A Brief Guide to Chonburi
Chonburi is an attractive little seaside town just 80km from the Thai capital and one of the locations for the Flight of the Gibbon zip line experience. Often overlooked by tourists in favour of nearby Pattaya, it makes an excellent base away from the bustle of Bangkok, yet is convenient for trips back to the capital and of course, the airport, at the end of your holiday. Chonburi is a popular choice for domestic travellers, making this a good option for those wishing to escape the well-trodden tourist trail and gain a more authentic Thai experience.
Experience the coastal way of life
Many Chonburi residents make their living from the sea, and you can while away a pleasant few hours watching fishing boats. The mudflats of the local coastline are perfectly suited to shellfish farming, and it’s a great place to try local freshly-caught oysters and mussels. Sample oysters in the local style, served with chilli, onion and garlic. The mud crabs in these parts are also worth a try. Staying on the water, it’s also possible to take a boat trip out on the Bang Pakong River just north of the centre in the hope of seeing dolphins, though sightings aren’t guaranteed.
Head to the beach
Just to the south of town, head for the beach at Bang Saen. Best known for its Angsila seafood market, you can watch people haggle for squid, crab and shrimp at the jetty. There are a large number of excellent seafood restaurants lining the seafront, and you can be sure the food you choose is fresh.
Climb Khao Sam Muk
At 45 metres, this diminutive hill doesn’t win any awards for its size but it does have great significance to Chonburi and its residents. It’s the hill you see on the provincial seal of Chonburi. Locals believe that the hill’s spirit offers protection from misfortune. Several legends have the hill as their setting, some featuring those waiting for loved ones lost at sea and others involving Romeo and Juliet-style forbidden love. Look out for the colony of rhesus monkeys which make their home on the hillside and the cacti gardens at the summit.
Visit a temple
While you’re there, don’t miss the Thepsathit Phra Kiti Chalerm shrine, the area’s distinctive Chinese temple, where you’ll see people making offerings and burning sticks of incense. If that’s given you a taste for ornate and vividly decorated temples, then make your way back to Chonburi where Wat Thep Phuttharam is equally colourful.
Go on safari
Chonburi is home to one of Thailand’s premier ecotourism destinations, the Khao Kheow Open Safari, surrounded by lush rainforest. Take a tram ride around the safari park as part of your Flight of the Gibbon zip line package where you’ll spot all kinds of wildlife including flamingos, chimps, orang-utans, elephants and of course gibbons. You’ll even have the chance to try feeding the animals.
Watch the buffalo races
The highlight of the eleventh lunar month, usually falling in October, locals from the Ban Bueng and Nong Yai districts dress their buffalo in extraordinary costumes ready for the annual races. In a tradition dating back over a century, the buffaloes line up outside the town hall and are judged on their physical fitness, speed and crazy outfits. The entire town turns out to enjoy the fair, with stalls selling local produce, plenty of fun and games and even beauty contests. Festivities last for a week, culminating in two days of buffalo racing. If you time your visit right, this is a not to be missed event.
Switch to island time
Just south of Chonburi, reached by ferry from Siracha, is the island of Koh Si Chang. Don’t get it confused with Koh Chang, further east towards the Cambodian border. It’s not well frequented by tourists, but locals in the know enjoy the limestone cliffs and temples that can be found there. It’s also the site of a ruined palace that fell into disrepair in the 1890s when the French briefly colonised the area. Now known as the Vimanmek Teak Mansion, it was dismantled and relocated from the island to Bangkok’s Dusit Garden.