A Trip to Chachoengsao

Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan

In my library, I probably have just about every guidebook that has ever been published about Thailand. My rough rule of thumb to judge a good guidebook is to look up my home province of Samut Prakan. If the guidebook has it, then I consider it to be a comprehensive guide. Another place to look up in the index is Chachoengsao, a province about 100 kms east of Bangkok. Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Moon, Footprint, National Geographic and many others don’t feature this province. To the credit of Lonely Planet, they did give it half a page about ten years ago. But, not any longer. Joe Cummings did tell me once that he was under pressure from the publishers to cut out little visited provinces as the guidebook had reached its limit in number of pages.

In the old days, it was the foreign guidebooks that were leading the way in Thailand. However, things have changed. Spurred on by the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s “Unseen Thailand” campaign, Thai people have now taken a greater interest in exploring their own country. As a consequence, over the last year or so, we have started to see some good quality, Thai language, guidebooks. One of them on my desk at the moment is “Unseen Thailand” and this book has several pages of places to see in Chachoengsao. This is where I went today. I strongly suggest, that any guidebook writers reading this, should take time out to visit some of these lesser known provinces.

Life along the Bang Pakong River

For most people, it is easy to reach Chachoengsao from Bangkok by train or bus. However, I drove there via the Bang Na-Trad tollway and the 304 highway. It took just over an hour to travel the 80 kms or so. I was actually going today to visit the Thai Food Festival in Phanom Sarakham District. But, as this wasn’t due to start until late afternoon I decided to visit the township first. The main attraction in Chachoengsao is Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan. This lies alongside the Bang Pakong River. The new ordination hall is massive. It has only recently been completed. The spire is an amazing 84 metres high and is probably the tallest ordination hall in Thailand.

Behind the temple you can join boat tours of the local area. During the weekend and holidays, tours leave hourly and only cost 100 baht for adults and 60 baht for children. The scenery on both sides of the river is very beautiful. During the tour you will be able to witness people going about their normal daily life. You will see humble wooden shacks and exquisite teak houses. You can catch a glimpse of the old city wall and many temples. One of the stops takes you to the hundred year old Ban Mai Market and the Chinese temple at Wat Leng Hok Yee.

Luang Pho Sothon

Back at Wat Sothon, I went inside the newly opened ordination hall to pay respect to the sacred image of Luang Pho Sothon. You are not actually allowed to take a photo anymore, but I managed to take this one on my previous visit while construction was still going on. Like other important and royal temples, you need to cover up if you are wearing sleeveless shirts. A gown is provided free of charge. There is an interesting legend behind Luang Pho Sothon. Apparently, he was one of three brothers who were Buddha images. During one of the conflicts, towards the end of the Ayutthaya period, the three brothers just got up one day and walked down to the river. The strong current took them downstream. One of them ended up at Samut Songkram. Another ended up in Samut Prakan on my doorstep. The third arrived in Chachoengsao.

There is a lot more to see in this area but I didn’t have enough time today. Maybe next time. I will share my photos with you of the Food Festival another day.

More pictures can be found at our sister site: www.thaibuddhist.com

8 responses to “A Trip to Chachoengsao

  1. Richard, With all due respect to those Thais that want to visit somewhere in their own country without being swamped by coachloads of Farangs, could you let us know about a few more places the main guide books leave out, please?

  2. ^ I agree. I’d like to know about more places where there are less farang/tourists, no disrespect to them, of course. But, thinking about it, if it were to be said here, there’d still be many tourists going there once they know? Hmm…

  3. Jen -I think there would be some tourists that went to such “new” places -but in most cases they would only go if tours were organised to take them there with a guide by Thai companies-so unless this happened, maybe the situation would not be so bad?

  4. There are many, many places in Thailand where tourists (foreign ones) don’t go but these places are not as nice as those that are mentioned in the tour books that you get.

    Old temples with old Buddha images are found pretty much every where.

    For example, I went bac this past June and went to visit a small temple where the structure that houses the Buddha image is only about 20 feet x 60 feet. But the place was very old (about 400 yrs) and the structure was basically covered and held by old trees. Pretty amazine site to see.

    Places like these are not gonna be found in any books but only be told to you by words of mouths.

    It lacks even Thai tourists (only about 50 or so people were there that day I went) but it doesn’t make it any less interesting to visit. 😎

  5. Chachoengsao sounds interesting…. Looking forward for your ‘food festival’ blog.

  6. richard,

    i will be on bangkok this september 1 and would like to see Chachoengsao. will it not be too much if i ask you to send me an e mail on how to be able to go to that place, what is the best transportation to take (bus or train), what time of the day is the best to go, and what are the places to see. is one day enough? i need to go back to bangkok though after a day.

    thanks a lot!


  7. Donna Boonchit

    Hi there. i just discovered your site today. thanks so much for mentioning cha choeng sao. my brother lives there. i am currently living in the states but visit my family in thailand at least twice a year. the rest of my family lives in the isan part of thailand in a small village called nongalern. i mentioned to my friends here in the states (farang and thai alike) cha choeng sao and they thought i made it up! i sent a link to your site to many of my friends. thanks so much!

  8. Karel Leferink

    As a Buddhist i had to visited Wat Sothon for the 3th time. It is THE! temple of Thailand for locals.
    You certainly have to search if you don’t rent a Thai driver, but everybody knows and can’t tell.
    And it is not commercial?, NO comment from me!.
    The new temple is only open on saterdays and sundays, i saw that last month on my visit.