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HRH Princess Soamsawalee heads celebration of Wat Chedi Luang restoration

A weekend get-away in Phrae

 

HRH Princess Soamsawalee heads celebration of Wat Chedi Luang restoration

 

A weekend get-away in Phrae

The stunning rock formations at Phae Mueang Phi rock
formations resemble exotic mushrooms and chimneys.

Nausicaa
When I was invited to Phrae by a friend of mine, I was excited, but a little hesitant. To me, it looked like a “real Thailand” destination, quiet and beautiful. And yet, hardly anyone goes there… Was it worth the trip?

The gilded Chedi at Wat Phra That Cho Hae is traditionally believed to house a sacred relic of the Buddha.
At 200 kilometres’ distance from Chiang Mai, Phrae is technically not that far, making it a close-by yet often unseen trip destination. The province is, indeed, quite isolated from the rest of the country, being surrounded on all sides by high hills. These beautiful mountains are rich in dense teak forests, waterfalls, rapids and caves, while the central lower plains are home to most of Phrae’s population.
The city of Phrae itself is quite old, with its foundation going back more than 800 years. Its original name was Wiang Kosai, which stands for “silk cloth” and textiles indeed still play a major part in Phrae’s traditions.
You may have noticed these indigo cotton shirts and trousers that Thai people wear while forming or for special occasions such as the Songkran festival. These clothes, called mo hom, are specifically made in Phrae; the area is the best place to go shopping for them. You can witness the process of dying in Tung Hong village, 3 kilometres outside of Phrae city.
The province also features an interesting combination of temples, with styles ranging from traditional Lanna multi-tiered roofs to Burmese and Laotian architecture. Many of the temples have unusual and individual features, styles and artefacts.
Wat Chorm Sawan is one of the Burmese-style temples—its beautiful architecture is quite unique. It houses interesting artefacts, amongst which are bamboo baskets covered in lacquer or ivory sheets on which are carved the teachings of the Buddha. Wat Luang, another fascinating temple, is about 800 years old and hosts a museum which is open on Saturdays. Near the old city walls, Wat Phra Non is a good example of the famous Chiang Saen style, while Wat Sa Bo Kaeo hosts Burmese monks who come to Thailand to study the scriptures.
The major religious temple of the province is Wat Phra That Cho Hae, with its 33 metre tall Chedi that houses a Holy Relic. There are many other interesting temples further out of town, but you will need your own means of transportation. Consider visiting Phra That Phra Lo or Wat Phra That Suthon Mongkhon Khiri.
Phrae is also the site of Thailand’s “Grand Canyon”. Phae Mueang Phi is indeed famous for its fantastic rock formations, mushrooms and chimneys left by subsidence and erosion. This large depression is totally bare, with no trees, and gives the weird feeling of being totally independent of its setting in Thailand. Some locals still believe it is haunted by ghosts and, as a consequence, few houses can be found around the area.
Other natural attractions include waterfalls, including the 2-level Mae Khaem, the 3-level Tat Mok and the two Mae Koeng in Wiang Kosai National Park. The Mae Yom National Park, with is caves, Tham Pha Nang Khoi and Tham Cham Pu, are well worth a visit. Another interesting site is Kaeng Luang, with its lovely scenery, rocky waters full of rapids and the Erawan cave. Accommodation in the area is not plentiful, but visitors can easily find a place to stay. Frequent buses leave from Chiang Mai’s Arcade bus station, taking 3.5 hours to reach Phrae at a cost of 176 baht.