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We keep returning to the Upper Northeast (Isan) province of Loei, a place loved for its picturesque settings and attractions. Here, the experience of each trip is unique in its own way depending on the season. And the upcoming cool season is perfect for some hiking in mountainous Loei, where the average temperature is 25°C and often drops to single digits during the last weeks of the year.

Our 2-day-and-1-night journey covers short distances on leisurely hikes that will appeal to anyone who enjoys outdoor activities. We don’t plan to visit many places but rather take time to soak up the pristine greenery for which Loei is so famous.

  • Day 1
    • Phu Pa Po, a mountain attraction in Amphoe Nong Hin
    • Suan Hin Pha Ngam, the rock garden of Amphoe Nong Hin
  • Day 2
    • Phu Ruea National Park in Amphoe Phu Ruea
    • Wat Pa Huai Lat in Amphoe Phu Ruea
  • The papaya salad of Loei warrants a mention for its unique ingredient, locally known as Tam Dong Daeng and you should give it a try!

Our first destination is Phu Pa Po, some 64 km from Loei town. The Phu or mountain in Thai stands at 910 metres above sea level, and it is from here that you can see the flat-topped Phu Ho, Loei’s very own Mt. Fuji.

Cars are not permitted on Phu Pa Po. Visitors must park in the designated area and board a modified farm tractor, known as a Rot e-taek, run by the locals to reach the mountain peak almost 3 km away. The fare is 60 Baht per person. There is no suitable alternative trail for those who love hiking.

Phu Pa Po offers 4 main viewpoints, and the tractor will drop its passengers at the first from where you have to walk to the other three spots. The viewpoints are some 200 metres apart. The short hike is very pleasant and accessible to people of any age

From this spot at the top of the mountain, we can admire the panoramic view of Loei’s numerous mountain ranges. From here too, we can look out at the sea of mist and make out other mountains, among them Phu Kradueng, Phu Luang and Phu Kho.

There is no accommodation, and camping is strictly not allowed on Phu Pa Po. Toilets and food stalls are available only at the foot of the mountain.

  • Phu Pa Po
    • Tambon Puan Phu, Amphoe Nong Hin, Loei
    • Daily tractor service from 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Visitors are allowed on the mountain until 7:00 p.m.)
    • Tel. 06 0837 9938

Suan Hin Pha Ngam rock garden is some 7 km from Phu Pa Po. Dubbed the Kunming of Loei, it is home to limestone rock formations dating back 250-280 million years, to the same period as those dotting the stone forest in Yunnan.

The trail through the narrow maze guarantees a fun experience, as the unusual shapes of rock can easily ignite the imagination. Although this rock labyrinth is safe, we recommend you take a guided tour to ensure the right passage through the entire trail. The guide’s fee is a 100 Baht per group of 10.

Following the trail will lead you through various rock formations. Climbing up to the viewpoint needs no extra effort, and the scenes are more than worth your time.

  • Suan Hin Pha Ngam
    • Tambon Puan Phu, Amphoe Nong Hin, Loei
    • Open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 05:00 p.m.
    • Tel. 06 4261 5103

Day 2

Marvelling at the vast sea of mist on the mountaintop is a must when visiting the Phu Ruea National Park, some 106 km from Suan Hin Pha Ngam. We recommend staying overnight in Phu Ruea town for a convenient early morning trip to the mountain.

Prior to visiting the park, please reserve via App QueQ of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The area of Phu Ruea (sailboat mountain) National Park stretches over two of Loei’s districts, Phu Ruea and Tha Li, bordering Lao PDR. in the north. The highest peak of the Park is 1,365 metres above sea level and is named after the outstanding sailboat-shaped cliff at one of its mountains.

Cars are not permitted on Phu Ruea, and there are 2 ways to reach the National Park: 1. Trek along the 1.3-km nature trail. 2. Take the pick-up truck service offered by the villagers for a fare of 10 Baht per person. The truck is available at the Park’s office.

The topography of the Park’s mountains is largely a mix of pine trees and rock gardens. Its peak is an excellent spot to watch the sunrise and see such wild flowers as roses, marigold, ferns and orchids.

Phra Phuttanavabanphot, the Buddha image brought from Wat Phra Yat in Ayutthaya province in 1977, sits at the top of the mountain. Other attractions in the Park include the Lone Noi Cliff, Sathong Cliff, and Huai Pai Waterfall.

Camping sites are available at a fee of 30 Baht per person. The National Park rents out 3-person tents for 250 Baht each, and a sleeping bag set for 60 Baht per person.

  • Phu Ruea National Park
    • Tambon Nong Bua, Amphoe Phu Ruea, Loei
    • Open daily from 5:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    • Tel. 0 4281 0965, 08 8509 5299

Our next stop is Wat Pa Huai Lat, a forest temple with a backdrop of lush mountains about 15 km from Phu Ruea National Park. Its large, elegant pavilion is enshrined with a white calcite stone Buddha image highly revered by the people of Phu Ruea.

  • Wat Pa Huai Lat
    • Tambon San Tom, Amphoe Phu Ruea, Loei
    • Open daily from 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
    • Tel. 08 7797 4378, 08 1617 2122, 08 5455 2892

When in Isan, eat what the Isan people eat – Som Tam. The papaya salad of Loei warrants a mention for its unique ingredient, short rice noodles, locally known as Sen Dong Daeng, which makes it very distinctive in appearance and flavour. Som Tam Dong Daeng is common in Loei and you should give it a try!

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