A diversity of unique Thai heritage and culture can be experienced just a short distance away from the bustling city of Bangkok in the provinces of Ratchaburi and Samut Songkram. Just a mere one hour drive to the west of the city will bring you to Ratchaburi province and an even shorter distance away, to Samut Songkram province. Both provinces are situated along the Mae Klong River which flows out to the Gulf of Thailand, therefore offering a unique perspective not just for tourism but also agriculture and industries that have shaped the way of life for the people of these provinces.
The objective of the PRD of Thailand(Public Relations Department) was to offer an insight into the diversity of Thai culture and heritage while developing a smart and sustainable community for the provinces through the promotion of creative, cultural and high-value services. This would involve secondary tourism destinations and the concepts of go-local by linking tourist attractions and activities in major cities with those in provincial communities. This would empower community tourism and provide a unique travel experience for visitors who are keen to experience more of the Thai culture and way of life.
Sustainable tourism builds a stronger community while preserving the natural environment and enabling a better rate of employment and sustainable income for grassroots levels of the community. The province of Ratchaburi is rich in the Thai Chinese heritage and is fondly known as the “City of Water Jars”. This came about from the popularity of the water jars as a vessel to not only contain water but also to preserve food and eventually becoming a decorative item in the household. Techniques of making these water jars were introduced by Chinese traders looking for trade and markets in the east while eventually settling down in many parts of Thailand. They brought with them many new innovations and skills which were eventually assimilated into the Thai way of life over the generations.
The proximity to Myanmar made it rich in a diversity of various ethnic groups which is reflected in the cuisine and the handicrafts including the production of silk weaving and resulting in a historical collection of intricate pattern making and materials. Some of these collections can be seen at the Ban Khu Bua Museum which is a heritage of the Thai Yuan minority and famous for its woven pha sin tin chok skirts.
Agriculture also plays a big part in the eco-tourism sector and some of the highlights of Ratchaburi and Samut Songkram includes interesting visits to one of the largest village fish farms where you can experience netting fish in the ponds and learning about the breeding and production of the largest fancy fish market in ASEAN.
Learn about the beauty of the stingless bee which is a native of the two provinces and how they are breed in special farms for the use of agricultural techniques in pollinating fruit trees in the area, thus ensuring a pesticide and chemical free farming method.
Visit the coconut plantations to see how the popular coconut sugar which is used in most Thai cooking, is made and learn the benefits of coconut oil for health as well as the many products that can be made from the coconut fruit.
The Mae Klong river is not just a source for water to the provinces but also a way of life. It influences and shapes the economy of the cities that settled along the river and the most famous place in Samut Songkram is the Amphawa Floating Market. Taking a river cruise along the Mae Klong river enables you to observe the old way of life much like a “Venice of the East” where quaint housing, shops and home stays are situated along the banks of the river. Look out for the occasional fisherman who is busy fishing for the popular “River Prawns” that are much sought after delicacy.
A visit to the local community centers are a great way to meet the local people such as the industrious housewives of the community who provide these centers with much of the homemade handicrafts and foods including local snacks and off course the beautiful woven silk and cotton fabrics. You can also observe some of the silk weaving techniques at these centers during the weaving demonstrations which go on throughout the day.
The landmark project to promote secondary cities in tourism provides a unique Thai experience and local wisdom opens a new frontier in rich travel experiences which will differ from the usual tourist traps and an opportunity to discover more of the actual Thai way of life.