Diamonds are marvelous things. They’ve been called a woman’s best friend. They’ve been sought after and coveted as objects of the most priceless value. They symbolize wealth, status, beauty, and longevity. As Shirley Bassey sang it, diamonds really are forever. This month’s hot getaway is beautiful, priceless, symbolic in all its essence, and valued for its status just like this precious mineral. If you’re curious about how to connect a province to this grand prize, do read on.
Phetchaburi breaks down into two words: “Phet” meaning “Diamond” in Thai language and “Buri” meaning “city” in Sanskrit. The attribution to this is because of the river Phet, which passes right by the capital of the province. The River Phet, which sees its source at the Kaeng Krachan National Park, is an icon of this province and leads to the Gulf of Thailand, where it disembogues at Baan Leam. But before going into further detail, it would be fitting to describe the history of this province.
Phetchaburi began its date with history during the eleventh century, a period where the region was ruled by the Khmers and saw the arrival of its first settlers. These settlements however, were at best temporary or passing points until it was transformed into a key logistical port linking Ayutthaya to the Andaman Sea. The Burmese were aware of the area’s strategic value and were quick to launch several invasion attempts, which were all repelled by the Thais. The area thus became a cultural symbol, with plenty of valuable ornamentation telling the story of its rich past. It gained additional prestige upon the strategic relocation of Siam’s capital from Ayutthaya to Bangkok, where it attracted the interest of King Rama IV, who made it his retreat destination for years to come. The hilltop palace that he frequented, Phra Nakhon Khiri (known more commonly as Khao Wang, meaning “Hill with a Palace”) was completed in 1860 and is today part of the Thai National Museum and the surroundings were officially named to be a historical park in 1979.
Phetchaburi is situated in the southern stretch of Thailand. It borders the province of Ratchaburi in the north, the province of Samut Songkhram in the northeast, the Gulf of Thailand in the east, the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan in the south, and the Burmese region of Tanintharyi.
With eight administrative divisions, the most popular three are Mueang Phetchaburi, Cha-Am, and Kaeng Krachan. The first is, as mentioned earlier, the capital of the province. It is famous for both the river that gives it its name, and by the originality of the desserts that are famously confectioned there. One is a type of custard made with Mung Beans, coconut milk, and duck eggs that goes by the name of Khanom Mor Gaeng. An absolute delicacy that is now available throughout the country, nobody forgets that its origins lie at the heart of this city.
Cha Am is another favourite attraction in the province. A beautiful and marvellous little beach town, Cha-Am is frequented by a large number of tourists throughout the year due to its easy accessibility from Bangkok through Phektasem Road and the quality along with the relative quietness of its sandy beach. High-end resorts include the So Sofitel, the Regent, Springfield, and the Sheraton, all of which attract many tourists and locals alike, especially during the high season. Cha-Am is also a mere twenty-minute car ride from the city of Hua Hin, which has a vast array of hotels in which to stay.
The other district, which we briefly touched on earlier, is Kaeng Krachan. Kaeng Krachan’s status as a district is relatively young, gaining such denomination solely in 1988, and being granted the rights of a full district in 1993. The main attraction of this area, which is arguably also one of the main attractions of the province, is the Kaeng Krachan National Park, one of the top ten national parks in Thailand.
The Kaeng Krachan National Park is a stunning artifact of nature. Combining beautiful scenery with the accessibility and conservation requirements throughout its 2,900 square kilometres, it is a place entirely worth spending a day or two exploring in its entirety. It is the source to two main rivers, the first as we mentioned, gives its name to the province, and the second is the Pranburi River. The Phetchaburi is sectioned by a dam built in 1966, which creates a lake covering a stunning forty-six square kilometres. Established in 1981, it was at the time the twenty-eighth national park in Thailand, and it was further enlarged in 1984 to include the boundary between the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan and that of Phetchaburi. The national park, which has been included in the list of ASEAN Heritage Parks, was equally proposed to UNESCO as a potential future world heritage site. The park possesses incredibly rich flora and fauna, including fifty-seven types of mammals, four hundred species of birds, and both tropical and sub-tropical plants and flowers.
If you are someone who enjoys temples and caves, Phetchaburi will definitely please you in that sense. Apart from the ancient Khao Wang royal palace, the Khao Loung Caves are marvellous in their own right. One of the country’s most remarkable cave shrines, it is accessed through a set of inclined stairs. During your descent, it is impossible not to be awe of the large collection of stalactites that majestically cling to the top of the cave. The centre is captivated by the figure of a Buddha, upon which shines an almost magical glow of light through the open-aired façade whenever the sun shines down on it, as this refracts and illuminates the rest of the cave. The second cave possesses an imperious tree of three hundred years of age, which can be seen rising above, contorting and twisting its roots as it glistens from the rays of light that shine through its thick foliage.
At large, Phetchaburi is one of the most fascinating provinces in Thailand. Whether the objective is to explore the deep historical richness of the area or to discover the marvellous flora and fauna of Kaeng Krachan, the place will be short of neither. And of course, don’t forget the attractiveness of Cha Am’s fantastic beaches.
If you have yet to visit Phetchaburi, you can be assured that your journey will be worth your time.