There’s more to this province than ferries to Koh Samet
For many tourists and Thai residents alike, Rayong is simply the jumping-off point when visiting the popular island of Koh Samet, as the ferries to the island depart from Baan Phe Pier. However, in recent years this laid-back province has begun attracting its own breed of travellers—those who would rather trade in their sandals and sun-downers for something a little more adventurous.
Rayong is the name of both the city and the province located on Thailand’s eastern seaboard (just a three-hour drive from Bangkok). Boasting a beautiful coastline and a number of cultural and natural attractions, it’s a little-known destination that’s ideal for a quick weekend getaway.
Sitting on a hill above the secluded Laem Mae Phim Beach, the one-year-old Centara Q Resort Rayong is the perfect, intimate base for spending time in this uncharted region. Featuring 41 ocean-view rooms—which consist of 34 sq.m Superior Rooms and 58 sq.m Deluxe Rooms—the resort is set along the slope of a hill, with views of the sea and a path that leads to the beach below. The letter “Q” in the resort’s name stands for cubic design, tranquillity, and quality, all of which is not only reflected in the resort’s modern architecture, but also in the clean and minimalistic interiors of the bright and spacious beachfront rooms. Carrying on with the “Q” theme, the hotel has three F&B outlets; QZeen Restaurant, Qube Pool Bar, and the popular QuickSand Beach Terrace. In addition, the resort also offers guests a beachfront infinity swimming pool, 24-hr fitness centre, complimentary shuttle service to local markets, and the resort’s very own spa—Cense by Spa Cenvaree.
Just five minutes’ drive north of the resort, the Sunthon Phu Memorial Park is a great spot for culture lovers. Dedicated to one of Thailand’s greatest poets, Sunthon Phu, the site features several ornate statues of characters from his masterpiece Phra Abhai Mani, including the eponymous hero playing the flute. A small museum within the grounds illustrates the life of Sunthon Phu and some of his most famous works—in both English and Thai. Many visitors come here to pray for good luck, and once a year a festival is held to celebrate the poet’s life, featuring performances and puppet shows.
About 1.5 km further north from the park, the Kru Kung Museum showcases a large collection of vintage products and is attractively set in an old teak house, divided into different venues that mimic a traditional Thai town. Visitors can check out the vintage classroom, convenience store, barbershop, tailor store, and even an old cinema. Aiming to “collect, preserve, educate, and showcase”, the museum is a fun place to spend an afternoon while reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” (whenever they really were). Entrance fee is B80 for Thai visitors, and B150 for non-Thais—with a 30 percent discount if you book through Centara—and there’s also a small café offering drinks and nibbles.
A little further afield, nature fans can head to Rayong’s Golden Mangrove Field, known in Thai as Tung Phrong Thong. Located 15 km east of the Centara resort, in the town of Pak Nam Prasae, the plantation covers an area of 2,400 acres and is home to a rich collection of wildlife, including crabs, birds, and fish—which, in turn, provide a source of income to local villagers. A one-kilometre-long wooden walkway leads through the forest, passing by a variety of colourful mangrove species; yellow-greenish leaves that turn golden in the bright sunlight.
As well as good opportunities for kayaking, windsurfing and cycling, other nearby places that are worth a visit include Farm Pu Nim, a soft-shell crab farm, the Koh Kloy floating market, and the Khao Chamao-Khao Wong natural park, where the main attraction is the 8-tiered Khao Chamao waterfall (however only the first seven tiers are accessible to the public). Klong Pla Kang, located 5 km north from park headquarters, is another 7-tiered waterfall here worth visiting, while the Khao Wong Caves, nearly 20 km from park headquarters, are also great for exploring if you’re up for the trek.