The picturesque, lakeside town of Phayao possesses a central position in northern Thailand with better-known neighbours Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai lying to the northwest and southwest respectively and historical Lampang situated due south yet, despite being, to our minds one of the region’s most attractive provincial capitals, it’s also certainly one of the least visited.
The laid-back town is set on the edge of scenic Khwan Phayao (Phayao Lake) overlooked by high, forest-clad mountains to the west. Relaxing rowing boat rides around the lake are available – particularly scenic at sunset time – and the waterfront is lined with tempting cafes, bars and restaurants offering amongst other delicacies, grilled fresh fish out of the lake.
The almost complete lack of foreign visitors made charming Phayao a shoo-in for our new Hidden Thailand tour and indeed feedback from our recent trial run trip was unanimously complimentary. The small town may lack spectacular temples or famous historic sites and we doubt it figures high on UNESCO’s to-do list but with some cute accommodation options and great eateries, it makes a perfect overnight stop on route from Lampang (which perhaps should be in UNESCO’s sights) to the spectacular mountains of Phu Chi Fah.
Halfway from Lampang to Phayao lies the dramatic Wat Chalerm Phrakiet temple atop its limestone crags while between Phayao and Phu Chee Fah are the highly unusual hot waterfalls of Phu Sang, formed by some cliff-top hot springs.
A wonderful part of the country yet an area surprisingly very little visited by foreign tourists. Lampang, Phayao and Phu Chi Fah all feature on our new Hidden Thailand tour taking you on an off the beaten track route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.