Chanthaburi has played a big role in Thai history. It was here that the man who would become King Taksin gathered and prepared his troops to retake Ayutthaya from the Burmese after they sacked the capital of Siam in 1767. The King Taksin Shrine, shaped like a house-size helmet from that era, is on the north end of town.
The French occupied the city from 1893 to 1905, and you can spot some architecture from that era along the river. The French influence is evident in the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, across the river from the center of town. First built in 1711 by Christian Vietnamese who migrated to the area, the cathedral has been rebuilt four times since, and the present building was completed in the early 1900s when the city was under French control. The best time to visit the church is during the morning market on the grounds, when local foods, fruits, and desserts are sold.