Loei (เลย) is a city in the Isaan region of Thailand. Loei is a city surrounded by undulating mountain ranges whose fog-shrouded summits are abundant with flora. The well-known mountains are Phu Kradung, Phu Luang, and Phu Ruea.
Its temperature is comfortably cool, with beautiful geographical surroundings, as well as unique cultures and traditions. In the cool season it can get decidedly chilly, one of the few parts of Thailand that ever gets down to 0 °C.
Loei is 520 km from Bangkok, covering an area of 11,424 km². The city's population is roughly 23,000. It is a boundary (with Laos) province in the upper northeastern part of Thailand, on the bank of the Mekong River along the Phetchabun mountain range.
During the period of the Thai Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Loei was a small community in a prosperous empire. Later, the Lan Chang Empire became weaker, therefore, the community moved to be with Ayutthaya. During the reign of King Rama V of the Rattanakosin period, the community was upgraded to become Loei Province.
From Bangkok, take Hwy 1 or Phahonyothin Rd, passing Saraburi. Turn onto Hwy 21, passing Phetchabun. Then, take Hwy 203, passing Lom Sak, Lom Kao into Loei Province at Dan Sai, Phu Ruea to Loei. It takes approximately 7-8 hours. Alternatively, from Saraburi, take Hwy 2, passing Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen, for a distance of 536 km and turn left onto Hwy 12, passing Chum Phae and take Hwy 201 to Loei Province through Phu Kradueng, and Wang Saphung, a distance of 540 km.
The Transport Co., Ltd. provides daily buses between Bangkok–Loei, both normal and air conditioned. The trip takes approximately 10 hours. For further information, contact the Bangkok Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2), Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Tel. +66 2 9362841-8, +66 2 9362852-66. There are private bus companies such as Air Mueang Loei Co., Ltd.'s Bangkok office at Tel. +66 2 9360142 or Loei Office at Tel. +66 42 832042; Chumpae Tour Ltd., Bangkok office at Tel. +66 2 9363842 or Loei office at Tel. +66 42 832285; Phet Prasoet Co., Ltd.'s Bangkok office at Tel. +66 2 9363230, Phu Ruea office at Tel. +66 42 899386, Dan Sai office at Tel. +66 42 891908.
Many buses are available from Phitsanulok, which is a particularly convenient starting point for exploring the area west of Loei (Dan Sai, etc.).
There are two bus terminals in Phitsanulok. No.1 which is very accessible by foot and no.2 which is 5 km away from the city on the highway 12 on Indochina junctions. 50 baht to get there on a songtheaw. Both terminals have the exact same time for the buses going to Loei. So just stick to terminal no.1. Time schedule for busses to Loei are 9:30 and 12:00. Arrive earlier so you can catch the early bus, otherwise it's all booked pretty fast.
Price as of 2017, goes for 207 baht.
There are regular buses to Loei from Khon Kaen (buses every 30 min) and Udon Thani (108 baht). Buses depart from bus station 2, somewhat inconveniently outside the main town.
There is no railway station in Loei. However, visitors can take a train from Bangkok Railway Station (Hualamphong) to Udon Thani or Phitsanulok, and take a bus to Loei.
To Loei Airport (LOE), there are four daily flights from Bangkok, two on Nok Air, and two on AirAsia.
Songthaews can be used to reach the town from the bus station (10 baht). Tuk-tuks are also available to and around town. Local buses and/or songthaews serve some of the noteworthy sights mentioned below.
Most interesting tourist attractions are sufficiently far away they require public transport or a motorbike to reach them.
- Chaopho Kut Pong Shrine and the City Pillar Shrine (ศาลเจ้าพ่อกุดป่องและศาลหลักเมือง)The city pillar was made of the golden shower wood elaborately carved into a lotus shape at its top and gilded with gold leaf on black lacquer. Its height is 139 centimetres (55 in).
- Chaloem Phra Kiat Public Park, Pa Loeng Yai (สวนสาธารณะเฉลิมพระเกียรติฯ ป่าเลิงใหญ่) A public park on the Loei River. There is a decorative garden with flowers and decorative plants.
- Office of the Loei Tourism Coordination Centre (อาคารที่ทำการศูนย์ประสานงานการท่องเที่ยวจังหวัดเลย) The former city hall and Mueang Loei District office. The Loei Provincial Council of Culture collected the king's chair at this place. The Fine Arts Department has registered it as a national monument for preservation.
- Wat Tham Pha Pu or Phiang Din cave (วัดถ้ำผาปู่ หรือ ถ้ำเพียงดิน), Houses the remains of Luangpu Khamdi Paphaso, who discovered this place. The temple is a grand cave within a stone mountain. There are Buddha images enshrined in the cave, as well as stalagmites and stalactites.
- Phu Pha Lom Forest Park (วนอุทยานภูผาล้อม) Steep limestone mountains with various pointed summits similar to a wall surrounding the virgin forest in the middle. There are various kinds of plants, herbs, sightseeing points, and caves, as well as Bo Nam Sap or Nam Phut, which is a sacred seepage pond.
- Si Khun Mueang temple (วัดศรีคุณเมือง) This temple is a collection venue of Lanna and Lan Chang arts. The ubosot's roof is in many layers reflecting Lanna-style. There are also many objects of art such as a carved Buddha image gilded with gold leaf on black lacquer in the forgiving posture of the Lan Chang style.
- Phu Khwai Ngoen Buddha's footprint (พระพุทธบาทภูควายเงิน) The Buddha's footprint is 120 cm long and 65 cm wide, enshrined on a whetstone and was registered as a national ancient monument in 1935.
- Phu Khok Ngio Buddha statue (พระใหญ่ภูคกงิ้ว) A walking Buddha image in the blessing posture, cast of fibre and golden resin combined. It was cast by the Second Army Area Command and the people as a form of merit making for the king and queen.
- Thai Dam Cultural Village (หมู่บ้านวัฒนธรรมไทยดำ) Thai Dam people migrated from Chiang Khwang Town, Laos in 1905 to settle at Ban Na Pa Nat. The Thai Dam culture has been preserved.
- Crown Princess's Sirindhorn Art Centre (ศูนย์ศิลป์สิรินธร) A venue displaying paintings of students who have gained popularity at both national and international levels. Moreover, it is a source of knowledge on arts and culture, including permanent and rotating exhibition halls, and an arts training building.
- Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary (เขตรักษาพันธุ์สัตว์ป่าภูหลวง) Phu Luang means 'large mountain' or the 'mountain of the king'. On the east of Phu Luang, dinosaur footprints on the rock, aged more than 120 million years, were discovered. The most distinguished ones on Phu Luang are Pinus merkusii and Kesiya pine forests, savanna on plains, mounds, and stone terraces.
- Pha Ya cave (ถ้ำผายา) is inside Wat Tham Pha Ya at Ban Mai Santi Tham, Tambon Na Dok Kham. Inside the cave is a flock of millions of insect-eating bats.
- Suan Hin Pha Ngam or Thailand's Kunming (สวนหินผางาม หรือ คุนหมิงเมืองไทย) A limestone garden aged around 230-280 million years, occurring from the aggregation of beach deposits. Then, an uplift of the earth's crust, together with millions of years of natural rot have made this mountain strangely beautiful, similar to the stone garden in Kunming, Yunnan, China.
- Mahoran Cave (ถ้ำมโหฬาร) A large cave whose entrance enshrines a Buddha image in subduing Mara posture. The area within the cave is quite large consisting of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as, caves in smaller sizes. A Buddha's footprint was also found on the wall of the cave.
- Phothisat Cave (ถ้ำโพธิสัตว์) or Thailand's Guilin is within the compound of Wat Tham Phothisat. It is a complex cave.
- Piang Din Waterfall (น้ำตกเพียงดิน) is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) beyond Suan Hin Pha Ngam. The waterfall is at the end of the asphalt road.
- Phrathat Si Song Rak (พระธาตุศรีสองรัก) Its architecture is in the Lan Chang style. Phrathat, a stupa containing the Buddha's relics, is 19.19 metres high and 10.89 metres wide with a square base of 12 redented corners. Moreover, within the compound of the temple is enshrined a Buddha image canopied by a seven-headed Naga in the Tibetan-style.
- Neramit Wipatsana temple (วัดเนรมิตวิปัสสนา) Both the ubosot and chedi are constructed of laterite. A replica of Phra Phutthachinnarat is enshrined as the main image.
- Phi Ta Khon Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์บ้านผีตาโขน) An educational attraction for those interested in the Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festivals. There is an ubosot reflecting the skills of local craftsmen as well as a replica of Phrathat Si Song Rak.
- Pho Chai Na Phueng temple (วัดโพธิ์ชัยนาพึง) Enshrined within the abbot's cell is the Prachao Ong Saen Buddha image, an ancient image of the town for many generations. On the outside of the ubosot are paintings which were created in 1916.
- The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (สะพานมิตรภาพน้ำเหืองไทย-ลาว) A bridge crossing the Hueang River connecting Thailand and Laos.
- Cotton Blossom Festival. Every year, in early-February.
- Phitakon (ผีตาโขน, Phi Ta Kon, Phi Ta Khon) (Dan Sai is about 2 hours W of Loei; it can be reached by bus). The best worst-publicised festival in Thailand. Every year in Dan Sai (ด่านซ้าย) the Phi Ta Kon festival is held. Revellers make traditional masks, which they wear in a parade down the main street of Dan Sai. Traditionally, the masks were made to frighten evil spirits away, the wearer dons the mask and drags bells behind them with the intention of clearing the surrounding area of evil spirits (generally while drinking large amounts of home brewed spirits of a different kind). Afterward, the parade begins and thousands of people head through the streets for what becomes a chaotic fertility festival, many participants in the parade carry phallic water guns and comically over-sized wooden penises with them.
- Phu Kradueng National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูกระดึง), Moo 1, Ban Si Than, Si Than Sub-district, Phu Kradung District (Hwy 2019 leads to the park), ☏ +66 42 810 833, email@example.com. A sandstone mountain park with a wide plain summit, whose shape is similar to a leaf of the elephant ear or a heart. Sites in the park: Nok Aen cliff: A small stone terrace with pine trees standing at the cliff's edge. It is a beautiful sunrise spot overlooking the scenery of the grass field and mountain range; Lom Sak cliff: A wide stone terrace with a large pine tree near an overhanging cliff. It is a place where the sunset can be the most clearly viewed; Tat Hong waterfall: When falling from the cliff to the basin, it creates a loud and resonant sound of water. Therefore, it is called "Namtok Tat Hong".
- Phu Ruea National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูเรือ), Nong Bou Sub-district, Phu Rua District (48 km from Loei; take Hwy 203 to Phu Ruea Sub-District then turn right and go about 4 km to park HQ), ☏ +66 88 509 5299, firstname.lastname@example.org. Its special feature is an overhanging cliff in the shape of a junk's prow. It is considered the coldest national park of the country. Interesting sites: Decho Viewpoint: sunrise view spot; Lon Noi cliff: From this spot, Phu Luang, Phu Pha Sat, Phu Khrang and a sea of complex mountain ranges can be seen; Sapthong or Kulap cliff: A steep cliff with seepage full of water throughout the year where there is plenty of golden yellow lichen; Huai Phai waterfall: This waterfall is drops from a steep cliff with an approximate height of 30 metres; Phu Ruea peak: The highest spot in the national park at 1,365 m. Within its compound is a stone terrace and grass field mixed with pine forest including Pinus merkusii which is naturally grown and Kesiya pine which is planted.
- Phu Suan Sai National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูสวนทราย), Saeng Pha Sub-district, Na Haeo District (from Loei, take Hwy 2003, 2031, and 2113 to Na Haeo District and then about 4 km further to Ban Mueng Prea; turn left on Hwy 1268 and turn right at its last junction at the km0 kilometre post; from km0 it is just a few meters to park HQ). Dry evergreen forests mixed with deciduous trees. Along the high area are hill evergreen forests which are also a natural boundary between Thailand and Laos. Interesting sites: Khing waterfall: The waterfall has many rock tiers. At this spot, the government has constructed a royal residence for Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn who visited on 12 February 1991; Chang Tok waterfall: 500 m higher than Namtok Khing which is also along the Phrae River. It is steeper than the lower one; Wang Tat waterfall: 1.5 km above Namtok Chang Tok on the Phrae River; Tat Hueang or Thai-Lao waterfall is on the Hueang River, consisting of three tiers with a height of approximately 50 metres. There is water throughout the year; Pha Khao waterfall: On the Heuang River, the border between Thailand and Laos.; Four direction rock: On its south side are four rocks rising up in the middle of the tropical evergreen forest. Local people go to pay respect at this place once every three years, thus it is called "Song Pi Ham, Sam Pi Khrop"; Kuai Lo rock: A sandstone whose shape is similar to a mushroom bud rising in the middle of the tropical evergreen forest; Hill 1408 Viewpoint: The highest viewpoint and centre of the national park; Hill 1255 Viewpoint: The scenery of Ban Huai Nam Phak below as well as Phu Soi Dao and Phu Wiang in Laos.
- Climb Phu Kradung (camp at the top if you wish).
- Phu Rua National Park.
- Visit the rock formations at Phu Luang.
- Take in the views of the Mekong at Chiang Khan, Pak Chom, or Tha Li.
- Mountain Hike, 24/16 Charoenrat Rd. Kutpong distric. (visit TAT Tourism Authority of Thailand (Loei Office) or Mountain Hike office on Charoenrat Rd, behind Bangkok Bank building), ☏ +66 866206047, email@example.com. Mountain hiking or cave tour, with standard or tailored packages, in Mt. Phuluang Wildlife Sanctuary, Phuruea National Park and Mt. Fuji San.
Dok Fai Ban Makham Wan Mueang Loei Red Cross Fair (งานกาชาดดอกฝ้ายบาน มะขามหวานเมืองเลย) held in front of Loei City Hall 1–9 February every year. Parades from various districts, as well as cultural performances are highlights of the fair.
Thai–Lao Songkran Festival (งานประเพณีสงกรานต์ไทย-ลาว) held in Tha Li District 12–15 April of every year. Many Lao participate in the festival.
Bun Bang Fai Lan Festival (งานประเพณีบุญบั้งไฟล้าน) held within the compound of Wat Erawan Phatthanaram, Erawan District on the full moon of the 6th lunar month or during May of every year. It is Loei's biggest festival.
Phrathat Si Song Rak Fair (งานนมัสการพระธาตุศรีสองรัก) an annual event organised on the full moon of the 6th lunar month, around the end of April until early-May to celebrate Phrathat Si Song Rak, a significant place of worship of the town.
Bun Luang Festival and Phi Ta Khon (งานประเพณีบุญหลวง และการละเล่นผีตาโขน) held annually in Dan Sai District on Saturday–Sunday after the full moon day of the 6th lunar month, and after paying respect to Phrathat Si Song Rak. Phi Ta Khon is a local activity of Dan Sai and Na Haeo Districts, relating to the belief and faith in Buddhism and the spirit of ancestors. Phi Ta Khon parades are organised in the Bun Luang Festival, an annual local merit-making ceremony. On the first day, the Phra Upakhut procession proceeds from the Man River to Wat Phon Chai and on the next day, it enters the town, while the Phi Ta Khon participants throw their costumes and accoutrements into the Man River. After that, a series of all 13 chapters of the Great Birth Sermon will be read.
Chiang Khan's End of Buddhist Lent Festival (งานประเพณีออกพรรษาอำเภอเชียงคาน) organised in front of Chiang Khan District Office on the full moon day of the 11th lunar month every year. There is the Prasat Phueng procession, long-boat races, Ruea Kap races, illuminated boat contest, Tak Bat Devo, and various local cultural shows and entertainment in the festival.
Sea of Fog and Beautiful Flower Blossom on Phu Ruea (Winter Flowers Fair, Phu Ruea District) (เทศกาลหมอก ดอกไม้งาม บานสะพรั่งภูเรือ) is held on the grounds in front of Phu Ruea District Office during the New Year's Festival, around 31 December–3 January every year. Activities in the festival include a temperate plant fair, floral float parade, temperate flowers and decorative plants contests, Mae Khaning evening party, dances in the winter breeze.
There are various kinds of local products of Loei such as sweet tamarind, kunchiang (Chinese pork sausage), mu phaen (dried pork slices), glacéd coconut, souvenirs related to the Phi Ta Khon Festival, quilts, silk and cotton fabric. For local fabrics, visit Ban Kang Pla, which offers Loei fabric, a product unique to the province. For rattan furniture and utensils, visit Ban Na Kraseng, Tha Li District.
There are any number of restaurants within the city, which is easy to walk around. Many ethnic Chinese provide a good variety, and all are reasonably priced.
- 1 Loei's American Burger (Junction of Khirirat Rd and Khirirat Soi 3), ☏ +66 95 660 0909. Daily 11:00-20:30. Good Western and Thai food by Doug and his Thai wife.
- Phuluang Hotel, 55 Charoenrat Rd (About 1-2km from the bus station on the edge of town), ☏ +66 42 811532. Shower water is hot, but not much pressure. In the hotel restaurant fried rice with a large bottle of beer for 135 baht in the evening, and a Western breakfast for 90 baht. Has free Wi-Fi and the Internet computer is 40 baht per hour. There are plenty of restaurants nearby. Little English spoken, depending who is on the counter, but you can muddle through easily enough. Tuk-tuk from the bus station is 40 baht. 350-900 baht.
- Sugar Guest House (Pronounced su-gar, not shu-gar), 4/1 Wisutitep Rd, Soi 2, ☏ +66 42 812982. Run by friendly, English-speaking Pat. The rooms are plush by backpacker standards and very good value for money. Breakfast and bike hire services available. 180-380 baht.
- Country HouseKhokngam, 203 Moo 1. Khokngam Village, Dansai. (from Loei Airport or Loei City Center, using highway route no 201 onward to the north and turn right into a highway route no 2013 21 enroute to Phuruea District and continue to Khokngam village for 15 km; the house is on the main road no), ☏ +66 86 6206047, firstname.lastname@example.org. Homestay in a nice contryside for rent, short or long term. Ideally good for long stay vacations in Loei or retirement guests who want to have a simple and a slow life in Loei. 1,500 baht per day.
- Chiang Khan - 30 minutes from Loei bus station if you time it right via the overnight bus from Bangkok's Mo Chit bus station, or 60-90 mins by songthaew. The guesthouses of Chiang Khan look across the Mekong at Laos. The wooden town, replete with wats, is backed by a mountain topped by a Thai navy lookout surrounded by tamarind trees. A teak plantation on another mountain shades the home of forest monks caring for a temple in a cave. The cafe in the main street sells coffee made with milk from a dairy hidden in the hills. Nearby cotton is teased and netted into quilts. On a beach of coloured pebbles, children run into the river where they float around in tubes from old tyres. It's a place to stay and watch the river world go by.
- Phitsanulok - gateway to Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and the rest of northern Thailand.