Of Bees & Quiet
Published on: October 12, 2018
Blogger and mum of not one, but two sets of twins, Nori Brixen ventures further afield for a family getaway in Ratchaburi province and what they found was completely unexpected.
By Nori Brixen
After four years in Bangkok, we had pretty much exhausted all the nearby weekend getaways. We had fed farm animals in Nakhon Nayok, taken the train to Samut Songkhram, enjoyed a jungle hike in Khao Yai, hit the beaches in Hua Hin and Pattaya, cruised the rivers of Kanchanaburi and chilled out on Koh Samet.
Friends and colleagues had mentioned Suan Phueng to me before. It sounded like a mini-Khao Yai: sheep farms, ATV rides and oddball hotels tucked up in the mountains near Myanmar. But my husband and I weren’t big fans of Khao Yai itself (except for the incredible national park), so we had never been to this “Bee Garden”. I didn’t know that it was located in Ratchaburi province, just a few hours’ drive from Bangkok.
One of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s twelve “Hidden Gem” provinces, Ratchaburi is west of Bangkok and south of Kanchanaburi. Its most famous attraction, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, is on the Mae Klong River just upstream from Amphawa.
West of the Mae Klong, the province gets more mountainous, right up to its 60 km border with Myanmar. On the drive south to Hua Hin, I’d often looked to the east at the range of blue peaks on the horizon and wondered what was up there.
Now, I know: Suan Phueng.
Suan Phueng – “Bee Garden”
As you’d expect from the name, Suan Phueng is a clean, fertile place with ample runoff from surrounding mountains. There were so many creeks that they numbered rather than named them. In the valley were fruit plantations, while thick stands of bamboo gave the rounded mountaintops a shaggy, cottony look. When I went for a run one morning, the air was so perfumed with flowers that I could taste it. In the evening, it was quiet and cool.
Places to stay
Like Khao Yai, Suan Phueng has a bizarre mix of kitschy themed accommodation and attractions. We stayed at Stamp’s Hill Resort, a collection of delightful pseudo-European villas. They didn’t have larger family rooms available so we had separate cottages just next door to each other: adults stayed in the “Rome” villa; the kids in “Amsterdam”.
The Swiss Valley Hip Resort was just down the road. There were, of course, Tuscan-themed resorts and even vaguely African ‘huts’. There were pick-your-own strawberry farms and waterslide parks. But, it was significantly cleaner and quieter than Khao Yai with less crowds. We liked it.
Stuff to do
Petting zoo at Alpaca Hill
Early one morning we visited Alpaca Hill – Thailand first and only alpaca breeding farm. In the briefing area, we were supplied with a “Fur of the Gods” brochure in which the boys could collect stamps at each of 24 animal stations.
It turned out to be great fun. We petted and were chased by greedy and hungry, snaggle-toothed alpacas. The boys giggled as parakeets and budgerigars perched on their fingers and heads. We cradled tiny hedgehogs in our hands, fed rabbits and capybaras, stroked chinchillas and scratched piggy bellies.
And as usual, we lost Logan. (He had been daydreaming in the flamingo area.) As petting zoos go, Alpaca Hill was excellent. There was an impressive number and variety of animals. They looked well looked-after and the boys absolutely loved it.
Candle-making at Baan Hom Thien
Later that same day, we drove down the valley to Baan Hom Thien (the House of Scented Candles). It was an attractive Suan Phueng souvenir mini-mall that meandered uphill to a viewpoint. We were the last group of the day to do the candle-making class.
First, the boys chose an animal candle base (alpaca or sheep-shaped) and a color for the wax ‘wool’. Once the wax had been melted, it was dunked in water to cool. That’s when the boys got to work, sticking clumps of Starburst-colored wax onto their naked beasts. The boys were proud of their colorful sheep candles.
It appears few foreigners make it to Ratchaburi Province and Suan Phueng; it’s something of a local tourism secret. If we had not come in the dry season, there were numerous trails to waterfalls that we might have explored. The Burmese border can also be visited on full-day 4WD expeditions.
Overall, we thought Suan Phueng was an excellent family-friendly excursion from Bangkok.
About the Author
Nori is a blogger, photographer, and mum of two sets of twin boys, Tai, Logan, Drake & Kiva. She has traveled to 100+ countries across all 7 continents. Follow her travels at www.twotwinstwavel.com and pictures on Instagram @twotwinsmum.
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