Chanthaburi is proof that all that glitters is not gold. Here, gemstones do the sparkling, attracting international traders, including many South Asians, dealing in sapphires, rubies, emeralds, agate and jade. Thanks to the gem market and Chanthaburi's multicultural history (French, Vietnamese and Chinese), the so-called ‘City of the Moon’ is surprisingly diverse for a regional Thai town. It's well worth visiting for an appreciation of the economic and religious sanctuary Thailand has long provided in the region.
The old city (also known as the Chantaboon Waterfront Community) is the best place to chart the course of immigration and international involvement in the city. The Vietnamese began arriving in the 19th century when Christian refugees escaped religious and political persecution in Cochin China (southern Vietnam). A second wave of Vietnamese refugees followed in the 1920s and 1940s, fleeing French rule, and a third arrived after the 1975 communist takeover of southern Vietnam. The French occupied Chanthaburi from 1893 to 1905, a consequence of a dispute over the border between Siam and Indochina.