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Bangkok Travelbug February 15 Suan Phueng Ratchaburi
January 31, 2015

Suan Phueng – Bee Garden in Ratchaburi

0630 hours 24 January 2000 Ratchaburi, western Thailand

The rag-tag group of heavily armed teenagers in camouflaged fatigues and balaclavas hijacked a bus near the Thai-Myanmar border and forced their way into a hospital nearby. By noon the full horror of the incident hit Thailand and the world.

The group responsible called themselves God’s Army, a breakaway group of the Karen National Union which opposed the government of Myanmar. They took 700 people hostage consisting of medical staff and patients most of them women and children.

God’s Army was led by twelve-year old twins Johnny and Luther Hitoo who believed they were impervious to bullets. The twins were not on that raid. The group demanded that the Thai army stop shelling their positions on the Myanmar side of the border and for medical treatment for their people who sought refuge in Thailand.

The stand-off was relatively short. Late that night 40 Thai commandos disguised as patients and medical staff infiltrated the hospital to prepare for the assault and to warn the hostages to lie low. Snipers were positioned at vantage points to cover the assault.

At 0530 hours the next day, the commandos struck and killed 10 of the gunmen. In the aftermath, most of the reports in the foreign media reported that the incident took place in a hospital in Ratchaburi, western Thailand.

Back then, few mentioned that the incident took place in Suan Phueng Hospital, Suan Phueng district, Ratchaburi about 150 km west of Bangkok.

Contents (click on the link to go directly to the topic)

Suan Phueng today

Suan Phueng (phueng – bee, suan - garden) isn’t noted for its bees. This small district in western Ratchaburi measures about 50 km from north to south and 35 km from east to west at its broadest part. It’s nestled in the foothills of the Tanaosi mountain range that separates Thailand from Myanmar.

View westwards to the green hills, Myanmar and beyond

Today, the area is a favourite with Thai tourists because of its nature reserves, waterfalls, reservoirs, orchid and rose gardens. Numerous European styled resorts, hotels and family-owned motels have sprouted up to cater to the visitors.

It’s an ideal location for a weekend getaway or even a honeymoon. To my mind, it’s more appropriate to call the place Honey Garden instead. Let’s visit some of these attractions in Suan Phueng.

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Baan Hom Tien

Baan Hom Tien (fragrant candle house) consists of a series of souvenir shops built along the slope of a hill. The shops that gave the place its name sell scented candles of various shapes and sizes placed in beautiful lanterns.

The candle shops

They even conduct candle making classes to help visitors make candles of their choice. Here’s a sample of the products.

Made during the candle making class

But it’s the environment that makes Baan Hom Tien so special. There are wooden balconies and walkways along the side that give a beautiful view of the lush greenery on the distant mountains.

Take a walk for some beautiful views

Relax over a coffee

Take a leisurely stroll through the place and stop for refreshment in cosy cafes overlooking the pleasant surroundings.

Lush surroundings

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Suan Phueng Orchid Garden

Our next stop was the Suan Phueng Orchid Farm further up the road. The climate and soil here must be conducive to growing these beautiful blooms. The owner of the farm was kind enough to take us on a tour of his premises.

The farm grows these orchids for the domestic market as well as for export. Many of his orchids are cross-pollinated to produce multi-coloured blooms. On a hill behind the orchid farms he has started a rose garden as well.

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Scenery Resort & Farm

Lastly we stopped at the Scenery Resort and Farm, which is modelled like an English farm. The resort used to have overnight stays but have discontinued this.

The farm house

Currently they cater for one-day trips that include feeding the sheep, kayaking in the mountain streams nearby and touring the surrounding area to admire the beautiful natural scenery.

Feeding the sheep

It’s a pleasant and peaceful place to wander around, take photos and feed the sheep. Pony rides are also available for the children.

Pony rides

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Suan Phueng hotels

There is no shortage of accommodation in Suan Phueng. These range from up-market European styled resorts with individual chalets to modest family owned motels. Prices range from 2,000 – 3,000 baht per night to 500 baht per night.

Even the inexpensive motels are air-conditioned, with hot and cold showers, free wifi and satellite TV! The place where we stayed even had beautiful orchids in their garden.

Orchids at the hotel where we stayed

To complement these hotels are numerous food and beverage outlets in the area where a good meal can be served at relatively inexpensive prices.

Our dinner of spicy wild boar meat, deep-fried soft-boned fish and
spicy stir-fried morning glory

It was only after my visit to Suan Phueng that I found out about the unfortunate incident back in January 2000. Suan Phueng is so peaceful and pleasant today, that day in 2000 wouldn’t have made a difference.

Have a Happy St Valentine’s Day!

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Map to the Suan Phueng attractions

View Suan Phueng attractions in a larger map

Opening hours and admission

Baan Hom Tien

Opening hours 0700 – 1800 hours every day
Admission: 50 baht for adults
(you can exchange your ticket for a souvenir candle)

Entry tickets exchanged for souvenir candles

Suan Phueng Orchid Garden

Opening hours 0800 – 1630 hours everyday
Admission: 20 baht

Scenery Resort & Farm

Opening hours
Mondays – Fridays 0830 – 1600 hours
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 0830 – 1630 hours
Admission: 50 baht for adults

How to get to there

By car

Go along Phetkasem Road (highway 4) till you get to Ratchaburi city. You can get on to highway 3208 till you get to the Suan Phueng Hospital. Continue on to highway 3087 which leads onto Suan Phueng town. Alternatively you can go directly onto highway 3087.

Baan Hom Tien is along the main road highway 3087. The other two attractions are off the main road.

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Hotels in Ratchaburi

Next month

Phae Rim Nam Resort Ang Thong

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Till next month then.

Eric Lim
Tour Bangkok Legacies
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