By the time Wednesday morning arrived and I had chicken in ginger sauce with rice and noodles for breakfast (what’s that about?) we had already clocked up a few miles in the van, and today would be no exception. Prachin Buri to Chanthaburi wasn’t a quick journey.
This gave us a great chance to chat to others about their thoughts on Thailand. Turns out we all had similar thoughts. Beautiful country and beautiful people who have so much history behind them. It’s all about the people. the hospitality. The way of life.
The first stop of the day was at the Chanthaburi Gem and Jewellery Centre, where we learned about how local people go panning for gems. The region is very rich in every kind of Jewel you can think of, which was great for the girls. The shop at the end of the Center lit up some eyes and probably some credit cards. Mrs W helped to lighten my wallet from 000’s of miles away, having spent at least 59 of the 60 available minutes stewing over which Opal-encrusted ring to get her. I even had to call for the help of our guides Suree and Kay, who being Thai stood a chance of having the same child-like hands as Laura does.
The next stop was the most fascinating of the day – the Catholic Church in the heart of the community. More than 80% of Thailand follows Buddhism, and in a country of 40 million people, that is a lot. I was intrigued to see how the balance of Catholicism balanced with a predominantly Buddhist culture. Brought up as a Catholic myself, I couldn’t wait to see this needle in a haystack.
As it turns out, everyone gets along just fine. I should have known that mind you. The church was stunning, as you come to expect with most churches. The wooden ceiling was pretty unique, as most are made from stone. As we arrived lots of the local children in the Catholic learning communities finished for the day, which took me back to the days of me finishing school. The only difference was I didn’t have my little sister in tow and we weren’t in the newsagent buying bruiser bars.
We moved on to the Chanthaboon riverside community, visiting local museums, hotels and gem-polishing factories, which all turned out to be homes. During the day they welcome people in to experience their culture, and in the evening they have cars where you were sat just this afternoon. I finally got my hands on some dashing fisherman’s pants, but had to remember not to wear them when it rained or when I sweated as the dye would run. Basically they will be perfect for my trip to the North Pole. Especially the peach pair. As it would turn out, this was the only chance I would have to buy them, given the lack of opportunity we have to visit the many, many local markets.
The hotel we visited was incredible. Baan Luang Rajamaitri Historic Inn encourages you to become part of the community. If you have large feet or vertigo the upper beds may not be for you! You can stay there for one month for one Thai Baht or for the year for three Thai Baht if you work in the local community. This is basically minus money. You get board too. The rooms overlook the river and are fantastically well-laid out. If you’re ever heading through the community, it’s a must visit.
Come to think of it, so is the temple. Wat Bod was stunning. Again it overlooks the river and the community, as well as the surrounding hills. The really strong sense of community stood out. When we stopped for coffee at the historic inn locals from the community made sweet snacks for us. Things like that make you fall in love with the place, and I can see why so many do. I have.