Need to hire a motorcycle assassin? If you pay attention to the press, Phetburi is the place to go for some of the best. We didn’t notice any hanging around advertising their wares, but that’s not what we went to Phetburi for…
Just three hours by bus or train from Bangkok, Phetburi was founded in the eleventh century, but flourished during Ayutthaya’s glorious years, when it served as a trading post between there and Burma. It became something of a cultural centre, as is evidenced by the Phetburi of today being a great place for wat freaks.
You can easily spend half a day on foot exploring the town’s thirty or so wats, which are in various states of disrepair, ranging from Wat Kamphaeng Laeng, with its tumbledown prangs, to Wat Mahathat, which has been restored to something close to magnificence. Stop off somewhere – anywhere – it’s everywhere – for some egg-yolk sweets, another of Phetburi’s famed exports (besides the assassins, that is).
Rama IV saw the beauty of the area, and Phetburi became his country retreat. In the 1850s he had a hilltop palace built here, now a museum and known as Khao Wang. You can walk up the hill where there is also an eclectic collection of religious monuments, but for lucky lazybones there is a cable car operating.
Another must-see is the cave wat of Khao Luang, five kilometres out of town. A number of golden buddhas are kept inside, and in the late afternoon (precisely when depends on the time of year) direct sunlight streams through a natural hole in the roof, providing a great opportunity for photos.
For accommodation, the best backpacking option (around Bt200) is Rabieng Guesthouse, set in an old teak building overlooking the Phetburi river. It’s a little noisy, but retains its charm and the restaurant is a good spot to relax at sundown. The owners run trips to Kaeng Krachan national park. An upper end option (Bt800) is the Royal Diamond, on Phetkasem Rd on the other side of Khao Wang (032 428272-3).
Interestingly, my partner and I didn’t argue about anything while we were there. Perhaps we were too wary of the ease with which we could have sought revenge by waving down a passing motorcycle…