Thursday, December 26, 2013

Chanthaburi, Thailand

Chanthaburi is located 280 kilometers southwest of Bangkok and is considered the cutting and treatment center of colored gemstones in Thailand. We went there specifically for that but Chanthaburi has so much more to offer! The province is filled with tranquil beaches, surreal parks, quaint orchards, mountains and waterfalls, and interesting temples and shrines.

We lodged ourselves at Maldives Beach Resort with amenities including a pool and a private beach.
Pool Side. Looks enticing!
Maldives Beach Resort has a Spacious Area.
Private Beach. In the morning you can see fishermen cathing fishes and locals picking clams by the beach.
We hired the hotel car and first thing we toured was the shark feeding station at Khung Krabaen. Apart from a couple of leopard sharks, you can also feed sea turtles and some massive fishes.
Shark Feeding. Fishes are available per pail at the shark feeding station.
Leopard Shark.  Get up close with leopard sharks.

After the shark feeding, we went to Khung Krabaen Mangrove Park. This place is very dramatic! Wooden pathways in a vast land area filled with mangroves, I could just imagine doing picnics or reading a book in solitude.
Khung Krabaen Mangrove Park. The wooden pathways are endless!
Viewing Deck. Get a fantastic view of Khung Krabaen Bay and the Mangrove Forest at the viewing deck.

Khung Krabaen Bay. Peace and beauty together.
View from the Deck.
After the Mangrove Park, we went to the Khung Krabaen Aquarium. It is very simple but houses the local sea life at Khung Krabaen. You will be able to sea some sharks, apart from fishes.
The Aquarium.
Puffer fish Saying Hello!
Local Fruits Being Sold Outside The Aquarium.
We've has our fix of nature so we saw a bit of the area's culture. Off we went to Wat Khao Sukim, a Buddhist Temple. The tram pathway is decorated with dragons with prominest claws. It is also filled with temple possessions such as antique vases and statues. There were also a lot of life-like wax figures of departed monks that will give Madame Tussauds a run for her money. :)
Upward Tram. Wat Khao Sukim is at a hill so you need to ride the tram to go to the temple.
Temple Possessions. The temple houses antiques and religious items.
Wax Figures. Uber life-like! I had to look twice to see if they are live meditating monks! :)
From the Bay area, we went to Muang on our way to the city center. Our Next stop was the Shrine of King Taksin the Great. King Taksin restored independence to Thailand and he is honored in the shrine where his statue rests.
Shrine of King Taksin the Great. The shrine symbolizes the binding of the people of Chanthaburi to King Taksin.

Shrine of the City Guardian Spirit. More known as the City Pillar Shrine, this stands near the Shrine of King Taksin the Great.
Still at Muang, Mary Immaculate Conception Catholic Church has become an attaction as Catholic Churches are a rarity in Thailand. But apart from being that, this church is decorated inside out with Gothic Architecture of over 100 years old with antique mirrors and stained glass.
Mary Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
After the tour, we went and spent the night at the city center for the weekend, where gem trading happens at Silom Road. The trading techniques and negotiations have been the way they are for years so it was a very unique experience!
Chanthaburi Gems and Jewelry Center. Gem-trading on regular days happens here except weekends, where traditional trading happens on the street of Si Chan.
At Si Chan Road, you will see traders sorting out gemstones, mostly rubies and sapphires. When trading gemstones, one can get a broker. You may indicate before trading the type of gemstone you are looking for. I was up for anything so I was shown all sorts of gemstones from USD1 amethysts to a USD5,000 untreated ruby. :) The shops can also certify the quality of the gemstone, and can tell you if the rubies and sapphires are synthetic, treated, or natural.
I See Blue. A gem inspector sorting out sapphires.
Gem Trading on Si Chan Road. Buyers sit on chairs with tables in front of them, then gets a brokers and voila! - sellers approach you with different gemstones with different qualities from different origins.
The Loot. After trading and going through gem stores, I got a huge yellow-green sapphire cabochon, fantastic tourmalines, water opals, a star ruby, nicely colored tsavorites, and a quartz with a sliver of silver inside.

Travel Time       :     Approx. 3.5 hours by direct flight from Manila to Bangkok.
                                From Bangkok to Chanthaburi is 4 hours by bus. You can
                                ride at Sukhumwit of Mo Chit 2 terminals. Please           
                                check for 
                                further details.

Type of Travel    :    RELAXED (Nice and Comfy) 
                                - Activities are available for everyone - Nature Activities,
                                  Adventure Activities, Cultural Activities, etc.
                                - Public transport is infrequent to tour the area 
                                  especially the outskirts of town. It is better to rent
                                  a car, a cab, or have hotel transport.
                                - Accommodation is available both for luxury and 
                                  budget-concious travelers.

                                - If you want a beach almost to yourself, this province
                                  offers just that, even on holidays as Chanthaburi 
                                  is mostly publicized as a gem trading center rather
                                  than a beach location. The beaches aren't bad at all! 

                                - Prices are generally very affordable in Thailand.

                                 - When you go to Thai provinces, language can be a
                                   barrier. Bring a translation book or have 
                                   your google translate ready!

                                - Gemstone Trading is cheaper compared to Bangkok
                                  although very high-value items may be traded 
                                  directly in Bangkok.

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