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Cover story: 25 June 06 / Vol. 23 No. 6
Discover Nature's Allure at Phetchabun
     By Dararai

Phetchabun is a province noted for sweet tamarinds, Nam Nao National Park, Si Thep Historical Park, Khao Kho Monument and the history of Pho Khun Phamuang. Click to read about his biography.
When talking about Phetchabun (346 km from Bangkok), first thing coming to people's mind is its cool climate and impressive scenery.
Phetchabun is situated in the southern part of the North of Thailand.

Since the province is not too far from Bangkok, Petchabun is another excellent choice for travellers who seek refuge in nature. Useful information about Phetchabun's attractions is given below:

The ceremony of immersing the Buddha image.

 Muang County

Traiphum Temple is an ancient temple housing Phra Phuttha Maha Thammaracha, the most sacred Buddha image of Phetchabun. The image is said to be found (about 400 years ago) under the Pasak River in front of this temple. Realizing the sacredness of the Buddha image, people of the region brought it up to be kept in Traiphum Temple for worship.

Then another miracle happened on Sat Thai* day the next year, when the Buddha image vanished from the temple and was found floating in the same place in the Pasak River where the Buddha appeared last time. Since then, on Sat Thai day of every year, a ceremony of immersing the Buddha image (Um Phra Dam Nam Ceremony) has been held in Phetchabun. There is a belief that if the ceremony were not held in any year, the Buddha would disappear, resulting in drought and a crop failure in the province.

Sat Thai is a festival of the 10th Thai lunar month which roughly corresponds to September.

The 6th leap of Song Nang Waterfall in Tat Mok National Park. (Photo by courtesy of TAT)

Tat Mok National Park The forests here are lush and surrounded with steep mountain ranges. The park proudly presents to you its two pristine waterfalls -- Tat Mok and Song Nang. The former is a one-leap waterfall with a height of 750 m where various kinds of large trees are thriving. The latter has 12 leaps all of which travellers can reach by foot to explore them.

 Sithep County

Sithep Historical Park The Sithep ruins date back to around 1,000 years ago when the Khmer power prevailing over this region was at its zenith. This ancient town was surrounded by moats. Covering an area of 4.62 sq km, it is divided into 2 sections --the inner and outer. The inner land is in the shape of a semi-circle while the outer is a rectangle.

 Khao Kho County

Khao Kho refers to the Phetchabun mountain ranges, not a single mount. The name is derived from the name of Ceylon oaks (Kho trees in Thai) that grow in abundance here. People dubbed it Switzerland of Thailand because of the all-year-round refreshing climate. These mountain ranges were once the sites of fierce battles fight between the government troops and the Communists from 1968 to 1982.

Khao Kho Royal Residence is situated on Khao Ya Hill. Dedicated to HM King Bhumibol as a residence, it commands a panoramic view of the mountainous area.

Sidit Waterfall
is a large one-leap sedimentary-rock waterfall with water all year round. A large pond awaits you to swim in. What's interesting is a large hydraulic pestle with mortar for hulling rice invented by the Communists who once lived here.

Thung Salaeng Luang National Park

Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
In the cool season (from November to February) the weather here is specially cool and dry making it excellent for travelling. Its topography is limestone mountain ranges with vast meadows. Attractions in the park are such as Wang Nam Yen Rapids, Salaeng Luang Meadow, Nang Phaya Meadow and Nonson Meadow.

Thanthip Forest Park has several appealing attractions: Nam Wing Rapids, Madua Rapids, Pha Iang Rapids and Thanthip Waterfall. Nature lovers should not miss watching birds and butterflies of various species here. Besides, the park is ideal for astronomical observations.

Man Daeng Waterfall in
Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park
(by courtesy of TAT)

Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park
straddles areas of three provinces -- Phetchabun, Loei, and Phitsanulok. It was another former Communist stronghold with a virgin forest, large tracts of rock of strange shapes, wild orchids and colourful lichen.

Namnao National Park

Namnao National Park
is no less famous than Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park.It possesses attractive waterfalls, caves and a trail to explore nature.

 Lomsak County

Pho Khun (King) Phamuang Monument is situated at the junction of the same name to commemorate and to glorify the good deeds that Pho Khun Phamuang had done to the province. The area was where the king gathered brave warriors to repel the Khmers out of the Sukhothai Kingdom (circa 1238-1438 A.D.).

Phonchai Temple enshrines the stupa of Queen Singkhon Mahathewi, a daughter of King Chaiworaman VII of Khmer who was sent to marry Pho Khun Phamuang to tighten the international relationship between the Sukhothai Kingdom and the Khmer Kingdom. In addition, King Chaiworaman gave a double-edged knife and a Buddha image to King Phamuang.

 Lomkao County

Wang (palace) Tan was the location of the old palace of Queen Naowarong Thewi, the Thai queen of King Phamuang. At present people come to worship the queen's shrine to ask for blessing for their love.

Queen Naowarong Thewi Statue and her shrine.

Apart from historical and natural attractions, Phetchabun is famous for its organic farms of vegetables, fruits and flowers which are major supplies for the country. Here growing plants need no soil as farm owners have adopted and developed the hydroponics.

Thanks to the cool climate together with pleasant views, the farms can serve another purpose as agrotourist attractions. Those who are interested in experiencing the organic farm atmosphere will not be disappointed to visit these farms which are mostly scattered in Khao Kho and Nam Nao counties. After roaming the farms, on your return trip, your hands might get tired carrying organic vegetables, fruits and flowers home.

Famous Products
When you are in Phetchabun, you should not miss tasting roast chicken at Wichian Buri County and Khanom Chin at Lom Kao County. Khanom Chin is rice vermicelli eaten with various kinds of spicy gravy and vegetables. Another recommended item of Phetchabun's best buys is sweet tamarinds which are available in plenty from December to February.

Sweet tamarinds and produces
from the hydroponics

    Pho Khun
   A Heroic King of Phetchabun
 By Miranti

Visiting Phetchabun, you will see Pho Khun (King) Phamuang's monument at a junction of the same name in Lomsak County. He was a great king whose bravery and whose sacrifices for the country are still highly praised among Phetchabun people. Phetchabun is believed to be the site where Rad Town, the capital of Pho Khun Phamuang, was situated over seven hundred years ago. His biography is summarized here.

Who was he?
Pho Khun Phamuang (lived around the 12th Century) was a trusted confidant of Pho Khun Si Inthrathit, the first founding king of the Sukhothai Kingdom (former Thailand), who reigned from about 1219 to an unknown year. Pho Khun Phamuang was also a brother- in-law of Pho Khun Si Inthrathit because his sister, Nang Sueang, married Pho Khun Si Inthrathit upon his enthronement. Nang Sueang, afterwards, became the mother of a great king of Thailand, Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng the great. (1279-1299). Now let's get back to Pho Khun Phamuang's story.

Yonok-Chiang Saen Kingdom: Pho Khun Phamuang's Motherland
Pho Khun Phamuang was a descendant of Phaya Singhanawat who founded the Yonok-Chiang Saen Kingdom in A.D. 574. The Yonok-Chiang Saen Kingdom's boundaries were as follows: north -- today's Nan, south -- Nakhon Sawan and west -- the Salween River. In the early 11th century, Yonok-Chiang Saen fell under Khmer control due to weak kings. Thanks to Prince Phrom, a brave and capable warrior who was a son of King Phangkharaj (the 43rd king of Chiang Saen), the kingdom enjoyed its independence again. Prince Phrom had his father King Phangkharaj return to the throne while he established the city of Fang (a county in Chiang Mai Province) for himself to rule and named it Chaiprakan.

King Phrom died at the age of 79 in 1177, having ruled Chaiprakan for 59 years. His son, Chaisiri ascended the throne. After 11 years' rule, King Chaisiri confronted with a large Burmese army that invaded his city. Unable to resist it, he led his people towards the south.

Prince Phamuang and his elders followed King Chaisiri to settle down in the area of today's Sukhothai. Their community had no leader and lacked an army, so the people were under the influence of the Khmers again. Later, Pho Khun Si Naonamthom, who was another son of King Phrom, born to a different mother from King Chaisiri, rallied a force to drive away the Khmers and established his independent town called Sukhothai in 1219.

Pho Khun Si Naonamthom had two sons, Pho Khun Phamuang and Phrakhamhaeng Phraram, and one daughter, Nang Sueang. Prince Phamuang was known to be courageous and good at fighting and to have a powerful army.

Pho Khun Phamuang, a selfless warrior of Rad Town

Pho Khun Phamuang planned to besiege Doet, an important Khmer town located in present-day Lomsak County of Phetchabun Province on the Pasak river bank to prevent it from attacking Sukhothai.

Pho Khun Phamuang succeeded in his mission. The Khmers fled to the east. Pho Khun Phamuang and his army went after the enemy to make sure that they would not return. Then he came back to Doet and set it up as his own. However, the town was frequently flooded. So, the king moved his people to a new site that was named Rad Town.

When King Chaiworaman VII of the Khmers learned about the siege of Doet, he prepared to form a good relationship with Pho Khun Phamuang by sending his daughter named Singkhon Mahathewi to be the wife of Pho Khun Phamuang. Together, a double-edged knife and a Buddha image were given to Pho Khun Phamuang. The knife signified that the holder has all the rights possessed by the Khmer king. Despite such an alluring prestige, Pho Khun Phamuang was not misled.

According to the local chronicle, Pho Khun Phamuang had a Thai queen called Naowarong Thewi prior to his marriage with Singkhon Mahathewi. And she was the most beloved as she had fought side by side with Pho Khun Phamuang in the battle to drive the Khmers out of the Sukhothai Kingdom after the death of Pho Khun Si Naonamthom.

After the death of Pho Khun Si Naonamthom, the Khmers attacked Sukhothai and the kingdom was once again under the Khmer influence. Pho Khun Phamuang and his buddy Pho Khun Bang Klangthao planned to expel the Khmers out of Sukhothai and the mission was accomplished. Pho Khun Phamuang let his friend ascend the throne, had his sister, Nang Sueang, marry Pho Khun Bang Klangthao and bestowed a new name, Si Inthrathit to Pho Khun Bang Klangthao.

According to the chronicle, in the battle, Pho Khun Phamuang was the leader who expelled the Khmers out of Sukhothai. So why did not he become king himself? The local history mentioned that Pho Khun Phamuang was determined not to become king due to his Khmer wife who would possibly cause troubles later. He emphasized that the founder of the new dynasty should be of pure Thai blood. He, then went back to Rad Town only to meet the destructive rage of Queen Singkhon Mahathewi. The queen was very angry that Pho Khun Phamuang betrayed her by fighting her father (King Chaiworaman VII) and that Pho Khun Phamuang did not become king of Sukhothai himself. Her fury was so severe that she set fire to Rad Town and drowned herself in the Pasak River.

Pho Khun Phamuang, after the cremation of his queen, went northwards with his Thai wife, Queen Naowarong Thewi. His story ended here. However, some records mentioned that he appeared again in Chiang Saen where he lived to the age of 40 and passed away.

Special thanks to TAT Northern Office Region 3 for arranging a trip to Phetchabun, for a press group including Thaiways staff and for giving them information and facilitating their photo-taking.

For more information, please contact TAT Northern Office Region 3, Tel:+66 (0) 5525 2742 to 3 Fax: +66 (0) 5523 1063

For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see
Romanization System of the Thai Language.

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