Loei Province is located at the border of Laos with a great view of Mekong River at the upper side of the province. Spectacular mountains and National Parks are the gift from this place for mountain trekkers and bikers. Phi Ta Khon is also the most awaited event of both local and foreign tourist between March and July, Participants are dressed with colourful Ghost costumes.
The border province of Loei on the Mekong River in the north of the country is a great place to just chill out, in every sense of the term. It’s laid back and languid, like the slowly flowing river in the north, as well as being refreshingly cool by the standards of steamy Thailand. In the winter season you can even find yourself crunching through frost-covered grass and wishing you’d brought a pair of gloves along.
Phu Kradueng National Park is perhaps the province’s best-known attraction, rightly popular for its varied ecosystems and biodiversity, with highland savanna,pine forest, evergreen forest, maple forest, extensive flower species, rhododendrons, waterfalls, and amazing cliff-top views. Phu Kradeung is a flat-topped sandstone mountain w ith a height of 400-1 ,200 metres above sea level. Getting up to the cool weather and misty views requires a strenuous 9-km walk. Most visitors to Phu Kradeung walk to one of the pine-tree fringed cliffs to take in the sunrise – Pha Nok Aen or Pha Lorn Sak, which are 2 and 8 km from the park office, respectively. Also worth a visit is the 40-metre Tat Hong Waterfall. Tourists can rent a tent or book accommodation at the park office (+66 4287 1333, +66 4287 1458). A porter service is also available. The park closes during June to September of every year.
Phu Ruea National Park, right on the border with Laos, is another great spot to get away from the heat and experience nature at its finest. This national park straddles an undulating mountain range topped by an expansive plain of pine trees. Phu Ruea is a good place to get a first-hand sight of some of Thailand’s native fauna , including bear, barking deer, Asiatic wild dogs, Siamese firebacks, and Siamese big-headed turtles. The climate at the park is cool throughout the year, especially during winter when dew can turn into early morning frost. October through March is the best time to visit to experience cool conditions, wild flowers and marvelous vistas from the park’s many viewpoints. National Park accommodation is available (+66 4280 1716, +66 4280 7625). The park is about 58 km from Loei town centre by road.
The 560,593-rai Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary is a highland plateau with a year round cool climate. November-January is the time to go for the coldest temperatures , in the 0-16 °C range or even lower at times , when the maple trees turn bright red and shed their leaves. Summer and monsoon seasons are also relatively cool, generally around 20-24 °C, with lots to see; wild orchids, white and red rhododendrons during February-March and smaller wild flowers that turn the savanna purple in the rainy season.
A good way to experience much of what can be seen is to take the ranger-guided Phu Luang Nature Study Route. The walk takes one to two days. Phu Luang is open during October-May (www.dnp.go.th). Accommodation can be booked through Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary (+66 4280 1955).
For more culture-based attractions and shopping, Chiang Khan District on the bank of the Mekong River is the place. This small municipality has plenty of accommodations and restaurants, with cruise services along the mighty river. Not-to-be-missed souvenirs include quilts, locally woven fabrics and glaced coconut. The district has many attractions for the tourist including Kaeng Khutkhu, a nearby river cataract, and Wat Si Khun Mueang with its fine examples of Lanna and Lan Chang art. Don’t forget to try one of the local specialities like phla – spicy shrimp salad with lemon grass and mint, kung ten – live freshwater prawns with herbs and lime juice, or spicy fish soup made from the local catch.
Bun Luang and the Phi Ta Khon Festival
If you can arrange it, don’t miss Loei’s Bun Luang ceremony and the wild Phi Ta Khon “Ghost Festival”, which is held annually over three days sometime between March and July. Bun Luang is a merit-making ceremony in which the town’s residents seek protection from the spirit of the Mun River. Participating ‘ghosts’ or ‘phi ‘ dress up in colourful patchwork costumes with masks and accessories made from rice husks and coconut leaves. The noisy festivities are indeed enough to wake the dead. Don’t forget to bring your camera for this one. The festival is held in Dan Sai and Na Haeo districts.
Nok Air (www nokair.com) operates twice daily flights from Bangkok to Loei with a flight time of 65 minutes. An alternative is to fly to Udon Thani on Thai Airways or Thai Air Asia and travel by bus from there to Loei. Train is also possible from Bangkok to Udon Thani and then onward by bus to Loei. Normal and air-con buses make the 10-hour trip to Loei from the Northern Bus Terminal (www.transport .co.th). Several private operators also offer bus and van services. Driving takes around 7-8 hours along Highway No. 1 past Saraburi, No. 21 passing Petchabun and No. 203 into Loei. The total distance is 540 km.
For more information, contact the TAT, Loei office on +66 4281 2812, +66 4281 1480.