburi
Even though I’m not religious, I still enjoy seeing sacred sites when I travel. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Chanthaburi was truly interesting – the church was built in the early 1900s during the French occupation (replacing an older cathedral that had stood in the same spot for 300 years) with stunning Gothic-style architecture. I loved the pale pink arches on the interior, but the real centerpiece is a statue of the Virgin Mary which is covered in precious gemstones.
Venturing into a mangrove forest near Trat
The Ban Tha Ranae mangrove forest was like something out of a fairytale. This boat tour was run by a group of locals who had organised the activity to bring tourism into the community. Our boats went along a river lined with fishing villages and through a swamp where we spotted birdlife like Herons, Kingfishers, and Hawks.
Our destination was a magical mangrove forest. As we stepped over the tree roots, we found this giant swing along with a ‘natural’ bowling alley – the aisle and pins were made of wood from the forest and we used a native fruit (which was sort of like a coconut) as a bowling ball! After the boat tour, we got to eat tasty local treats like deep fried mangrove leaf.
Stopping in at Laem Ngop harbour in Trat
The above TRAT sign can be found at old Laem Ngop Harbour, which is near to the terminal where ferries depart from the mainland for Koh Chang (a popular island just off the coast of eastern Thailand). Around here, you’ll also find an adorable red and white striped lighthouse. If you’re heading to Koh Chang, definitely stop in here on the way!
Eating at a restaurant surrounded by hawks
The peaceful Khon Plat Thin Restaurant, which sits in the countryside near Trat, sits on a small but pretty lake. There are people that feed the fish in the lake, and the local hawks must have heard about the free food – now there are hundreds of them! They all swoop down and pick up the fish food when it gets thrown off the boat. Also, the restaurant makes a phenomenal meal – I had the best veggie stir fry of my trip there.
Staying at Mango beach resort near Trat
We spent our last night of the trip at Mango Beach Resort, very near to the border of Cambodia. It was so beautiful here but also incredibly quiet – I couldn’t believe that more tourists didn’t know about this place! The resort itself was stunning, with an infinity pool looking out towards the ocean and the individual bungalows facing a common garden. This would be the perfect place to stop if you are planning to road trip between Thailand and Cambodia.
The blog was first posted by the author, Ashlea Wheeler, on A Globe Well Travelled blog (to see the original post, click here)
Ashlea Wheeler: A freelancer in social media marketing and travel blogger who loves photography and exploring the world. And also being super-organised, having a stationery addiction, and being a tad obsessed with maps.