Virtually enveloped by mountains and valleys, Phayao is a peaceful province. Though with only modest facilities and conveniences, it is an enchanting community with delightful natural beauty and fascinating religious sites. Dating back more than 900 years, it used to be an independent state with its own rulers before it became a part of the Lanna Thai kingdom in mid-14 th century. Phayao is about 691 kilometres from Bangkok and covers an area of 6,335 square kilometres.
Dating from the 12th century and situated by the lake is Wat Sri Khom Kham. Known among locals as Wat Phra Chao Ton Luang, the modern wiharn (prayer hall) houses a 16th century, late Chiang Saen-style Buddha image that is 16-m tall, believed to be the largest image in the northern region. Surrounding the wiharn are thirty-eight Buddha heads designed in the Phayao style, featuring rounded heads and pointed noses, dating from the 14th century. The temple buildings are enclosed by an attractive garden presenting a portrayal of Heaven and Hell.
Wat Sri Umong Dum houses a chedi that dates back to the Chiang Saen period but is still remarkably intact. It also contains another Buddha image that is highly revered by the townspeople, Luang Phor Ngam Muang Ruang Rit, or commonly known as Phra Chao Lantu, the supremest example of Lanna artwork with the distinctive artform of Phu Kamyao.
The King Ngum Muang Memorial , situated in front of the municipal park, was erected in honor of the great ruler who brought peace and prosperity to Phu Kamyao. He fostered a powerful alliance with King Mengrai of Chiang Rai and King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai.
Kwan Phayao is an important water resource area, because it is the most important site of freshwater farming in the entire upper northern region, especially for the giant Mekong (pla buek) catfish. The natural lake is also the nation's third largest freshwater resource and is an important irrigation source. The word'kwan' comes from the local dialect meaning'lake'. There are a lot of food shops located along the bank, suitable for dining and relaxing in the evening or during the sunset. Situated in the heart of town, it boasts beautiful and tranquil scenery of lush green hills overlapping each other.
Within the town, the Phayao Freshwater Fishery Station was the first place in the world to successfully breed the gigantic pla buek catfish, found only in the Mekong River. The center has displays of different species of fish and breeding pools of various fishes they are trying to preserve.
Situated at the top of the Bussaracum Hills in town, Wat Ananlayo contains a large courtyard and many structures, including a large Sukhothai-style Buddha image, Buddha images in various postures, and a replica of the Emerald Buddha's Chapel. It also offers a panoramic view of the city and lake.
Covering parts of Phayao, Chiang Rai, and Lampang provinces, the Doi Luang National Park features many spectacular waterfalls, such as Poo Keng Falls, Champa Thong Falls, Pa Klet Nak Falls, and Chang Falls.
Experts believe the Wiang Lor Historical Park , or Muang Phra Lor, was established during the reign of King Ngum Muang. The park contains many ruins, including the old city walls and temples, particularly the significant Wat Sri Ping Muang, an ancient temple.
Outside of town is another hilltop temple, Wat King Kaeng , which features a Lanna-style chedi and offers a great view of surrounding areas.
The tribal Thai Lue communities of Chiang Khum and Chiang Muan districts, are ethnic minorities related to the Tai people of southern China who emigrated from there and settled in Thailand over a century ago. Most interesting are the attractive Thai Lue fabrics, produced from either silk or cotton and hand woven on traditional looms which can be found in any villages in Chiang Khum. The Thai Lue people have established their own cultural center at Ban Yuan Village in Chiang Kham, to promote craft skill training and preserve their culture, which is entirely unique from those of other tribes.
An extensive fresh-water lake, Kwan Phayao is the largest fresh-water fish habitat in the upper North, which provides the livelihood of ma n y of the local people. The surrounding scenery, particularly at dusk, is stunning. Along the banks are located food-shops and recreation sites.
The Pho Khun Ngam Muang Memorial, located in the public park on the bank of Kwan Phayao, commemorates a former king of Pha ya o, or Phu Kam Ya o, who was in power some 700 years ago. During his reign, the state prospered and expanded its territory. As a close ally of King Mengrai, the ruler of Chiang Rai, a n d King Ramk h amhaeng of Sukhothai, they formed an alliance of harmony, loyalty and non-aggression.
Wat Si K h om K h am is a temple located on the banks of the Kwan Phayao River. It houses the largest Buddha statue of Lanna Thai, namely Phra Chao Ton Luang, a sitting Buddha with a lap width of 14 meters and height of 16 meters. It is said that it took no less than 33 years to complete it. Celebrations are held every May.
Next to Wat Si Koam Kam is Ho Watanatham Nithat. The in di genous museum deals wit h the history and ancient relics of Phayao, including native culture and traditions and creativity. Open Wednesday-Sunday from nine in the morning t o four in the afternoon.
The Phayao Fresh-water Fishery Station, on Highway No. 1 in town, is the first facility in the world to successfully breed Pla Buk, the giant catfish. There is an aquarium displaying many species of fish and waterplants. Open during official working hours.The Chiang Sae n -style C hedi at Wat Si Umong Kham is still in good condition. The Lanna-style Buddha statue, Phra Chao Lan Tu, is regarded as the most beautiful anywhere.
Wat Phra That Chomthong, just opposite Wat Si K ho m K h am, can be reached by the 1.5-k ilometre -long uphill road. Surrounded by an arboretum, the temple offers a panoramic view of the town and the lake.
About 7 k ilometres north of town on H ighway No. 1 and further 9 k ilometres after a left turn is a hilltop temple, Wat Analyo. Covering an extensive area, cool and shady under leafy canopies of large trees it features building and sculptures of religion-based characters by contemporary craftsmen of great skill. From here an expansive view of Kwan Phayao, the fields and the town is visible.
Nam Tok Champa T hong is a beautiful and tall waterfall amid natural surroundings. It can be reached by taking the Phayao - Chiang Rai route. After reaching Km. 7, take a turn and proceed on for a further 16 kilometres.
Doi Phu Nang National Park is 48 kilometres south of Amphoe Dok Khamtai along Highway No. 1251 and 4 kilometres along an access road. A variety of birds are found, especially peacocks, which come to the park area for breeding from January to March. The park also has a scenic waterfall called Namtok Than Sawan. Camping in the park is possible.
Ban Tham Indigenous Cultural Centre is about 15 k ilometres from the district town of Dok Kham t ai on the way to Chiang Muan district. It has a large collection of native agricultural tools and implements as well as ancient objects from which the cultural lifestyle of t he Lanna people in the past ca n be studied. One kilomet re before the Cent re is a park shaded by large trees with caves of hanging and protruding rock deposits.
An interesting temple in Chiang Kham is Wat Nantaram, a Burmese-style site built entirely with teak. The woodwork on the windows, gables, corridors and other parts are beautifully chiseled in elaborate designs. Another place of interest is Wat Phra That So p Wae n with its 700-year-old Lanna-style C hedi.
Chiang Kham is home to many Thai Lue people, about 74 k ilometres to the northeast of Pha-yao on Highway No. 1021. The Thai Lu e s originally we r e from the south of Yu n nan in China and migrated to northern Thailand, particularly to Nan and Phayao, some 200 years ago.
King Amphoe Phu Sang
Five kilometr e s from Phu S ang waterfall is a village on the Thai-Laotian border. On the 10 th and 30 th of every month, Ban Huak village hold a bazaar for Thais and Laotians to trade and barter their products.
Nam Tok Phu Sang is a scenic waterfall about 20 k ilometres to the north of the district town of Chiang Kham on Highway No. 1093. The surroundings are still in perfect natural condition. Phu S ang is different from other waterfalls. It is fed by a hot spring on the mountain, which flows into the brook before cascading over the fall.
Hotels and accommodation
- 555 : Rong Ha, Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Muang : 120-160 baht
- Chain Hotel : Phayao-Chiang Kham Road Amphoe Dok Kham Tai : 120-280 baht
- Chalermsak : 38/7 Ratsamphan Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5443 1063] : 80-120 baht
- Chiang Kham Guest House : Amphoe Chiang Kham [Tel: 0 5445 1588-9] : 160-240 baht
- Chiang Kham Hotel : 243/13 Tambon Yuan Amphoe Chiang Kham [Tel: 0 5448 1893, 0 5443 1640] : 100-260 baht
- Chun Resort : 73 Mu 9 Chun-Dok Kham Tai Road Amphoe Dok Kham Tai
- Dok Kham Tai Bungalow : 22 Dok Kham Tai-Phayao Road Amphoe Dok Kham Tai : 120-200 baht
- Dok Kham Tai Hotel : 1 Mu 1 Tambon Don Si Chum Amphoe Dok Kham Tai : 80-120 baht
- Friend House : 424 Tambon Ban Tom Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5448 1556] : 500-1,200 baht
- Gateway : 7/36 Pratu Klong 2 Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5441 1330-9 Fax: 0 5441 0519] : 1,200-4,000 baht
- Khit Thung : Chiang Kham-Chiang Rai Road Amphoe Chiang Kham [Tel: 0 5445 1194] : 80-120 baht
- Kwan Phayao Bungalow : 11 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5448 1493] 250-350 baht
- Mit Pracha : 121 Mu 8 Tambon Yuan Amphoe Muang : 60-80 baht
- Phayao Hotel : 445 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5448 1971-2 Fax: 0 5443 1973 Bangkok Tel: 0 2322 5393-4 Fax: 0-2321 5768] : 680-840 baht
- Phayao Northern Lake : 15/7 Rop Wiang Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5448 1538-9 Fax: 0 5448 1973] : 650-1,200 baht
- Samanmit : 132 Mu 11 Khun Yuam Road Amphoe Pong [Tel: 0 5447 9249] : 80 baht
- Siriphan Bungalow : 17 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5443 1319] : 120-270 baht
- Songsak : 99 Mu 2 Super Highway Tambon Tha Wang Thong Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5448 1932] : 80-200 baht
- Suan Son Bungalow : 176 Mu 3 Super Highway Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5443 1571] : 110-280 baht
- Thanthong : 55-57 Don San am Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5443 1302, 0 5443 1342, 0 5443 1772 Fax: 0 5448 1256] : 150-400 baht
- Wattana : 69 Don San am Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5443 1205] : 120-260 baht
- Local Cuisine
- Chai Kwan Restaurant : 19/2 Chai Kwan Rd., Tel: 0-5443-1132
- Hua Lee : 552 Phaholyotin Rd., Tel: 0-5443-1273
- Khao Soi Pa Sa-ngiem : 126 Moo 2, Yuan Sutti Pracharat Rd., Chiang Kam, Tel: 0-5445-1258
- Khun Ying : Chiang Kam-Jun Rd., Tel: 0-5441-5418
- Koh Kong : Phaholyotin Rd., Tel: 0-5448-1336
- Kwan Phayao : 19/5 Chai Kwan Rd., Tel: 0-5443-1132
- Rungrot : 649/5-6 Super Highway, Phayao-Chiangmai Rd., Tel: 0-5443-1508
- Sri Sakul : 522 Phaholyotin Rd., Tel: 0-5443-1096
- Wang Tong : 17/4 Phaholyotin Rd., Tel: 0-5448-2009
- Wiang Tan : 17/9 Chai Kwan Rd., Tel: 0-5448-1938
How to get there
* By car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 32 and Highway No. 1 to Phayao via Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, Nakhon Sawan, Tak and Lampang, a total distance of 966 kilometres. For an alternative route, take Highway No. 1 to Amphoe Tak Fa via Saraburi, Lop Buri before turning into Highway No. 11 to Phrae via Phichit, Phitsanulok, Uttaradit, and then proceed to Phayao along Highways No. 101, No. 103 and No. 1.
* By bus
Bus companies which operate daily bus services from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal to Phayao are, Transport Co. Ltd Tel: 0 2936 2852-66; Siam First Tour, Tel: 0 2954 3601, Sombat Tour, Tel: 0 2936 2495.
* By train
Visitors can take a regular train from Bangkok to Lampang or Chiang Mai, then connect by bus to Phayao. Call 1690 for more information.
* By plane
Visitors can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and then connect by bus to Phayao. Contact Thai Airways at Tel: 1566 for more information.