On the eastern coast of Thailand, about five hours from Bangkok, Chantaburi is far from the most well-known province in the country. In fact, I would be surprised if a whole lot of foreigners even know about it. That's a shame, because Chanthaburi has lots to offer for a weekend away from the city.
You can easily reach Chanthaburi by bus from the Eastern (Ekkamai) Bus Station (Ekkamai BTS).
Chanthaburi Old Town
The biggest attraction in the Old Town is Chanthaburi Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It's a beautiful old Gothic church that sits directly in the center of town. Visitors are welcome to enter, look around, and take photographs.
After visiting the cathedral, take a walk around Old Town. It's small enough to be easily covered on foot. Grab lunch on the riverfront, and enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the many cafes lining the main road. There are a few temples to visit, but people mainly enjoy Old Town for its charming old shops and houses.
Jao Lao Beach
You'll need to hire a driver to get to Jao Lao Beach from the Old Town, but once there, you won't want to leave. Jao Lao is a black sandy beach in a quiet section of the Thai coastline. It's beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing. There are plenty of resorts lining the beach, all offering accommodations at a variety of prices, as well as restaurants.
DON'T MISS the steamed crabs! Thailand is famous for its delicious seafood, and giant steamed crabs are a delicacy in Chanthaburi! They are much cheaper and fresher here than in Bangkok!
Namtok Plio National Park
Namtok Plio means gracefully dancing waterfall in Thai. As you might guess, a waterfall is the main attraction, but there's a lot to see besides that.
The park, in the tropical rain forests of eastern Thailand, is home to all sorts of creatures, including mongooses (mongeese?), tigers, porcupines, and all sorts of exotic birds, though of course they don't come anywhere near the visitors center.
Besides the waterfall, there are a few monuments honoring Queen Sunanta. The pyramid is a monument built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in honor of his beloved wife. The King apparently loved Namtok Plio, and visited many times. The pyramid holds some of the queen's ashes, and some people go there to make a wish.
Just beyond the statue is a moss-covered chedi, a Buddhist monument. Though it's also from the era of King Rama V (late 19th / early 20th century), it feels ancient. Coming to it on the jungle path feels like you are discovering some hidden ruin.