Phitsanulok – Overview
Phitsanulok is located about 377 km north of Bangkok. Phitsanulok is an important and historic city in lower northern Thailand and is the capital of Phitsanulok Province, which stretches all the way to the Laos border. Phitsanulok is one of the oldest cities in Thailand, founded over 600 years ago. It is probably best known as the birthplace of King Naresuan, who freed the country from Burmese domination in the late 16th century, and his brother and successor, King Ekathosarot ( Sanphet III). Since the city is the crossroads of the northern and central areas of the country, it has long been important both for political and strategic reasons, and there has been fought many battles in earlier centuries. Phitsanulok was the capital of Thailand for 25 years during the reign of King BorommaTrailokanat of Ayutthaya. Located on the banks of the Nan River, the town was originally a small Khmer outpost known as Song Kwae before KhwaeNoi River changed its course in the 11th century AD. Phitsanulok was also a provincial center of the Angkorian Empire during the Angkorian period. Phitsanulok is home to Naresuan University and PibulsongkramRajabhat University, and a major Royal Thai Army base.
Phitsanulok primarily consists of flat lands with some hills. The eastern part of the city has some forest areas. The city is located in Nan Basin, which is part of the Chao Phraya watershed. Phitsanulok is sometimes called Song Kwae, the city with two rivers, an ancient name dating from centuries ago when Nan and KhwaeNoi Rivers met near the city. Today, only the Nan River flows through Phitsanulok.
In addition to its importance in the history of Thailand, Phitsanulok has rivers, mountains, and forests, ideal for nature lovers.
Apart from its exceptional natural charisma, Phitsanulok provides visitors the opportunity to explore notable chapters of Thailand’s history. For example, Phitsanulok is evidence from an ancient community dating back 2,000 to 4,000 years. In addition, the ancient temple Wat Chula Mani, situated 5 km south of the city, was built even before the Sukhothai Kingdom came to power in the 12th century. Phitsanulok shows the prosperity of both the Kingdom of Sukhothai (1238-1378 CE), and Ayutthaya (1350-1767 CE). In particular, it played a strategic role in the Ayutthaya era when it was the Kingdom’s royal capital for 25 years during the reign of King BoromTrailokanat. Phitsanulok was also the birthplace of King Naresuan the Great (R. 1590-1605) the legendary King who declared Ayutthaya’s independence from Burma in 1584. King Naresuan is known for his victorious and honorable one-man battle atop an elephant’s back against a Burmese Crown Prince.
Phitsanulok is more than just a stopover for tourists, it is a province with a number of tourist opportunities. While most of Phitsanulok, like previously mentioned, is flatland, one-third of the area is covered by mountains to the north and east, where national parks and waterfalls are waiting to be explored.
Phitsanulok – Getting there
Phitsanulok is a good starting point for a visit to the world heritage site near Sukhothai. The city is the intersection of several highways connected between the northern, northeastern, and central regions of Thailand: Highway No.11 (TaKhli – Chiang Mai), Highway 12 (Mae Sot – Mukdahan), and Highway No. 117 (Phitsanulok – NakhonSawan).
You can visit Phitsanulok by many means of transport: by plane, by train, by bus, and with your car. Phitsanulok is the hub of transportation in this region.
Nok Airlines is operating on the route between Phitsanulok and Bangkok (Don Mueang). The flight takes about 50 minutes. Prices start around 1290 baht (including airport tax, insurance, and fuel charge).
There are trains departing from Bangkok to Phitsanulok daily from 7:05 AM to 11:30 PM, 14 times a day.
There are express trains (Sprinter) from Bangkok to Phitsanulok every day from 08:25 AM to 11:10 PM, 5 times a day.
Trains from Phitsanulok to Bangkok depart every day from 02:05 PM to 11:29 PM, 14 times a day, while express trains (Sprinter) from Phitsanulok to Bangkok leave every day from 02:05 to 11:00 PM, 4 times a day.
There are buses from the North Bus Station (Bangkok) to Phitsanulok from 1 PM to 10 PM departing approximately every hour.
Buses from Phitsanulok to Bangkok depart from 6:30 AM to 10 PM, approximately every hour, and there are first class aircon. buses from Bangkok to Phitsanulok 13 times a day from 8 AM to 11 PM every day.
First class aircon. buses from Phitsanulok to Bangkok depart 12 times daily from 09:15 AM to 12 AM every day.
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin) when you reach Wang Noitag expressway 32 via Ayuthya, Angthong, Singburi, Chai Nart, and when you reach NakornSawan take highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok. The distance is 370 kilometers.
Getting around in Phitsanulok
To get around in Phitsanulok city, take a ride in a three wheeled bicycle taxi (samlor) for around 30 baht and up, depending on the number of passengers, destination, and your negotiating skills. City buses are also available for more reasonable fees, the station is on Thammabucha Road, near the train station.
Phitsanulok – Weather
Phitsanulok has a hot tropical climate with considerable annual rainfall. The rainy season begins in spring and ends in a hot, dry summer. It starts again in September and runs through November. The months of December and January tend to be pleasantly cool.
Phitsanulok is pretty warm all year and there are 3 seasons in this climate: summer, rainy season, and winter.
Summer (March to May)
The weather is quite warm, and there is little rain during this season. The average temperature is about 30.5 degrees Celsius.
The rainy season (June to October)
The weather is pretty wet, and there is much rainfall, so it is this season where people tend to bring umbrellas with them, and it’s time to practice agriculture. The average precipitation volume is 198.5 millimeters.
Winter (November to February)
The weather is quite warm and pleasant – not too hot and not too cold. There is no rain, and it is peak season, so people like to travel to the mountains because it’s pretty cold there, and there are many beautiful flowers. The average temperature is 26.4 degrees Celsius.
Phitsanulok – Attractions
The city is home to the following 12 active temples where Theravada Buddhism is practiced by the townspeople:
– Wat Phra Sri RattanaMahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, WatAranyik, Wat Nang Phaya, Wat ChediYod Thong, Wat Tamajak, Wat Mai Opayaram, Wat KuhaSawan, Wat NongBua, Wat Sri WisutTharam, Wat SraGaewPratum Thong, and Wat ThaMaprang.
Besides the many temple, the city also holds other attractions such as:
Sergeant-Major Dr. ThaweeBuranakhet Folklore Museum
The sergeant Dr. ThaweeBuranakhet Folklore Museum hosts a collection of folk arts, crafts, basketry, pottery, and ancient kitchen utensils. The museum also houses a collection of antique traps for catching snakes, birds, tigers, and porcupines.
Unfortunately, most of the older parts of Phitsanulok was destroyed in a disastrous fire that occurred in 1955. Therefore, not much else remains of the old town besides the famous temple, an ancient chedi, and a small part of the city wall. The intact parts of the old city wall are accessible for visitors.
Buranathai Buddha statue
The Buranathai Buddha statue is custom made from casting of bronze. It is the only of its kind in the province made by artisans who specialize in the reproduction of the Phra Buddha Chinnarat Buddha image. Visitors are allowed to walk along the production line.
Nan River houseboats
Phitsanulok is known throughout Thailand for its houseboats which still lie along the Nan River near Wat Phra Sri Rattana Maharat, but unfortunately in recent years have become fewer. A houseboat museum is also open for visitors.
Every night, vendors meet in Phitsanulok to form Phitsanulok night market. The market mainly offers clothes and food.
Chandra Palace was the birthplace of King Naresuan the Great, and contains a King Naresuan the Great Shrine.
Naresuan University Art and Culture Gallery
Naresuan University Art and Culture Gallery has over 100 art works by culturally important Thai artists.
Phitsanulok – Shopping
As in most provincial capitals, Phitsanulok has a central market where locals buy everything from groceries to household appliances, and visitors can buy clothes and other necessary supplies. In addition, there are often locally produced handicrafts available at central markets, the occasional night market, and the villages have workshops in smaller towns throughout the province.
Phitsanulok – Restaurants
There are many restaurants in Phitsanulok, with many kinds of dishes. So you can choose the restaurants and taste the alternative foods that you like.
Having dinner at this local favorite is like having dinner at your grandparents’: opinionated conversations sounds, upholstered furniture abounds, and an over-fed Siamese cat seems to prevail in the dining room. Do not expect traditional diet, Ban Mai specializes in unusual but perfectly executed dishes that are not easily found elsewhere, like gaang pet, curry smoked duck, or yamDjaKrai, lemon grass ‘salad’.
There are several Thai-Muslim cafes near the mosque on ThPhraOng Dam, and this is a popular one. Thick ROH đee (crisp dough ‘pancakes’) served with gaang matte samand (Muslim curry), fresh yogurt made daily, and ROH đeegaang (ROH đee served with a small bowl of curry) is a steal for 20 baht.
Opposite Pailyn Hotel (the English sign says ‘Food & Drink’), this small shop is part of a popular chain with Thai/Vietnamese food that originated in Nong Khai. Be sure to order the restaurant’s specialty dish, NaamneuAng, grilled pork balls served with fresh herbs and rice.
Opposite the Amarin Lagoon Hotel, this simple restaurant has a variety of Thai curries, soups, and stir-fries on the menu. You just point to what looks good. On the walls there are interesting pictures of Phitsanulok before the 1957 fire.
Rim Nan, north of Wat Phra Si RatanaMahathat, offers noodles and ‘alternative’ seating. The restaurant has an English menu with pictures, try BA mee Nam, yellow egg and wheat noodles with pork broth.
Around the corner from the TAT office, this simple place offers a selection of vegetarian dishes paired with brown rice.
Phitsanulok – Nearby
Phu Hin RongKla National Park, Phitsanulok
Phu Hin RongKla National Park covers 307 square kilometers with scenic deep valleys, rugged steep mountains, rocky terrain, and waterfalls. The high mountains are Phu Phaeng Ma, Phu Hin RongKla, Phu Khithao, Phu Lom Lo, and Phu Man Khao at 1,820 meters. Phu Hin RongKla National Park is located in Nakhon Thai Phitsanulok Province and Dan Sai in Loei province. The vegetation’s ecosystems are mixed deciduous forest, deciduous Dipterocarp forest, hill evergreen forest on the wet and high rises, and pine forest on the upper plateau. The species seen here include mice, deer, tigers, wild boars, and squirrels.
Tourist Attractions in Phu Hin RongKla National Park:
– Phu Hin RongKla views, nature, landscape, the picturesque KhwaeNoi River and waterfall.
– Lan Hin Pum
– Lan Hin Taek
– Communist headquarters, hospital, and military school
1 PhaLat Waterfall (a seven- level waterfall)
2 Tat Fa Waterfall
3 Si Phatcharin Waterfall
4 RomkhiaoPharadon Waterfall
5 Man Daeng Waterfall (32 levels)
Between 1967 and 1982, the mountain known as Phu Hin RongKla served as strategic headquarters of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) and its tactical army, People’s Liberation Army of Thailand (PLAT). The remote and easily defended area was perfect for a rebel army’s summits. Another advantage was that the headquarters was only 50 kilometers from the Laotian border, so the end line was well guarded since 1975 when Laos fell to PathetLao. China’s Yunnan Province is only 300 km away, and it was here that the CPT received their education in revolutionary tactics.
For almost 20 years the area around Phu Hin RongKla served as an arena for Thai troops and the Communists. A final military campaign in late 1982 was carried out and surrender of PLAT was declared, then Phu Hin RongKla was declared a national park in 1984.
A one km long path leads to PhaChuThong (Flag-hoisting rock, sometimes called red flag rock), where the Communists would raise the red flag to announce a military victory. In this area there is also an air raid shelter, a vantage point, and the remains of the main CPT headquarters – the most inaccessible place in the area before a road was built by the Thai government. The buildings in the park are made of wood and bamboo, and have no plumbing or electricity as a tribute to how primitive living conditions were.
There is a small museum in the park’s headquarters, showing relics of the CPT days, though there is not a whole lot of English explanation.
Phitsanulok – Article
04/01/10, Posted by Rob
I had come to Phitsanulok to celebrate New Year’s Eve, not because something special happens in Phitsanulok, but just because I had been invited there.
The journey up to Phitsanulok was fairly simple. It was New Year so just like at home, everything was crammed. I came to the bus station with Aun and all buses were already stuffed. Therefore we had to find one of the private buses that run in that direction. It would cost us more, but we would get there that much faster than the large public coach. So we jumped into a small minibus and drove for 5 hours while I sat with my knees against my ears squashed behind the passenger seat.
We arrived late night and were picked up at the bus station by two of her friends on mopeds. It was the first time I had driven a moped in a long time, and with my massive bag it was a bit of a struggle. But I knew that if I had fallen off my bag would have more than sufficient ridden my fall. They took us to Wind Wings bar and I ordered some food. I got the spiciest food I have ever had during my time in Asia. I couldn’t eat it because each mouthful felt like a fork full of pain. When I had washed the spices away with a few Chang beers I was introduced to the guys who were there and who all spoke different levels of English, but almost all of them spoke enough English in order for me to understand them. Shortly after I had to go back to my home since I was bloody knackered.
I was there about 4 days altogether so I did quite a bit of sightseeing while I was there. The first day we went to Suckhothai and then I spent the rest of the time finding out what Phitsanulok had to offer.
On the first full day in Phitsanulok, I was not really on my toes. Aun and I rented a moped for the number of days our stay lasted. With the bike “The Wild Wings”, I felt like a full-fledged group member who whizzed around on my own Wilds Wings bike haha. It was an absolute lifesaver. Now we had a way to transport ourselves throughout our stay in Phitsanulok. We drove home to chill a bit before we went out to celebrate New Year.
The next day was a very slow day after celebrating the New Year. I managed to get out of bed around noon until early afternoon and ended up just walking around and exploring the city’s temples and markets and food. One of the things I most remember about that day was how hot it was. My head was sweating more than usual for some reason and I bought drinks every 5 minutes! I visited the usual assortment of Buddha’s, shrines, and everything else that is normally associated with temples. They were all very busy as most of Thailand had a day off since it was New Year’s Day, and had come to the temple to pray and be blessed by the monks with water. I assume that they wash the evil spirits for the new year and all that kind of stuff. At some points we just walked around to see what we could find. I have no idea how many miles we walked that day, but it was definitely a lot. At one point we ended up pretty far out of town among a lot of rice fields, which was obviously ideal for a landscape photo session.
The night ended predictably with a session on “The Wild Wings” bar with the usual pool game. But Aun and I also went over to the Korean BBQ. Here you could cook your own meat on a hot plate/griddle thing in the middle of the table. As the endless amounts of meat were set in front of me I ate too much and when I was finished I felt terribly uncomfortable. I have also eaten chicken liver for the first time and I can safely say that this will be the last time.
The next day was again heavily dependent on where our moped could take us. Coincidentally, it happened that it could run us an approximately 3 hour trip along a single road where we stopped at about 3 or 4 waterfalls along the way. To be honest they all blurred into one. One of them we stopped at was almost Thailand’s response to Vang Vein. There were hundreds of Thai’s bobbing up and down in the water on floating tubes in the peaceful January sun. It was about a million miles away from the chaos, I was sure was going on in Vang Vien. At a second we went to, we came just a little too late, and they did not let any more people in. But for some reason the security guard took pity on us and let us in anyway. The best thing about this was that almost everyone else was gone, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Again, we used the time here to take pictures of the waterfall and just generally enjoy some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, it began to get dark and we had quite a long journey back to Phitsanulok in front of us, so we thought it was best that we did something. So we hopped back on our PED and drove home.
I had a great time in Phitsanulok. It was a couple of very lazy days spent on eating a lot and gallivanting on a moped. I have to give a massive thank you to Aun’s friends who made me feel so welcome while I was there and they really knew how to give me a good experience on their way. Wild Wings was fantastic and I was so sad to say goodbye to the place. I do not think I will ever get out there again, but who knows. I thought I’d be home by now, but no idea what the future will bring. Whatever I am left with some great memories and a New Year’s Eve I will remember for the rest of my life.