Rayong province is situated to the North of the Gulf of Thailand, bordered by Chon Buri and Chantaburi. It consists mainly of low coastal plains, with hills to the North, and is incorporates several islands which sit peacefully in the Gulf, including Ko Sanet, Ko Mun and Ko Kodi, all popular tourist destinations which have experienced a rapid development over recent decades.
Rayong City is the capital of the province, and boasts a population of around 55 thousand. Its main industry is fishing, and it is the main producer of Thailand’s fish sauce, whilst also being a centre for the automotive and chemical industries.
Rayong has origins in antiquity. Back in 1500 in the Buddhist Era the Khmer settled the area. Thailand was in a constant state of defending itself against the Burmese army. The old capital, Ayutthaya was burned by invading soldiers in 2309 BE. The ruling king at the time Praya Vajiraprakan, fled south with his entourage and supporters.
Later, during his journey to Chantaburi in the east, he made a stop at Rayong to gather reinforcements. He was given a great welcome by the citizens of Rayong who conferred on him the title of Phra Chao Taksin or the King of Thonburi.
With a bolstered army and naval force, Praya Vajiraprakan returned to Ayutthaya where he was successful in regaining independence. The landmark victory was marked by constructing a new capital city at Thonburi. The people of Rayong had their own commemoration of the victory, building a shrine to the king’s memory which still attracts devotees every day, centuries on.
It was during the Ayutthaya era that the oldest Buddhist temple of Rayong was built, and still houses a huge statue of a reclining Buddha, which is no less than 12 metres long.
There is other, more recent military history that makes up the story of Rayong. During the Vietnam War, Sattahip was used as an American base and the forces enjoyed the region for their recreational and relaxation time when not fighting. They didn’t leave much of a mark on Rayong but it led to the growth of modern Pattaya.
Another landmark of Thai history at Rayong is the statue of Sunthorn Phu. One of Thailand’s most revered and celebrated poets, he wrote what is adjudged to be the finest example of Thai literature in Rayong 200 years ago during the Ratanakosin era.
Despite this colourful history, however, most travellers spend little time in the city, but will instead take the chance to explore the wider province’s rich geography, or hop on a bus and head straight for Pan Phe, the port. From here you can take further transport along the coast to small and unsophisticated resort towns including Hat Mae Rampeung, Laem Mae Phim, Hat Sai Thong and Laem Charoen. Ferries from nearby Ban Phe take visitors to private resorts on the secluded islands of Ko Man Klang and Ko Man Nok, as well as the more popular tourist islands.
The weather is consistently all year round, only falling below 80 degrees around December and January, and rising to its hottest point around May. Rainfall is at its most likely in September.