“Muang Chan”, the nickname for Chanthaburi, is about 330 kilometers south-east of Bangkok. It is famous for its gem and jewellery trading market which is the largest in the country. The province is also rich in natural resources with beautiful beaches, waterfalls, coral reefs and mountain tops. However, what draws me most to this area is the historical record. King Thaksin rallied the troops here after the fall of Ayutthaya and the French occupied the town for about 11 years after a territorial dispute.
The oldest part of the city is along the riverfront. Walking down these narrow lanes is not only like walking back in time but it also feels that you are being transported to another country. Many of the buildings, which are over one hundred years old, are in a dilapidated state. Others have unfortunately been pulled down and replaced with concrete structures.
But, it is not too late for them to do anything. Local people have banded together to help preserver their heritage. They are being supported by the local government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) who preparing to turn these winding lanes into walking streets and the next tourist attraction for the city.
If you are planning on visiting Chanthaburi, or are passing through to head to Koh Chang in Trad, then make sure you take time to explore the old part of the city. More tourist information for this province at our ThailandGuidebook.com.
As many of us know already, Thailand is mainly a Buddhist country with other religions being a small minority. However, there are some areas where you can find large communities of Christians and Muslims. In Chanthaburi Province, Christians make up 4.14% of the population. Their largest place of worship is the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception alongside the Chanthaburi River in the town. This Gothic styled cathedral is regarded as the most beautiful cathedral in Thailand. It was originally built back in 1711 on the west bank of the river by Vietnamese Christians. It was then moved to the present site in 1834. At the start of the 20th Century a more permanet structure was built and this is the one that we can see today.
At present they are renovating the cathedral. During the Second world War, the roof structure was removed in order not to be made a target for bombers. As you can see from these pictures, they are now putting back the twin 17 meter high spires for the first time. By my reckoning, this would make the cathedral about 37 meters high. They are planning to raise the spires in August and then have the renovation completed by the end of 2009. We went inside the impressive building to take a look but there was still a lot to do. However, the beautiful stained glass windows of Christian saints were all in place as was the principle statue of the Virgin Mary.
Christianity was first introduced to Thailand by European missionaries in the 16th Century. The Diocese of Chanthaburi was established by Pope Paul VI on 18 December 1965. It includes eight provinces in eastern Thailand. According to the latest statistics released in 2007, there are 38,918 baptised Catholics in this region. The US State Department in 2006 estimated that there were 438,600 Christians in the whole of the country. In addition, there are quite a few famous catholic schools, such as Assumption. However, you don’t have to be a Christian to attend these schools.
You can find out more information about Chanthaburi Province at our ThailandGuidebook.com website. Many thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for inviting www.thai-blogs.com on a four day media trip to this province. Visit the Paknam Web Forums at ThailandQA.com for pictures of the highlights of this trip.
When you are travelling it is not always a good idea to follow too closely your guidebooks. If you have the time, then explore the area and you might find some hidden gems. The other day I was happy to stumble across a Buddhist Park at Wat Chak Yai in Laem Singh District of Chanthaburi Province. You won’t find it in any guidebooks but it turned out to be the highlight of all the temples I had seen that day.
The Buddhist Park houses literally hundreds of sculptures depicting the life and stories of the Lord Buddha. A lot of time and effort has been put into making these lifelike statues. In the scene depicted in this first picture, you can see a total of 1,250 monks that came together for the final sermon of the Lord Buddha before he passed into Nirvana. This day is celebrated as Markha Bucha Day in the Buddhist calendar.
The temple was founded by Phra Ajarn Maha Bua in 1955 after some followers donated some land for him. Originally he had no intention to build temple buildings and only built a basic kuti for the monks to live in which was made from palm leaves. Ten years later, Phra Ajarn Thammaratt came to stay for one night during his journey across the country. But, he had a vision that told him that he should stay at this temple where in the future there will be many more Buddha images than monks. He did stay and later became the abbot.
The monks never requested anyone to build Buddha images here. The tradition was started by the district chief who had a bad dream that he would lose his limbs. In order to make merit he paid for a large Buddha in the blessing posture which represents Monday the day he was born. Other people later then paid for Buddha images to illustrate either different postures or episodes in the Buddha’s life. Now there are hundreds of such statues spread around the 20 acre park. If you are interested in Buddhism and you are in the area then make an effort to come and visit this fascinating Buddhist park. More information about Chanthaburi Province can be found at ThailandGuidebook.com.
During the Khao Phansa period this week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) are helping to promote the event “Making Merit at Four Temples” in Chanthaburi Province. These temples are not necessarily the most sacred of the temples however they have been picked as they represent different architectural styles and Buddhism sects. Even if you don’t have time to come to Chanthaburi this week, it is worth making a note of these temples for the next time you visit this Eastern province.
The first temple is Wat Khao Sukim in Amphoe Thamai. This is a Thai Buddhist temple of the Theravada sect.
Built in 1966, it houses a large collection of religious items and valuable antiques donated by the public. On display are wax sculptures of over twenty Buddhist monks highly revered by the public. They are in the process of building a multi spire golden chedi which from the artist impressions will look very stunning.
The second temple is Wat Khetnaboonyaram in Amphoe Muang. This is a Vietnamese/Chinese Buddhist temple.
The third temple is Wat Mai in Amphoe Muang. It is a Thai Buddhist temple of the Mahayana sect.
The fourth and final temple is Wat Mungkorn Bupparam in Amphoe Laem Singh. It is a Chinese Buddhist temple of the Mahayana sect.
Visit our ThailandQA Forums for highlight pictures of my trip to Chanthaburi with the TAT. I wish to thank the TAT for inviting thai-blogs for a four day media trip of the province and being such kind hosts.