Rayong and Its Role in the Most Exotic Thai Adventures
Rayong is a province in the eastern region of Thailand that boasts over 100 kilometres of coastline. Being next to the ocean and blessed with fertile soil makes the province the centre of the seafood industry and a producer of various tropical fruits such as durian. If that were not enough, however, Rayong is also rich in history and also known as the birthplace of Thailand's Shakespeare. This article tells the tale of a not-so-mainstream part of Thai history as well as the country’s most famous work of literature, both of which have their roots in Rayong.
Most Thai history enthusiasts probably know of the Epic Elephant Battle of King Naresuan or the Nine Armies’ Wars, but chances are that not quite so many have heard of King Taksin, who fought to keep the kingdom together after the fall of the old capital of Siam, Ayutthaya. For those who need a little history recap, Ayutthaya was considered one of the most powerful kingdoms in Thailand, lasting over 400 years. However, like any other empire, even the most successful of imperial powers could fall from grace, and sadly this was to be the fate of Ayutthaya.
The True Tale of King Taksin
But what does this have to do with Rayong, you may wonder? Well, believe it or not, this humble little province played a crucial part in the salvage of what was left of the kingdom. In the late Ayutthaya era, the kingdom suffered severely from the devastating multiple invasions by the Burmese. General Taksin, a Thai-Chinese former servant of the last Ayutthaya King led Siam to liberation with help from Rayong. General Taksin recruited patriots from Ayutthaya and relied heavily on the people of Rayong to form his navy. From Rayong, he marched the troops back to Ayutthaya and re-took the kingdom. General Taksin soon became king, and until this very day, because of his courage and bravery, the people of Rayong still worship him. Travellers who would like to get a glimpse of how powerful he was – or still is – can visit Wat Pa Pradu, the oldest temple in Rayong, where the locals often pay a visit to worship his spirit through the King Taksin monument.
Not a fan of history? Rayong has other exciting stuff as well. One of the juiciest pieces of Thai literature was thought to have been written in Rayong by Thailand’s Shakespeare, Sunthorn Phu. Yes, this conservative country does have graphic literature, and the most famous example is called Phra Abhai Mani by Sunthorn Phu. Interestingly, the story of Phra Abhai Mani revolves around the protagonist Phra Abhai Mani and his twisted love for four women: the Sea Giantess, the Mermaid, Princess Suvarnamali, and Princess Laweng. The story took Sunthorn Phu over 20 years to compose, but despite two decades of writing, it does not have an ending. Because the story is so long and elaborate, Thai students only get to learn the very first few chapters.
The Not-So-True Tale of Phra Abhai Mani
The story begins with Phra Abhai Mani being kidnapped by the Sea Giantess who locks him away in her cave, and somehow together they give birth to a baby boy who later turns into a witty child with supernatural powers. One day, while the Sea Giantess is away, Phra Abhai Mani and his son manage to escape from the cave with the help of a mermaid. However, not long after their escape, the Sea Giantess catches up with their attempt. Since Phra Abhai Mani knows that his son has special powers, he decides to leave the son to deal with the Sea Giantess, and then mounts the swimming mermaid, trying to escape to the “magical island”, now known as Koh Samet. Phra Abhai Mani falls in love with the mermaid, but the mermaid believes that she is just a fish and so offers to be his servant instead.
“Love is common to all living creatures, be they men, animals or fish … we were destined to belong to each other … I have no wish to be your master. I want to be your lover.”
Phra Abhai Mani soon successfully convinces the mermaid – after all, how can one resist his charm with that line? But for those under 18 years of age, stop reading now because Sunthorn Phu is about to take twisted to the next level. The story goes on elaborating about Phra Abhai Mani and the mermaid’s seven-day-long outdoor “adventure” and compares it with the intensity of a tsunami. How this intimacy was physically possible still leaves most Thais puzzled. Other parts of the story concern Phra Abhai Mani’s other lovers, and the adventures of his son.
Because of the wild imagination behind the story, it earned itself a place in Thai primary school textbooks, minus the juicy bits of course. Moreover, Sunthorn Phu, Phra Abhai Mani, the Mermaid, and the Sea Giantess became so famous that they got their own human-size statues. Travellers can find them on Koh Samet, Rayong. In addition to exploring the exotic tales of Sunthorn Phu, visitors can also enjoy the world class travel sites the province has to offer such as Centara Q Resort Rayong, Passione Shopping Destination, and Princess Sirindhorn’s Herbal Garden.