Phrae, ThailandKirsty Turner
Welcome to Phrae, an old and important community in Northern Thailand. Phrae was founded shortly after Chiang Mai had been established as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom. The province has one of the largest reserves of teak forests in the country and is located on the banks of the Yom River, 555 kilometres from Bangkok.
Phrae has a slightly sleepy feel and is a great place to escape from the hustle and bustle of life for a day or two and simply relax. This is an area of intense natural beauty and there is plenty to explore if you’re feeling active.
Wiang Kosai National Park is a great showcase for the area’s nature. Another immense area of natural beauty is the Mae Yom National Park, which is situated around 48 kilometres from the town of Phrae. A popular feature of the park are the Kaeng Sua Ten rapids, a two-kilometre-long stretch of rock formations which is best visited during November-February when the weather is cool and scenery at its prettiest. Visitors are permitted to camp along the river banks, making this a great place to simply relax for a day or two.
Scattered around the province are some pretty sparkling waterfalls and haunting caves to explore. Take a trip to Tham Pha Nang Khoi 40 kilometres north of town, Namtok Huai Rong and Namtok Tat Mok.
The area’s temples offer an interesting insight into the traditional culture and style. Wat Luang is the oldest temple in Phrae and includes an interesting museum. Also look out for the 400-year-old chedi of Phra That Phra Lo, Wat Sa Bo Kaeo, Wat Phra That Chom Chaeng, Wat Phra That Cho Hae and Wat Phra Non, located near the old city wall.
An interesting day trip is Phae Muang Phi, which is located about 12 kilometres out of town. This is an unusual natural feature which subsidence and erosion of the soil has created rocks in the shapes of exotic-looking mushrooms.
Another interesting local feature is Vongburi House, which is a private museum. This teak house was the residence of the last Prince of Phrae. Another interesting old teak house can be found in the village of Ban Prathap Jai.
A good place to get a feel for the local culture is at the Folklore Museum, which is located three kilometres from town. Here you will see different types of wooden houses, which demonstrate the different status of the local people. There is also market and shop houses of the ancient traditional style.
When it comes to eating, a great place to get a good, cheap meal is at the town’s large night market.
Phrae province is well known for its lively and interesting festivals. The Phra that Cho Hae Fair is held around March and involves a procession to carry robes to cover the local chedi. The procession follows the Lanna style and all participants are decked out in traditional Lanna attire.
The Kin Salak Fair is an old Buddhist merit-making event. Villagers prepare offerings and carry them in a procession to present to the monks. The fair is held around September each year.