Ratchaburi: Far more than earthen jars

May 20, 2015 by  
Filed under THAINESS

BANGKOK, 20 May 2015: If you are a traveller who collects earthen jars then go no further than Ratchaburi province, 100 km southwest of Bangkok It’s packed with jars; all shapes and sizes as well as degrees in pedigree. There are downsides to collecting jars. They break in transit or they break the bank in cargo fees. But they are a colourful backdrop at the side of roads and shopfronts and great for photo opportunities.

Bangkok residents have no issue with extra weigh. Ratchaburi is a short 100 km commute by car on a broad highway that takes travellers to Gulf of Thailand resorts such as Cha-am and Hua Hin.

Rachaburi is a place to stop for refreshment; lots of tasty and very spicy Thai food served at riverside restaurants, some of them converted rice barges gently swaying on the tidal river flows.

But it has much more to fascinate visitors such as its natural beauty, caves, a floating market, temples, and its earthen jars.

2.1  History says people have inhabited this town for 1,000 years mainly because it nestles on the Mae Klong River and is blessed with fertile land, good for a rice crop and fruit orchards.

To the northeast Bangkok is less than 100 km away but in the future it is very possible the 60 km distance to the border with Myanmar in the west could also be significant as new ways to travel to and through Myanmar begin to open up. But that is in the future and for now the Tanaosi Mountain Range to the west makes for a formidable barrier.

While Ratchaburi abounds in natural attractions and historical sites, but its signature feature for tourists is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, a ‘must-see’ destination visited by a large percentage of tourists who spending time in Bangkok.

2.2Vendors in the market sell their wares by paddling boats along a maze of canals. Every morning, hundreds of boats crowd canal banks. For a few hundred baht visitors can hire their own boats and explore the canals, while shopping for everything from vegetables and fruits to freshly-cooked noodle and souvenirs.

A pre-dawn start is required as the market closes by mid-morning when the sun strikes the canopy of colourful umbrellas raised to protect the boats, produce and owners.

Ratchaburi is also a site for rock climbing in the Khao Ngu Rock Park a former mining site. Climbs are supervised by experts, but this sport is for those with a strong head for heights and immaculate balance.

After visiting Damnoen Saduak floating market tour groups often head for Suan Phueng district with its numerous themed resorts and sheep farms.

But you are never far from the earthen jars theme in this province. They are definitely the signature product that distinguishes the province from others, so much so it hosts its very own festival “Visit Ratchaburi, the City of Water Jars” annually in March or April. Usually, the festival site is around the Ratchaburi Town Hall.

Jar lovers will be amazed by the variety, designs and volume of jars that can be packed into a single street, plus the festival is a potpourri of activities such as cultural performances, a Muay Thai show, food fair and a bazaar of local handicrafts and products.

What’s worth seeing

Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat

An ancient monastery located in Amphoe Muang, it has a prang constructed during the prosperous Khmer era linked to the Suwannaphum Kingdom.

Ratchaburi National Museum is located in the town itself and houses ancient exhibits such as skeletons of ancient people and household implements from excavations in the area.

Khao Wang is a small 44 metre high hill located 2 km west of town. King Rama V commissioned the construction of a palace on this hill in 1887. Later in the seventh reign, King Rama VII donated the palace to a monastery called Wat Khao Wang.

Khao Kaen Chan hill is a little higher at 141 metres. There is a road to its peak where a Vihara housing the Phra Phuttha Nirarokhantarai Chaiwat Chaturathit Buddha image is located.

2.3Tham Khao Bin cave is located 22 km from town in the Khao Bin Range. The cave has a height of 200 metres. There are stalactites and stalagmites looking like eagles spreading their wings; a configuration that inspired the name Tham Khao Bin.

Tham Chomphon Arboretum is located in the vicinity of Amphoe Chom Bung, 30 km west of the provincial town. The 191-metre high cave was originally called Tham Mutchalin. In 1895, King Chulachomklao made a royal visit and gave it a new name, “Tham Chomphon”. There are beautiful stalactites and stalagmites in the cave, which also houses a medium sized Reclining Buddha. In front of Comphon Cave lies an arboretum featuring various species of plants and trees.

A hot water stream is situated in the area of Bo Khlung, Amphoe Suan Phung deriving its source from the Tanaosi Mountain Range. The stream flows all the year round at a temperature range of 50 to 68 degrees Celcius.

Khao Chong PhranThis hill is located in Tambon Tao Pun, Amphoe Photharam and features a cave housing more than 100 Buddha images. There is also a cave with more than 2 million bats in residence.

Damnoen Saduak Floating is sometimes called Khlong Lat Phli Floating Market and is located approximately 400 metres from the Amphoe Damnoen Saduak Office. The floating market is open from 0600 to 1100.

Nang Yai at Wat Khanon – Nang Yai is located in Amphoe Photharam. It is an old form of entertainment, which gathers many kinds of arts, for example Thai designs, sculpturing, male performers, plus music, mask playing and Thai literature. The performance is presented on a screen using puppets. There are Nang Yai performance for tourists with about 300 Nang Yai puppets all of which are still in perfect condition.

In addition, Ratchaburi has many natural tourist attractions

Festivals

The most popular festival in Ratchaburi is Dammoen Saduak Floating Market & Sweet Grape Week Fair held in March. The floating market comes alive with a fair featuring a Thai cooking competition, “sea-boxing” competition, boating competition, as well as the sale of local products including fruits, Thai sweets and agricultural utensils.

Ratchaburi Tourism Fair is held every year, February–March, (including the jar festival) at a site close to City Hall. Activities include demonstrations of famous handicrafts, such as jar making and “Sin Tin Chok” cloth weaving, the sale of OTOP and agricultural products, and folk art and cultural performances by local tribal groups.

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