Bangkok, 24 December, 2020 – Nestled within the Northeast province of Loei, Phu Kradueng National Park has reopened after a longer than usual yearly closure due to a forest fire and is again welcoming visitors, to the delight of nature loving Thais with whom the park is particularly popular.
The second oldest of Thailand’s 147 national parks – after Khao Yai National Park – Phu Kradueng National Park is among Loei’s top attractions and is particularly popular with Thais for its walking trails, numerous waterfalls and different viewpoints from which picturesque sunrises and sunsets can be admired.
It’s become almost a rite of passage for young Thais to trek the few hours along pine forest trails up to the park’s wide plateau. Camping and bungalow facilities are in place at the park’s lower and upper visitor centres located at Phu Kradueng Town and on the plateau. It’s recommended to start the hike uphill early in the morning and as such it can be a good idea to stay at the lower visitor centre the night before.
Loei enjoys a cooler climate than much of Thailand year-round, yet it’s the cooler months from November through to February which see the most visitors to Phu Kradueng National Park when the average temperature of 15 or so degrees Celsius provides a comfortable respite from the usual tropical heat. This can drop to zero degrees at night. The park is closed to visitors in the rainy season from June through September, however this year it didn’t reopen until October to allow more time for ecological recovery after a fire scorched over 500 hectares of forest land in February. Another reason for this year’s closer is the nationwide effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Around 80 km south of Loei city, Phu Kradueng National Park is one of several national parks in Loei province, where the high-country landscapes and dramatic vistas offer plenty in the way of hiking, biking, camping and other nature-oriented opportunities. Some 50 km to the west of the provincial seat is Phu Ruea National Park offering more waterfalls, camping and mountain peaks, the highest of these being the 1,365 metre-high Phu Ruea mountain which affords views of the Mekong and Hueang rivers and across into Laos.
Another 10 km westward from Phu Ruea National Park is Suan Sawan National Park, where there are walking paths and caves to visit. In the immediate vicinity is another of Loei’s well known attractions, Phu Ho mountain which began to get a name for itself after someone once commented it resembled Japan’s famous Mount Fuji, and yes there is a certain resemblance.
Under the current ‘new normal’, it should be noted that before visiting any national park, travellers are required to register via the QueQ mobile app. More information on this is available on Phu Kradueng National Park’s Facebook page.
When it’s time for a touch of heritage and culture, the charming town of Chiang Khan on the banks of the Mekong River just under 50 km from Loei city is definitely the place to head. Full of character and having held on to its traditional identity as it grew in popularity over recent years with Thai and foreign visitors, Chiang Khan boasts a delightful walking street with shops, restaurants, boutique guesthouses and such occupying traditional wooden shophouses. A stroll along the riverbank walkway promises some wonderful photo opportunities, especially at sunset time.
Near Phu Ruea National Park is Chateau de Loei vineyard which is set across 240 acres and is open to visitors. There’s a room for free wine tasting and wines can be purchased. The wine produced by the vineyard has won awards in 2004, 2005 and 2015.
The town of Dan Sai is about 90 km from Loei city and each year stages the famous Phi Ta Khon ghost festival which attracts visitors from around Thailand and from abroad. This usually takes place in June or July for three days, with the date picked by the lunar cycle.
Loei in December 2020 became the newest destination in Thai Smile Airways’ domestic route network, with the airline launching a once daily flight connecting the province with Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. The route has been introduced just in time for the cooler months which are a popular time for visiting Loei.