Loei Province is located at the northwest corner of the Northeast Plateau with an area of 11,424 sq km and a population of 632,320 (end 2001). In topography and climate, it is more similar to the Northern region instead of the Northeast.
It is largely mountainous and has a cool and foggy climate throughout most of the year. Although it is about two degrees nearer to the equator than the northernmost point of the country, Loei is the only province of Thailand to have recorded a temperature of 0°c.
Being mountainous, Loei boasts two national parks, one wildlife sanctuary, and many minor scenic spots such as caves and waterfalls. The best known and most popular of all of these is Phu Kradueng National Park. Set up in 1943, it is among Thailand's earliest such establishments. It will take an average young man about four hours to climb the 5 km track to the mountain top. The mountain, Phu Kradueng, is 1,350 metres above sea level. Its top constitutes a large piece of flat ground about 60 sq km in area, grown with pine trees, flowering plants and shrubs. Of course, there are dense forests around the mountains, in which wildlife abounds.
Phu Kradueng National Park
Phu Kradueng National Park
At the east end of the mountain top, there is a cliff called Pha Nok Aen, which offers a spectacular view of the sunrise and also that of the mountain ranges and open country below. On both sides of the path to the cliff, wild roses grow in large groves which bloom profusely in March and April.
Strange to say, there is also a cliff named Lomsak at the west end of the flat top where visitors may view the equally magnificent scene of sunset. There is an old pine tree growing at the edge of the sheer precipice, making it a perfect spot for taking photographs.
The other national park is called Phu Rua or the Boat Mountain. It is so called because at one edge of its flat top there is an overhanging rock protruding like the bows of a junk. The park is smaller than Phu Kradueng, but its peak is higher at 1,375 metres above sea level. It has several cliffs, including a vantage point to view the sunrise. From the summit, one can see the two rivers separating Loei from Laos--the Mekong and the Hueang.
Phu Luang, a wildlife sanctuary at 1,550 metres above sea level, is a very good place for trekking from October to April. The weather of the sanctuary is cool all year round.The area is closed during the rainy season from May to September.
There is a scenic spot of another nature--Kaeng Khutkhu, a large group of rocks blocking the flow of the Mekong River at a place about 3 km from Chiang Khan town. The reefs extend almost the entire width of the river. When the water level is down late in the dry season from February to May, the rocks will appear, leaving a narrow channel on the Thai side through which water flows very rapidly. The long-time submersion of the rocks make them colourful, adding further attractions to the spot.
Like any other province in Thailand, Loei has many famous Buddhist temples and Buddha images. Of these, two should be mentioned. One is Si Song Rak Chedi in Dan Sai county built in 1560 as a symbol of mutual assistance between Ayutthaya and Si Sattana Khanahut (i.e. today's Vientiane of Laos). It is about 30 metres tall with a square base like the chedi in Nakhon Phanom. There is an annual fair at the pagoda in the 6th lunar month.
The other is a Buddha image named Phrachao Ong Saen enshrined in Wat Phothichai Na Phueng in Na Haeo county. Legend has it that the image once travelled from Chiang Saen in Chiang Rai to Loei by himself. The governor of Chiang Khong, also located in Chiang Rai, having heard this, led a procession of elephants, horses and troops to Na Haeo, intending to invite the Buddha image to his own town, but without success. Phrachao Ong Saen was so popular because people believed that he was able to bring rain to wherever he was, thus preventing the area from drought. And so he was also known as Fon Saen Ha Buddha, which means the Buddha of a hundred thousand rain showers.
Phi Ta Khon Festival
Phi Ta Khon Festival
Loei is also known for its unique Phi Ta Khon Festival, taking place for three days at a weekend in June or July in Dan Sai and Na Haeo and nowhere else. It is basically a merit making activity, but differs from all the other similar events in that it includes parades of young men wearing ghost-like masks and robes in various shapes and colours, and playing joyfully with onlookers, adding to the fun of the festival.
Accessibility:By road, 520 km from Bangkok; 206 km from Khon Kaen, 152 km from Udon Thani; by rail, 450 km from Bangkok to Khon Kaen or 569 km from Bangkok to Udon Thani, then by road to Loei; by air 1.15 hr. to Loei. There are also daily coaches from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal to Loei province and Phu Rua county taking about 8 hours.
For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see Romanization System of the Thai Language.