After arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, most of the tourists have already booked their holiday destination. But for those who haven’t done so yet, there are many options to choose from. The first decision will be to head to one of the southern provinces along the coast of the Andaman Sea being part of the Indian Ocean or head to one of the beach resort towns straddling along the coastal provinces within the Gulf of Thailand as part of the Pacific Ocean. The decision will not be easy, especially if you have to choose between similar sounding names such as Ranong or Rayong.
If you have chosen Ranong, a less well-known province compared to Phuket or Krabi at the Andaman Sea, you will be surprised what attractions will wait for you there. From Bangkok, air-conditioned buses or rented cars will take you along Highway No. 4 or Petchakasem Road down to Ranong, which is some 568 km away. The scenic drive will lead you straight to the Kra Isthmus called Kho Khot Kra, where is the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, spanning merely 44 km from the Gulf of Thailand in the east to the Andaman Sea at the west side. There is a large concrete map to help visitors to orientate with the location. Actually, the KraburiRiver is forming a natural borderline between Thailand and Myanmar and becoming the Pak Chan River at the entrance to the sea in Ranong.
Being a mountainous and heavily forested province, the town of Ranong was originally settled by Hokkian Chinese and is always busy, being one of the gateways to Myanmar. Around the town waterfalls and hot springs abound such as the Raksawarin Hot Springs within a public park and the Phon Rang Hot Spring, which is under the supervision of the Namtok Ngao National Park. Other attractions to see are the wooded Rattana Rangsan Throne Hall, where Rama V, VI, and VII resided when visiting the town and also the Ranong Governor’s Residence built in 1877. There are only a few Buddhist temples in town, but a very ornate City Pillar Shrine can be visited. Recommended hotels in town are the Asia Hotel, the budget Nalin Place or the upscale Tinidee Hotel. The economic center of the town is the Ranong Market, from where taxi services to take you around are available. Recommended are the Mangkhut Restaurant and Krua Charoen Restaurant. Interestingly, most visitors do not stay long in town, but head out to the Immigration Office to leave by boat to Kawthaung in Myanmar or head to the Pak Nam Municipality Pier to take a boat to Koh Chang or Koh Phayam, which are two island paradises not to be missed. Accommodations are available. The villagers there live from fishing, growing cashew nuts and farming rubber plantations. One of the best sunsets you can watch is at Hat Chan Damri, which is some 9 km from town and where is a pier, from where tourists can travel to some other small islands in the Andaman Sea.
If you will head to Rayong instead, you can easily reach there from Bangkok via Pattaya and Sattahip in Chonburi Province along Highway No. 3 or Sukhumvit Road. Rayong is 179 km away and boasts a myriad of beaches and hideaway places for sea lovers along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. The idyllic beaches are located like a string of pearls from west to east and offer a myriad of accommodations.
Before going straight to the beach, explore the various attractions in town such as the City Pillar Shrine featuring a Chinese structure and the Shrine of King Taksin the Great, who had tied his elephant to an old tree, when he was on his way to Chanthaburi further east to free the Kingdom of Siam from the Burmese occupation. Famous temples in town are Phra Buddha Angkhirot Image Hall, Wat Khot Thimtharam with mural paintings, Wat Pa Pradu with a large reclining Buddha image, and the Wat Ban Don Shadow Play Museum with a hundred over 200 years old Nang Yai characters carved out of painted leather, which somehow came from Phatthalung in 1988. More worldly attractions are the houses in Rayong Old Town, the large Rayong Aquarium, Sopha Botanical Park and Phe Arboretum, also the Sunthon Phu Monument and Krommaluang Chumphon Shrine located by the Prasae river estuary in Amphoe Klaeng. In the middle of the Rayong River and near the mouth, is located the sacred Phra Chedi Klang Nam Pagoda, which was built in 1873 as a landmark for Rayong Province.
Recommended places for accommodations and swimming are Hat Phayun and Hat Phla in Amphoe Ban Chang, Hat Laem Charoen and Hat Saeng Chan for seafood as well as Hat Mae Ramphueng – Ban Kon Ao, which stretches for 12 kilometers. But most of all the favorite places to go, this is the romantic island of Koh Samet, which is offshore from Ban Phe. All the popular beaches line the eastern side of the island, while only Ao Phrao is located on the western side. Passenger ferries operate 24 hours daily.
Next to beaches, Rayong is getting famous for its fruit orchards. There is the agricultural community of Taphong, where you can pick up freshly fruits from the tree. At Suan Suphattra Land in Amphoe Ban Khai you can taste durian, rambutan, mangosteen, star fruit, rose apple, pomelo, jackfruit, mango etc. The Pak Pa Community Enterprise Orapan Processed Fruits at Amphoe Ban Khai even has century-old durian and mangosteen trees, while HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn HerbsGarden in Amphoe Nikhom Phatthana features some 20,000 plants grown for medicinal properties to cure cancer, skin disease etc. Last not least, interested tourists should not miss Khao Chamao – Khao Wong National Park or play golf at courses all over the province.
With these detailed information at hand about Ranong and Rayong, is it possible to decide now where to go?
Written by : Reinhard Hohler