For foreign travellers, Phetchaburi may not sound familiar. But the province is only 168 kilometers west of Bangkok, and one of the destinations that caters for everyone’s needs, boasting abundant rich nature, historical architecture, and eco-tourism homestays. It is also a place where the late King Rama IX left his final legacy to the country.
Along the shoreline of the Gulf of Thailand
Our three-day, two-night visit to Phetchaburi started by driving to Samut Songkram, then taking the road along the western Seaboard of Thailand for about 82 kilometers to Cha-Am district. We drove across Bang Tabun bridge, which is a perfect spot to see the sunrise and how the seamen live and work.
Along the roadside, after crossing the bridge, is the largest sea salt farming area in Thailand. The best chance to catch the view of white sea salt farms and the local farmers’ way of life is during the end of November to May.
Then we headed to Wat Nok Pak Talay, famous for its temple in the shape of big, peculiar yellow barque named “Petra Nippanang”. Built to a combination of Thai and Chinese craftmanship, the barge temple has a beautiful lacquered wall pasted with gold leaf paintings.
On the road to Chao Samran beach, you can stop at The Model of the Sea Farm Project, a royalty-initiated project by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother of Thailand. It is an integrated aquaculture marine farm with a zero-waste water circulation system. There are also model ponds for raising many kinds of aquatic animals. Another very interesting feature is the delicious grape-like seaweed which does not really look like seaweed at all.
Laem Phak Bia Environmental Study and Development Project is another royal initiative worth visiting. Thirty years ago, the project was one of the first development projects by His Majesty King Rama IX, and is now a popular birdwatching spot; many rare types of both local and migratory birds are found here. When I was there, little cormorants and a large herd of pelicans were sitting leisurely on the water.
Chao Samran, Puek Tian, and Cha-Am Beach are three well-known beaches in Phetchaburi with their own characteristics. Chao Samran is a place where Bruda whale sightings are reported, while Cha-Am is best for swimming and sea activities.
Phetchaburi City: Art, Culture, and Hipster
Phetchaburi is a place where roots of beautiful ancient architecture from the Ayutthaya period still remain.
Muang Phet Riverside Market is an area where the old and the new blend harmoniously. If you have time, visit the popular and vibrant Street Art Riverside Community Alley. The alley’s colorful walls were created by local artists, and is a great place to check-in and take pictures, strolling, and tasting varieties of local food.
From the market, we headed to “Phranakhon Khiri” or “Khao Wang”. Traveling to Khao Wang can either be by electrical tram or on foot. Phra Nakorn Kiri has palaces, residences, and also Wat Phra Kaew Noi temple, built in the reign of King Rama IV. The best time to visit is between 9 and 10 am when it is not too hot.
The Great Mountain and the Mist
We drove through the Tenasserim Range to savor the scent of rain and fresh air in Kaeng Krachan National Park, the largest national park in Thailand. The best viewing spot to see the beautiful sea of fog is 50 kilometers from the Park office. For bird watchers, Camp Ban Krang is the place. Hornbills and southern lemurs can be seen here, indicating that the bio-diversity is still very much intact.
Chang Hua Mun Project is the last royal initiative of King Rama IX, where His Majesty used his own assets to buy land from local people and transform it into a model agricultural project. You can learn about varieties of local plants, such as rose apple, pineapple, and rubber. Don’t miss shopping for fresh milk, and sample the milk ice-cream.
Banrai Sookjai Tham is an organic farm stay in the midst of nature. At this farm, organic farming and mixed corps are grown according to principles based on King Rama IX’s Sufficiency Agriculture Guidelines. Enjoy your stroll through the herb and vegetable gardens, and collect some for cooking.
Everybody loves looking at the stars, and stargazers will love this place. As you look up into the pitch-black sky, fireflies hover around you. One way to measure the air quality is by looking for small animals and insects like fireflies. Where the fireflies are, there is fresh air.
We were very impressed with Phetchaburi, from the beaches to the mountains. What we experienced during three days and two nights is not just how soothing and refreshing Mother Nature is, but that happiness can often be found in small, simple things.