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A forgotten gem

Posted on 14 April 2016 by admin

Tourists enjoying foods and drinks in an old-fashioned shop.

Though Rayong is transforming into an industrialised province, its old town remains charming with a nostalgic atmosphere.

On the bank of the peaceful Rayong River, Valaiporn Jainuknan walks me into her old wooden house and shows me her favourite collection of antique ceramic wares, well kept in a glass box.

“This box was built by him,” she points to a picture hanging on top of the wall. That is her grandfather, Im Yomchinda, the third Rayong governor. The wall is decorated with pictures of different members of the Yomchinda family. Yes, this is the Yomchinda House. The one-storey wooden house was built in 1932 by her great grandfather Ket Yomchinda, the first Rayong governor.

“I love them. It is my favourite hobby. The bigger collection I have, the more antique merchants try to approach me,” Valaiporn says with a happy voice. She is a descendant of Ket Yomchinda and now this house belongs to her.

Valaiporn Jainuknan and her antique collection in Yomchinda House.

Looking around, I find myself among a huge collection of antiques that add charm to the old house. They range from telephones of different generations, kitchen ware, tools, old-fashioned buckets, cutlery and dentist chairs.

The house, which looks like a private museum, now serves as a restaurant offering local dishes such as Rayong curry, fried glass noodles and omelette in a Rayong style. This restaurant has a handful of tables and opens for dinner only.

While Rayong is developing as an industrialised province, with the Eastern Seaboard and a number of industrial estates, serviced apartments, and outlets mushrooming around, Rayong’s old town is largely forgotten.

But if you are planning a city break, Rayong’s old town is an interesting choice. The peaceful enclave is a short drive away from the bustling Sukhumvit Road.

Steps away from the house is Yomchinda Road. Named after the first governor, this short road snakes along Rayong River. The road was built on the initiation of Im Yomchinda when trade and transportation relied mainly on the river. It cut through the town and became a new business hub of Rayong 100 years ago.

In the old days when long-distance transport was undertaken by boat, Yomchinda Road would have been home to small but bustling communities beside the Rayong River, where travellers and traders stopped to rest and eat. When boats were replaced by vehicles in the 20th century, people and freight left the river and made their way through Sukhumvit Road instead. Since then, Rayong’s old town fell into sleep mode.

Though the old enclave has been left in quietness, it is not boring. The Sino-European style shophouses reflect the good old way of life and is home to antique gallery cafes that show off vintage artefacts, ranging from rotary telephones, ceramics to vintage trucks. The local museum tells stories of the town that date back 400 years. Huge giant clams, fishing equipment, rare utensils from yesteryear and old pictures reflect the glory days of Rayong’s old town.

Nanthaphat Chaisittinan, a local teacher who guides me around the town, explains that life here remains easy, like it has been for decades.

Rayong’s local museum on Yomchinda Road.

“Though Rayong has been modernised, here, in the old town, we have lovely neighbourhoods, beautiful houses standing side-by-side with old businesses like rice mills and old theatres,” she says.

But what excites visitors most is the array of classic foods served along Yomchinda Road, from noodles to Thai traditional sweets, such as mango and sticky rice. It is a real haven for those who are in search of nostalgic moments hidden in the modern town.

“There are more than 20 shops you should not miss. They are very good and worthwhile to visit. I do not want the old town to overgrow or tourism to boom here. I love it this way,” Nanthaphat adds.

Travel Info

Rayong is around 220km southeast of Bangkok via Sukhumvit Road, or 180km via Highway 7. Buses leave Bangkok’s eastern terminal for Rayong daily. Visit or call 1490.

Kantary Bay Rayong offers nice accommodation on Seangchan Beach, a short drive from Rayong town. Visit or call 038-804-844.

Lom Talay Chalet is located on Laem Mae Pim Beach. Visit or call 08-1664-5060.

Valaiporn Jainuknan and her antique collection in Yomchinda House.

Rotary telephones as well as rare objects from yesteryear are shown in Yomchinda House, which now serves as a restaurant.

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