Bangkok, 17 August, 2021 – Phetchabun is popular among Thais for the cold weather and beautiful landscapes of its mountains. This 3-day journey starts at Phu Tap Boek, with a height of 1,768 metres, the highest mountain in the province. The road to get to its summit is very curvy and quite steep sometimes, but once up there you can enjoy fresh and cold air and of course a stunning view that is just magic in the early morning when the sun rises.
That is why sleeping here and waking up before the sun is highly recommended.
There are many resorts with bungalows or large igloo tents. Most of them offer the same comfort level and similar prices as well as mu kata, a Thai barbecue, for dinner to enjoy on your terrace.
Accommodation in Phu Thap Boek is in high demand on weekends and Thai holidays, so better book in advance or come on weekdays.
If you wake up soon enough and are lucky, pulling the curtain in the morning will unveil a large sea of mist covering the entire landscape. Otherwise, just watching the sun emerging from behind the mountains and colouring the sky in red, orange, purple, and yellow, is already fantastic.
After a Thai breakfast, it is time to go down and head to Loei province. The first stop is in Dan Sai district, that stages every year around June the unique Phi Ta Khon Festival,to visit Wat Wat Neramit Wipatsana. Its laterite walls of the ordination hall houses a replica of Phra Phuttha Chinnarat, one of the most venerated Buddha images in Thailand whose original is housed in Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat in Phitsanulok.
From there, take Route 2113 up North instead of taking it to the South to get to Phu Ruea National Park.
It is about 20 minutes longer, but it is also a more scenic journey that enables one to visit one of Loei’s hidden gems, Wat Poe Chai Na Phueng, a charming little temple full of history. Its ancient ordination hall, dating from the 17th century, is adorned with external and internal murals partly erased depicting the local lifestyle and religious tales.
There are also Phu I Loet and Phu Hin Sao, two mountains offering amazing viewpoints on the way.
Phu Ruea National Park’s Visitors Centre offers some family bungalows or tents with all the equipment to rent. There is also a restaurant for lunch or dinner. It is the best accommodation option to be ready for the highlight of the day in the Park.
Before going to bed, be reminded to set your alarm clock around 04.30 Hrs. to wake up and drive to the peak of the mountain either with your own car, or get in one of the songthaeo passenger vehicles arranged by the rangers. In both cases, for the last few kilometres, you will have to take a little trail in the forest (do not forget to bring a flashlight), or take one of the local songthaeos waiting at the peak’s parking lot.
Here too, people hope to see a large blanket of mist covering the valley while the sun is slowly rising. It is just magical! But wear warm clothes, as it can be quite freezing up there.
Down from the mountain, at its bottom, pay a quick visit to Wat Somdet Phu Ruea and its teakwood wihan and continue on Highway 21 for 15 kilometres and turn to Wat Pa Huai Lat, an atypical Buddhist temple built in a natural setting surrounded by a lake, forests, and mountains. Its royal ordination hall with a 3-level roof houses the large seated white calcite Buddha image, Phra Samphanya Ruja.
Then, drive to Erawan Cave 85 kilometres away, but before visiting it, stop 2 kilometres before to have lunch at Huai That Kla Reservoir on one of the floating bamboo huts they pull to the middle of the Reservoir before serving your food by boat.
It is time now to climb the stairs leading to Erawan Cave, a very photogenic cave with a large seated Buddha at its entrance. The inside is also interesting but a powerful flashlight is needed, the one on your smartphone won’t be enough, to make your way through the different rooms and reach the big opening offering a stunning view over the rice fields and hills at the other end of the cave.
A few kilometres away in Nong Bua Lamphu province, another nice panorama can be seen from the top of Tham Pha Cho Cave.
Udon Thani is 1 hour and 20 minutes’ drive away. There, you will have much to see and do … but let’s keep it for another article.