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Also not far from Bangkok is Ratchaburi Province which is known for the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Souvenirs, local street foods, noodles, and fruits were commonly sold either on Paddling boats or side of the river. Muay Thai martial arts demonstration is also located in the area as well as the nearby Rose garden that showcase traditional Thai dances, Elephant rides, handicrafts and authentic house styles from different parts of Thailand.

Located just 80 km west of Bangkok, Ratchaburi has long been recognized for its Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Suan Phueng district and traditional earthenware and ceramic products. But in recent years , this small province has gradually transformed itself from an old-fashioned town into a hub of art offering a fantastic array of creative art pieces, particularly contemporary art, to appreciate.

A good starting point for art lovers is Tao Hong Tai: d Kunst Gallery, the very first art gallery dedicated to contemporary art. The brainchild of Silpathorn award­ winning ceramic artist Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, the gallery displays inspirational art pieces, be it paintings, photos, sculptures or ceramic objects, from various artists in a revamped century-old wooden building. The good news is you can probably take back home some of your favourite pieces as some exhibits are also available for sale.

For those with a hankering for ceramic works, head to legendary Tao Hong Tai Ceramics Factory (+66 3233 7574), where you will find a wide variety of exquisite ceramic products, ranging from classical Thai-style water jars, tiles and vases to modern-design home decor items and European-style terracotta, and learn how these products are made during the factory tour. Then, leisurely wander around a spacious outdoor art garden to admire whimsically-created sculptures and colorful art objects. Before leaving, don’t forget to take a ‘selfie’ with the iconic giant sculpture of alien-like “Dollar.” If art works from these two places are still not enough, stroll along Woradej Road and t he clock tower area by the Mae Klong river to simply admire street art both in the forms of sculptures and graffiti in a chill-out atmosphere. The most eye-catching piece is an enormous fiberg lass sculpture of a boy sitting by the river.

For sculpture enthusiasts, don’t miss out Siam Cultural Park (+66 3238 1401), where you can get close enough to take photos with realistic wax figures of well-known Thai and foreign personalities , as well as some of the most respected Buddhist monks. Here, you can also learn about the different characteristics of Buddha images through the three periods of Ayutthaya , Sukhothai and Chieng San or Lanna, as well as Thai traditional houses in four regions.

If fine art does not appeal to you, visit Suan Silp Baan Din (+66 3239 7668) to enjoy various lively performing arts such as classical Thai dance, folk dance, cultural performances, and theatrical drama.

Aside from contemporary art , Ratchaburi has an abundant Thai cultural heritage. Lovers of traditional Thai art will be mesmerized by a performance of shadow puppet drama or ‘Nang Yai’, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday at Khanon Templ. This ACCU (Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO) prize-winning show features graceful movements of leather puppets, with most characters from the Indian epic Ramayana. Just a stone ‘s throw from the shadow puppet theatre is the Nang Yai Museum Wat Khanon (+66 3223 4834) , where viewers can browse an exhibition of shadow puppets and learn about the history and art of making shadow puppets. Similarly, those with a passion for paintings will be enchanted by elaborately-painted murals of over 250 years old at Wat Khongkharam.

The province never fails to delight visitors who wish to get up close with nature, with plenty of Mediterranean-style resorts embraced by scenic mountain ranges in Suan Phueng district to choose from, as well as attractions such as The Scenery Vintage Farm (+668 1000 6677), an English style sheep farm where you can feed the sheep yourself and see sheep shearing demonstrations; Alpaca Hill (+668 0821 2108), where you can be as one with a herd of lovely fluffy Alpaca on a spacious 250-rai-farm and also see the South American native Capybara. Those favoring organic food should not miss Rai Pluk­ Rak (+668 6332 7365) to shop for a wide array of certified organic food products and pick up some useful information on organic farming by booking its half-day or one-day tour program. Worth a visit is The Blooms Orchid Park (+668 6111 0084) , where you can enjoy a pleasant botanical walk amidst a variety of beautiful orchids, tropical flowers and tall trees .

Other popular tourist sites include Ratchaburi National Museum, Suntree Land of Dolls, Ban Hom Tien, Bo Khlueng Hot Stream, Wat Nong Hoi and the recreational park Veneto Suanphueng.

All About Arts
If you happen to be around Ratchaburi on the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the month, don’t miss a chance to join the All About Arts Festival at the Chet Samian Old Market, close to the Chet Samian Railway Station. At the event, you can enjoy activities such as drawing, viewing various performances for free, namely folk art shows by elderly artists, contemporary shows by Thai and international artists , as well as performing art shows from Suan Silp Baan Din, while shopping for a wide range of food and local products from the Chet Samian Community.

Getting there
Drive from Bangkok, taking Highway No. 4 (Petchakasem Road) to Ratchaburi via Bang Khae, Om Noi, Om Yai, Nakhon Chai Si and Nakhon Pathom, or Highway No. 338 to Nakhon Chai Si via Buddhamonthon and turn onto Highway No. 4, which leads to Ratchaburi . Regular trains serve the city daily from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong and Thon Buri railway stations . Air­ conditioned buses depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Ratchaburi every day (www.transport.co.th).

For more information, contact the TAT, Petchaburi office on +66 3247 1005-6, +66 3247 1502.

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