There cannot be a more obscure city in Northern Thailand than Phrae (pronounced somewhat like Prey). Capital of the province of the same name, Phrae is a rather pleasant and friendly city with a population of over 100,000 people.
What about Phrae? There is nothing really outstanding about the city – it lacks both the sleepy charm of Nan and the historical significance of Ayutthaya - but in all candor, I really cannot say that I know Phrae very well as I stayed there for only a brief two nights before continuing my journey. Like most cities in Thailand however, there are some very interesting places to see in the area.
When I asked the officer from The Regional Thai Tourist Office in Phrae, “Why do Thai Tourists come to Phrae?”, he answered me by saying “Phrae has some very interesting temples and it’s a stopover point for those journeying further north”
Upon recommendation of the Tourist Office, I visited Wat Phra That Choe Hae, considered the most important temple in Phrae. Located on a hill about 10 kilometers outside of the city, I renamed this important religious complex “The Tiger Temple” because of the many large tiger figurines scattered around the site. I guess you could say the place was crawling with tigers.
Located about 20 minute drive from the city is Phae Muang Phi (sounds like Pet Monkey), a park noted for its unusual earth pillars. As I have seen some more extensive earth pillar formations at more remote locations like Laluk in Sakaeo Province and at Sao Din in neighboring Nan Province, I have jokingly named Phae Muang Phi as “The Walk in Earth Pillar Park”, primarily because of its easy accessibility.
The highlight of my brief stay in Phrae was Ban Na Tong, a small rural village located about 30 kilometers outside the city (about a 45 minute drive). Surrounded by the lush greenery of the countryside, I am guessing Ban Na Tong – a community consisting of about 100 households – is at an elevation of 3000 feet above sea level.
Ban Na Tong is one of the areas where the Siamese Big Headed Turtle – an endangered species - can be found. In the village, they keep two of these turtles as pets in a small enclosure – I affectionately named them Pia and Nong. The community is experimenting with sustainable tourism by offering Homestay accommodations to visitors; prices are cheap – about 600 baht ($18USD) per night including meals for two people. Tour guide is for hire at 150 baht ($4.50USD) for the whole day.
Come to think it, Phrae is not too bad after all!
Check out my Phrae Photo Gallery