We sent travel expert, Garry Norris (@garry_norris) to experience the beauty of Thailand filter-free and show us the lesser known parts of Thailand. Exploring Trat, Koh Chang, and Chanthaburi, Garry uncovered mouthwatering chicken satay, beautiful beaches, and authentic parts of Thailand one could only dream about.
Not only is Thailand an inspirational destination, it is a tropical wonderland— full of beaches, great food, and even greater people.
My love affair with Thailand all started with my first trip in 2003. Since then I have returned pretty much every year. I fell in love with Thailand’s food, its culture, and its natural beauty. There’s just something about walking down the streets and smelling the Thai food that makes me feel a great sense of happiness.
I arrived at Trat airport, which is the gateway to this amazing province, and was picked up by a local driver who took me to a remote hotel called Centara Chaan Talay Resort and Villas Trat, located on a private beach close to the border of Cambodia. It’s always late at night when I arrive in Thailand, so I developed a bit of a ritual: I check into my hotel, call room service instantly and order some Pad Thai. And that’s what I did!
A New Adventure Awaits
The next morning, my local driver collected me early for my transfer to Koh Chang. We left from Ao Thommachart pier, and after a relaxing 40-minute ferry crossing, we arrived at the beautiful island of Koh Chang.
From the ferry terminal, it was straight to Salak Phet Seafood for lunch. They have the best Tom Yum soup I’ve ever eaten—and I’ve eaten a lot of Tom Yum. Now if I can just get the recipe!
With a full belly, it was time to head to a local fishing village on the island called Ban Salak Khok, here I took a Thai Gondola boat through the village and out into the beautiful mangroves.
My accommodation for the night was at the luxurious, 58-room Dewa Hotel Koh Chang. The hotel is amazing, situated on the beautiful Klong Prao Beach. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Thailand.
The next morning after breakfast, we headed to Klong Plu Waterfall and spent a leisurely hour strolling through the rain forest. After a short hike, we reached the waterfall, where there were plenty of rocky areas to lay and catch some sun.
Our afternoon in Ban Nam Chiao Village was courtesy of another ferry ride to Trat mainland. Ban Nam Chiao Village is a picturesque local village where we took a traditional Thai gondola ride through the village and out into the harbour with amazing views of Koh Chang. I returned to the village for lunch prepared at a local homestay. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Thailand and would highly recommend tracking this place down on your next visit. And the locals were incredibly friendly! Even though there was a language barrier, it was still an amazing experience.
Chanthaburi Local Eats and Markets
After a restful night at the Centara Koh Chang Tropicana Resort, I was once again on the move. An hour and a half journey took us to Chanthaburi. There, we visited the Khanom Plaek Community at Khlong Nong Bua canalside to explore the dessert market. The community is a village of unusual local Thai desserts of Chanthaburi. Almost every household in the village makes an unusual dessert for visitors to try. Amongst the local desserts, there is a famous one called ‘ Kuy Ling’, which is a sweet made of taro and coconut, then rolled and cooked in water.
With my stomach full once again it was time to head to Soi Sri Chan Road, which holds a famed gem market on the weekend. People come from all over the world to buy gems here—a great place to pick up a bargain.
Then it was a visit to the Chanthaburi Gem and Jewellery Center. As Chanthaburi is the biggest gems trade and production center in Thailand and Southeast Asia, this was a must-stop. Khanom Plaek Community at Khlong Nong Bua canalside is situated at Tambon Nong Bua, Amphoe Mueang Chanthaburi. The community’s market is open all day on Saturdays and Sundays.
That night I ventured out in search of some famed Thai Street Food’ –Som Tam (green papaya salad), Chicken Satay, and Pad Thai, all finished off with mango and sticky rice, and a bag of the most delicious sweet pineapple you’ve ever eaten. Don’t be afraid to eat the food from roadside vendors in Thailand, it’s always fresh and cooked on very hot coals.
After I ate what felt like all of the food in Thailand, my driver collected me and drove to my next accommodation for the next two nights, Blue Rabbit Hotel in Chanthaburi.
An Ancient Community
The morning of my final full day brought us to visit Old Town Chanthaburi Waterfront. Old Town Chanthaburi Waterfront is an approximately 300-year-old community that has been around since the reign of King Narai the Great. Currently, the area of the Chanthabun Riverside has been developed and promoted to be a center of art and cultural preservation, as well as a cultural attraction. The road along the riverside used to be a commercial area. There are classic old houses mixed with cute little modern cafes and gelato bars, this place is a must-visit if you’re in the region. The morning was completed with a visit to the beautiful Cathedral of Immaculate Conception situated on the opposite side of the river.
After lunching at the old waterfront, it was time to hit the road again to find somewhere to escape the humidity from the wet season. We decided that Namtok Phlio National Park would be the perfect place. The park is incredibly beautiful and is home to Namtok Phio Waterfall where the locals hang out and swim. Trust me, after a walk and all this food that I’d been eating, I was grateful to relax in the refreshing water.
The day ended with a bowl of pork noodle soup. I just tried to find a place that all the locals were eating at, and then just followed along like a little sheep. You can’t go wrong with that, right? It was amazing.
This trip to Thailand was really special. Visiting these lesser-known villages in Thailand definitely gave me a more well-rounded, positive view of this country, and I plan to return next year to discover even more.
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