A Chanthaburi Travel Report
A Chanthaburi Travel Report – People, Gems & Smiles
After meeting my fiancé from HK in Thailand and a pleasant stay in Krabi, my fiancé and I decided to head off for Chanthaburi. We arrived late at night on the bus from Bangkok which was a strange experience in itself, like something out of a
Hunter S. Thompson book, with the only difference being we were not viewing the world from a chemically induced state.
On the bus, as is of course normal in Thailand, the bus TV video was blaring pre-recorded Thai TV programming, this time however it was the most stupid idiotic TV game / comedy shows that I had ever seen in my life. To imagine these programs try to imagine all of the tacky, tasteless kitsch parts of every bad western game show, combined with every cartoon sound effect ever created. This was repeated at nauseam over, and over whenever one of the extremely bad actors moved, smiled, frowned, or spoke (or should I say "crowed" since they must have been selected via an "Unusual Voice Contest"). The main female actors voice could be summed up as: Imagine if you grab a rooster's neck in mid crow, and squeeze on and off just enough to modulate the sound, and throw in lots of canned laughs, and cartoon sound effects every time anything happens!!!
To make matters worse the volume was all the way up, so finally in a very polite way I asked the bus attendant to please turn down the volume while pointing at the speaker right above us. She asked my lady something in Thai, and she replied with her most used phrase in Thailand "Sorry, No Con Thai" then the bus attendant promptly turned down the volume. Ahhh that's better.
We arrived in Chanthaburi and proceeded to the River Guest House, which at 350 Baht for a clean AC room was a nice deal. Our reason for coming here was to experience a Thai city which is not so frequented by tourism. So the next morning we headed out to explore Chanthaburi. One thing I quickly noticed everyone thought my fiancé was Thai, but what was so strange was the minute the local Thai people discovered she was not Thai, they seemed to give a genuine smile and open up a bit.
I actually began to feel that the local Thai people opened up a bit, and dropped the act when they found out she was not Thai. She also began to notice that somehow the people were more friendly and genuine when they discovered that she was not Thai. I was puzzled by this behavior, maybe Mrs. Stickman could shed some light on this phenomenon? All in all this made our experience wonderful, we ate our meals down the local side streets, where we saw collections of food stalls once we figured out how it worked. You told each vendor what you wanted and sat down at a table, then they brought you the food. At the end of your meal a teenage boy collected the money, we laughed one day when we got the bill after lunch one day and it was a total of 88 baht for soup, crab fried rice, and Thai ice tea for 2 people!!! One thing which I noticed was it seemed like by the end of the meal, everyone there knew my fiancé was not Thai, man these people have the "coconut wireless" down to a fine art.
We had only one small negative experience with the laundry service directly across the street from the guest house, which charges us 240 baht for 2 kilos of laundry. Upon entering the guest house the manager noticed we were not happy, so after explaining to him what happened he personally went across the street and had a few words with the laundry man. On his return he said he would not return the money, but promised he would warn future guests about this scam. He suggested the laundry across the bridge on the right, which did the next 2 kilos for 35 baht!!!
Another difference which I noticed on this trip to Thailand was now in the company of my fiancé, we could engage the local people in humor, and it was met by a barrel full of laughs instead of a blank look. One example was when we were at the open air market next to Robinson's in Chanthaburi, my lady wanted to see if a shirt top fit her, just for fun she pretended like she was just going to take her existing top, to try on the one in question. The young lady at the booth, with a sudden look of sheer panic, threw up her hands and said "nooooooo", but she quickly burst into hysterical laughter when she realized it was all a joke. From this time every time we passed this vendor the girl started to laugh and giggle again, while motioning the act in a subtle way.
After almost a week in Chanthaburi the local people just seemed to get even more friendly, I am guessing maybe this is why Stick likes to go to Korat? Maybe local people in most non- tourist cities behave this way? I even bought several gems on the last day, 2 yellow sapphires, 1 blue, and two low grade rubies. Upon my return to the states a local gem expert expressed surprise that I had gotten a very good deal (1/3 of the US price) on the stones.
My advice to anyone buying stones is: Stay for a few days, read a very basic gemology book, comparison shop for stones at different dealers, compare stones which are of the same grade and type. While comparison shopping do not talk to much, and be very polite, but go ahead and let them know in a polite way if you want something better, and they will usually produce a tray of better quality stones from under the counter for the same price. Then on the last day buy your stones from the same dealer, and negotiate a package deal (about 10 -30% off the total).
Before you go into the gem stores, just watch a few buyers through the window, or at the weekend gem market, and pick up on how buyers handle the stones they are shown, this way you will be seen as a gem buyer not a tourist. Their perception of you is based on your actions and words, so if you handle the stones like a buyer, and you ask just one questions from info found in your gem book, and you do not talk to much, then you can pull it off easy as cake. If they try to probe you with a lot of questions then just fake interest in something to re-direct their mind.
I wanted to elaborate on this because you always read the nightmare stories on gem scams etc. but the legitimate gem shops here are just fine, with many offering very good deals indeed. I think it is not fair to the legitimate vendors in Chanthaburi to tarnish their reputation based on some assholes in Bangkok running scams. Think about it would you buy your gold chain in BKK from someone with a towel on the BTS ramp, or do you go to a gold shop? Gems are the same, a little homework, and a legitimate dealer here, and you will be a happy camper with your purchase.
Overall on this trip, Krabi had the nice beaches, but Chanthaburi had the nice people with whom I could connect, and these memories are just as precious, if not more so than the beach on Hong Island.
PS: If you are looking for sex, forget Chanthaburi no nightlife here, and go to Pattaya or Patong instead. Please don't bring a bar girl here, you will just loose face. But if people are your thing, spend some time here you will not be disappointed : )
Never stopped in Chanthaburi, only passed through. Wow, you spent a whole week there?!