Hidden Thailand: 10 Things to Do in Loei Province

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Mekong River in Loei Province of Thailand.

Mekong River in Loei Province of Thailand.

I still don’t have the proper pronunciation of “Loei” down. When I hear the correct pronunciation, it sounds like “loy” spoken really quickly with a mouth full of marbles. What I can say with certainty is Loei is worth the visit when traveling to Thailand. Located in the northeastern region of the kingdom with the Mekong River serving as a border to Laos, the Loei Province is an easy (and affordable), one-hour flight from Bangkok on AirAsia.

Loei Province is also a refreshingly cool choice, as it touts being the coldest point in Thailand. Remember, this is all relative. During my March visit, low temperatures were brisk while hovering in the upper 60s. I’m from Florida and anything cooler than 70 is refreshing while my hosts felt it was too chilly.

Selfie at Phu Rea National Park in the Fog, Thailand, March 2015.

Selfie at Phu Rea National Park in the Fog, Thailand, March 2015.

Loei serves up an easy-going pace as compared to Bangkok and was good for both my soul and body. It’s a popular spot with Thai people but not quite on the radar of Americans, Europeans and other Westerners.
What was it like being in Loei? Rather than viewing gray, concrete skyscrapers, I admired mountains lush with greenery. Instead of a constant hum of traffic, I listened to the chorus song birds. Unlike most cities around the world, including my town, I wasn’t panhandled but had an opportunity to give back.

If you’re lucky to find yourself in Bangkok, plan on a weekend visit to Thailand’s northeast. Not sure what to do? I recommend these 10 things to do in Loei Province.

Do like the locals do and bicycle along the Mekong River while visiting Chiang Khan Thailand.

Do like the locals do and bicycle along the Mekong River while visiting Chiang Khan Thailand.

Bicycle along the Mekong River – Bicycling along the Mekong River is something I did not do and am still regretting. I took a leisurely walk when I had a couple free hours in Chiang Khan to explore this fun, quirky little community. Bicycling seems to be popular in the area, many T-shirts, postcards and other souvenir items showcased pedal power. Several shops in downtown offer bicycle rentals for a few dollars making it an affordable, healthy and green way to tour this sweet Thai town.

An artist paints a ghost mask at Dan Sai Folk Museum in Loei Region of Thailand. March 2015

An artist paints a ghost mask at Dan Sai Folk Museum in Loei Region of Thailand. March 2015

Dan Sai Folk Museum –The region’s famous festival is called Phi Ta Khon, or Ghost Festival and celebrates a time in ancient history when Prince Vessantara (Buddha in his final life) left for a journey and his followers presumed he was dead. His return was a surprise which caused wild and loud celebrations which were said to wake the dead. The date varies each year (somewhere between March and July) and is selected by the mediums in the Dan Sai district. During the three-day festival, participants wear colorful masks made from rice husks and rice steamers along with colorful patchwork clothing which at the end of the festival, they shed and let drift away in the river.

At the Dan Sai Folk Museum, view colorful masks and costumes worn during the festival. I had the opportunity to see an artist paint one of these masks and when it was time for me to paint my own miniature version, well, it wasn’t so easy. But, I made painted something fun and respectable which hangs on a wall in my living room.

Phu Rea National Park in the Fog, March 2015

Phu Rea National Park in the fog, March 2015

Phu Ruea National Park – I was off the charts excited when I learned I’d be visiting this park because, well, because it’s a national park. It’s also the coldest spot in Thailand during the winter season. The park is about 46 square miles with a pine forest, winter flowers, waterfalls and caves. Unfortunately during my visit, it was an extremely foggy day at Phu Ruea National Park and I didn’t get to see much, but, what I did see was still breathtakingly beautiful.

Phu Tok Mountain Looking Down at the Sea of Fog in Loei Province, Thailand. March 2015

Phu Tok Mountain looking down at the Sea of Fog in Loei Province, Thailand. March 2015

Phu Tok Mountain – The view from the top was spectacular especially since there was a light layering of fog, which is why the region is aptly called the Sea of Fog. The sandstone mountain range consists of who hills, Phu Thok Yai and Phu Thok Noi. The area was once a dense forest and because of its isolation, a meditation master established a meditation place for Buddhists to practice. As a sidebar, I rode up the mountain in a song tao.

Long-tial boat on Mekong River, Chiang Khan. March 2015

Long-tial boat on Mekong River, Chiang Khan. March 2015

River Cruise in a Long-tail Boat on the Mekong River – Maybe it’s me but there’s something magical about getting out on the water. It certainly helps me appreciate what I’m experiencing on land. During my visit to Chiang Khan, I hopped in a long-tail boat for a leisurely sunset cruise through Kaeng Khut Khu, a set of islets in the middle of the river. I saw big, tan boulders, some birds taking flight to their evening rest roosts and was able to see Chana Kham, the Vientiane District of Laos.

No matter how hard our group tried, our guide would not let us set foot on Laos soil. Oh, well. Means another trip to Southeast Asia. Earlier in the day while enjoying lunch in Kaeng Khut Khu, which has a spectacular view of a curve in the Mekong, I saw something floating in the river that I’ve never seen before and certainly wasn’t expecting. A dead cow.

Mooooving right along…

Walking the steps up to Wat Phra That Si Song Rak, Loei Province, Thailand. March 2015.

Walking the steps up to Wat Phra That Si Song Rak, Loei Province, Thailand. March 2015.

Wat Phra That Si Song Rak – Built as a symbol of mutual friendship between the kings of Ayutthaya and Sri Sattana Khanahut who together fought the invasion of Burmese troops around 1560, the venue is popular for couples to pray for everlasting love. Red flowers and red attire are prohibited in the temple and woman are not allowed into certain areas. It’s a peaceful walk up the steps and beautiful temple.

River at Phurua Resort, Loei Province of Thailand, March 2015.

River at Phurua Resort, Loei Province of Thailand, March 2015.

Additional things to do in Loei Province Include:

View the culinary art of maphrao kaew being made (coconut in sugar water)

Visit the Tai Dam Cultural Village and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to dance with the villagers, like I was.

Stop at the Hello Kitty-themed resort in Phu Rua District of Loei, and be prepared for an explosion of pink!

Make offerings to Buddhist monks between 6 and 8 a.m. in Chiang Khan.

Where to Stay
Two places I stayed in Loei and would easily stay again were:

Phu Ruea Hotel. Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015.

Phu Ruea Hotel. Loei Province, Thailand, March 2015.

Phurua Resort in Phu Rua District and close to Phu Rua National Park- The view was spectacular. My room overlooked a valley, river and mountain lush with greenery. My room was spacious, simple yet clean, comfortable and modern. I opened my window to listen to Mother Nature’s symphony of insects and birds. In the morning, I walked down to the river, which was low, and hopped from boulder to boulder to enjoy the serenity.

Sri Chiang Khan Hotel in Chiang Khan, Loei Province, Thailand. March 2015.

Sri Chiang Khan Hotel in Chiang Khan, Loei Province, Thailand. March 2015.

Sri Chiang Khan Hotel in Chiang Khan – Location is everything and this hotel is located in the heart of Chiang Khan’s quirky tourist district. My room was small in comparison to the one at Phurua Resort but comfortable, clean and modern. The hotel has a terrific outdoor patio on the ground floor, perfect for enjoying breakfast or savoring the evening nightlife.

There are certainly more than 10 things to do in Loei Province. Visit the Thailand Tourism site to learn more. Or, if you’ve been to Loei, what else do you recommend doing?

View additional photos from my trip on Flikr. #DiscoverThainess

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and this post has not been reviewed by the host. Opinions are my own and reflect my honest experience.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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