Ratchaburi Tourist Attractions
The town of Ratchaburi (Ratburi), about 80 km (50 mi.) west of Bangkok, once joined the estuary of the Mae Klong in the Gulf of Thailand. Over the course of centuries the river built up so much mud that the sea is now 30 km (19 mi.) away. Rice fields surround the town and border jagged chalk mountains in the west. Both during the Dvaravati kingdom, in the Lopburi epochs, and during the Sukhothai and Ayuttaya kingdom, Ratchaburi was an important trading town, a function which it still retains.By car: from Bangkok Highway 4 (100 km (62 mi.)), or Highway 35 to Pak Tho, then Highway 4 (105 km (65 mi.)).By bus: from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal several times daily.By rail: station on the Bangkok-south Thailand line.The area around Ratchaburi was already settled in the Bronze Age. Wat Mahathat in the town was built in the Dvaravati period, and Ku Bua, one of Thailand's most important archaeological sites situated 12 km (71/2 mi.) away, obviously dates from the late Dvaravati period. At that time Ratchaburi belonged to the Khmers' sphere of control, until Ramkhamhaeng, king of Sukhothai, annexed it to his kingdom. A stone inscription, completed by the king himself in 1292, tells of this. Following this Ratchaburi, together with the provinces of Suphan buri and Phetchaburi, was inherited by the founder of the Ayutthaya kingdom, King Rama Thibodi I (U Thong). In 1768 King Taksin, forerunner of the Chakri dynasty, drove out the Burmese occupiers and added the town to his newly developing kingdom of Siam.
Of the numerous ancient and modern wats to be found in Ratchaburi, Wat Mahathat, which probably gained its appearance in the Lopburi period, is the one most worth seeing. Older parts date from the 9th/10th c., while stucco decoration and murals were mainly added during the Ayutthaya period. The large prang, to which two smaller ones have been added, displays beautiful stucco ornamentation. The murals, dating from about 1500, inside the central prang denote a highpoint of Thai art and are some of the oldest ever retained. They depict pictures of Buddha on a yellow background in friezes arranged one on top of another. Their flowing lines and a certain naturalness of movement are striking. The bot houses several very attractive statues of Buddha in the Dvaravati style.
There are a number of attractions within a short distance of Ratchaburi.
The Damnoen Saduak floating market in Ratchaburi is a lively an interesting attraction to visit. The market offers a diverse range of agricultural items such as fruits, fish and meat.
The foundations of a town with 40 shrines were discovered in 1961 at Ku Bua, 12 km (71/2 mi.) south-west of Ratchaburi. The rectangular site was 49 sq. km (19 sq. mi.) in area. Its water was supplied by a canal which crossed the length of the town. The town must have been a cultural center during the Dvaravati period; the foundations of the Wiharn Wat Klong are easily recognizable. The terracotta ornamentation decorating the brick buildings, numerous figurative representations (including ceramic statues, among the most beautiful evidence of Dvaravati culture), stone tablets and wheels of the law are now displayed in the National Museum of Bangkok.
The chalk mountain of Khao Ngu lies north-west of Ratchaburi. Several cave shrines with sculptures from the early Dvaravati period are to be found here, including a bas-relief with a 2.50-m (8-ft) tall Buddha statue.