Located between Chon Buri and Pattaya on Thailands eastern coastline the town has never been on the tourist trail due to its lack of beaches. What was previously a fishing village Sri Racha is now experiencing development and industrialization. Many of the old wooden fishing piers still remain but they are dwarfed by the international port at Laem Chabang. With the ports success, many Japanese and Korean workers live in the area resulting in an increase of facilities, restaurants and, unfortunately, prices. Despite the fast development the town has maintained some of its old character and fading Chinese style shops still sell everything from noodles, herbs and medicine. Fishermen are still seen mending nets or tending the many squid rigs moored to the jetties.
Thai towns are adept at disguising themselves so that they resemble each other. Si Racha, though, is more international than most, thanks to the Japanese car manufacturers based nearby. This has resulted in 'Little Tokyo' with many sushi joints, as well as Japanese-style bars, and on weekends the impeccably maintained health park is full of Japanese expats jogging and throwing baseballs around. But Si Racha is most attractive for what it doesn't have; there are no girlie bars or traffic jams and precious few foreign visitors, allowing you to enjoy a taste of small town life.
Being an industrialized centre more than a tourist destination the hotels are more geared towards the business market than the holidaymaker. Clean and functional but lacking in charm tend to be the order of the day .There is limited accommodation for the high end luxury traveler with greater emphasis given to mid range, budget hotels and guesthouses.
Koh Loy is a small island located at the end of a 500m long bridge at the north end of Sri Racha promonade. You will find seafood restaurants and a temple of the hilltop that overlooks the island. There is also a turtle sanctuary in the middle of the island. In the evenings it is very popular with locals.
Many long term expats will tell you Thailand was far better twenty years ago and although it is impossible to turn the clock back, Koh Si Chang offers the best alternative. Life here has hardly changed over recent decades. There are a few convenience stores, hardly any cars and nightlife is nowhere to be seen. The islands handful of attractions includes two beaches, a former royal palace and a Chinese temple.
About five kilometers outside town the zoo has dozens of tigers, crocodiles and other animals. Unfortunately the zoo doesn't allow its inhabitants much room and some enclosures have baby crocodiles heaped on top of each other. The zoo was in the headlines when in 2004 over a hundred tigers died following an outbreak of bird flu. The opportunity still exist to be photographed next to a chained up bear or holding a tiger cub. As if to counter the circus feel the zoo has recently opened an educational centre explaining the reproductive life cycle of the crocodile although judging by the number of handbags on sale it would appear many reptiles had their lives ended prematurely.
Riding an elephant as you pass by giraffe, zebra and deer is quite an experience. It's not quite the Serengeti, but this open zoo does manage to combine the interests of tourists with the interests of animals extremely well, and is noted for its conservation work. Animals live out in the open, separated from visitors by moats and, only occasionally, cages. As well as the obligatory animal shows, there is plenty of information about the animals, and why they need protecting. It's a great place for families, and also good value.
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