As you roam the streets of Chanthaboon Riverside Community, it’s near impossible not to take pictures. Ancient gingerbread style buildings with European style verandas rub shoulders with vibrant street art. Hipster coffee shops are dotted between street vendors selling conical straw hats. And locally mined gems sparkle from the glass cabinets of Chanthaboon’s famous workshops where long spaghetti-like wires hanging precariously overhead. Chanthaboon Riverside Community is an intriguing place.
Walk the bridge over the mirror-like river and pass traditional stilted houses. You then reach the vast forecourt of a gothic cathedral that transports you to Notre-Dame in Paris. Schoolgirls in pristine blue cotton uniforms walk in unison along the street, giggling. And the mish-mash of cultures, quirky nature, and fusion of old and new will all take you by surprise. Anyone who finds themselves in the Chantaburi province, will not regret stopping to uncover this town’s colourful characteristics.
About Chanthaboon Riverside Community
Chanthaboon and the Chanthaburi province has an eclectic history. It’s thought the waterfront community began more than 300 years ago, as a trade route and the first street was built in 1806 during the reign of King Rama V. While it was in the hands of the French in the 19th Century, its commercially attractive location also led to a cultural blend of Thai, Chinese, Khmer and Vietnamese inhabitants. The strongest industries here were the rubber tree trade; mat weaving, fishery and handicrafts, and of course, the ironwork and gemstone industry which is still alive and well.
Chanthaboon Riverside Community: Things to See & Do
There are plenty of things to do in Chanthaboon Riverside Community and the Chanthaburi province if you like culture, history and food. Here are a few of the highlights.
Visit the Chanthaboon Waterfront Learning House at number 69
This traditional house known as ‘Khun Anusornsombat’s House’, is filled with fantastic photography, videos and art illustrating the history of the town. It’s also home to some pretty gardens.
Visit the Rocket Brand Ice Cream Shop
I didn’t personally make it here, but this European style store was the first shop in Chanthaboon to have ice cream machines and I hear, is worth a visit for the antique interiors alone. The question is, will you brave the durian ice cream?
Visit Dr Chan’s House
Another European-style building that honours the life of Dr Chan, a doctor who was born during the end of King Rama V’s reign. Find wooden carved banisters and a historic grandfather’s style clock.
Follow your tastebuds
Aside from durian ice-cream, Chanthaboon is home to a whole variety of places to try traditional Thai food. Snack on traditional street food such as dried shrimp, find Chinese influenced noodle soups and finish off with traditional desserts and treats such as steamed yellow bean sweets and sticky rice dumplings, which we tried at the Baan Luang Rajamaitri historic Inn. But more of that later.
Explore the cool coffee shops
Thai people seem to take their coffee seriously. During my trip I found all sorts of frappes, frozen lattes, matcha lattes and sweetly flavoured coffee variations going on. Go and get your cup of joe of choice in a hip Chanthaboon coffee shop.
As you roam the streets, you’ll find all sorts of permanent and temporary shops selling art and handicrafts, clothes and antiques and gemstone jewellery. The extraordinary thing is when you visit at night, you’ll see the shops you visited during the day have been transformed back into peoples’ homes. How’s that for economics?
Visit a Gemstone workshop
The provinces of Trat and Chanthaburi are famous for their gem cutting industries and this is the go-to region in Thailand if you are a fan of rubies and sapphires. If you’re really keen to find out more, visit the Chanthaburi Gems & Jewelry Centre where you’ll find exhibitions about the area’s gem mining industry. You can also while away some time shopping for jewellery made from these sparkly gems.
Once you’re in Chanthaboon Riverside Community, hit Si Chan Road and Soi Krachang to see the gem cutting shops that help bring in a tourism economy for the area. Have a go at polishing your own gem and have it made into a personalised ring at Ban Roy Sib Kaw shop.
Visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
You can’t miss the towering spires of this Roman Catholic Cathedral which forms the foundations of Chanthaboon’s Catholic community, which began in the 1700s when Vietnamese people fled religious persecution in Indochina. Walk inside this great gothic building (remember to remove your shoes and cover up) and admire the elaborate interiors. Even if you’re not religious, it’s quite spectacular.
Visit the temples
Get a glimpse of the many cultural influences on this region by visiting the various places of worship. Spot the Chinese style gateways and image of a garuda at Wat Kate Na Boonyaram. And see the Indian style murals of the Buddha’s life and golden chedis at Wat Bod Muang (or Wat Bot Muang).
Take photos & interact with the locals
Chanthaboon Riverside Community has become known for its community based tourism and from just an afternoon strolling around the place, I picked up a welcoming and friendly vibe. If you’re a keen photographer, the fusion of cultures, architecture, winding alleys and interesting people make it a fabulous place to photograph. I love this photo which this lady and her grandmother let me take of them in front of their shop.
Where to Stay
Baan Luang Rajamaitri
The number one place to stay in Chantaburi Riverside Community is Baan Luang Rajamaitri. This historic inn dates back 150 years and last year it won UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage’s Award of Merit. It’s also a prime example of Chantaburi’s community based tourism. Although I didn’t get to stay there, I met the owner and took a tour of its charming rooms that offer beautiful views over the river. I really hope I get to stay here one day (although I’m not so keen on those winding stairs!)
The Future of Chanthaburi & Chanthaboon Riverside Community
As you can see, Chanthaboon Riverside Commnunity needs preserving. So it’s good to hear that an Institute of Arts in Thailand known as Arsom Silp is working hard to protect the architecture and history of this precious little place. By opening up historic buildings to the public, they will inject a percentage of tourism profits back into the conservation of the area. So go! Visit Chanthaboon Riverside Commnunity and help support one of the most charming areas of Eastern Thailand.