Thailand Guidebook > Provinces > Northern Thailand
A major tourist destination in the Lower North, Phitsanulok is situated on the banks of the Nan River some 377 kilometres from Bangkok. Most of the terrains are flatland, with mountain ranges running on the east where waterfalls and national parks offer opportunities for nature treks.
Historically, Phitsanulok has been a major community since the time of the Khmers and enjoyed great prosperity during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods. During 1463-1487 it was practically another royal capital as King Borom Trailokanat of Ayutthaya resided permanently in the province.
Phitsanulok is administratively divided into the following districts: Muang, Wang Thong, Phrom Phiram, Bang Krathum, Bang Rakam, Wat Bot, Nakhon Thai, Chat Trakan and Noen Maprang.
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Wat Phra Si Mahathat commonly called Wat Yai by the people, is on the east bank of the Nan River in town limit. The Wihan of the temple houses what is regarded as the most beautiful and graceful Buddha statue in Thailand, the large bronze sitting statue of Phra Phutthachinarat in the Sukhothai style. The statue attracts hundreds of foreign and Thai visitors daily who come to admire and pay their respect. An annual celebration in honor of Phra Phutthachinarat is held in late January.
Other prominent features of the temple include the large pearl-inlaid doors of the Wihan made in circa 1756 by royal craftsmen of the late Ayutthaya Period. Another is Phra Attharot an 8-metre-tall, standing statue cast in the same period and Phra Phutthachinarat (circa 1257). Originally housed in a large Wihan, today it stands in the open air as the covering building has all crumbled away with only a few large columns standing.
In addition, there is the principal Phra Prang of the early Ayutthaya style. It is believed that the structure was originally a lotus bud-shape Chedi, a style called Phum Khao Bin regarded as genuine Sukhothai. It was later altered into a Prang (pagoda) during the Ayutthaya period.
On the east bank on the Nan River and south of Wat Phra Si Mahathat is Wat Ratburana. The Ubosot features graceful three-headed Naga (mythical serpent) over its eaves. It was built by King Borom Trailokanat, Who resided for twenty five years in Phitsanulok and played a major role in fostering Buddhism in the province.
Another interesting temple is Wat Nang Phaya with its extensive collection of the highly coveted Nang Phaya votive tablets. Then there is Wat Aranyik, a Sukhothai-era temple which is surrounded by moats. Wat Chedi Yod Thong on Phaya Sua Road is another interesting site which has a lotus bud-shape Chedi of typical Sukhothai style, the only such structure left in the province.
Wat Chula Mani on the east bank of the Nan, is about 5 kilometres from town on the Borom Trailokanat Road. The oldest temple in town, it was once the site of the original town. King Borom Trailokanat, accompanied by more than 2,000 followers was ordained as a monk here in 1416.
An important ancient structure in the temple is the Mondop containing a Holy Footprint and inscription stone built by King Naria the Great of Ayutthaya. There is also a Khmer-style Prang (pagoda) built with laterite and adorned with intricate design of a swan.
The King Naresuan the Great Shrine is located at the site which was once the Chan Palace, the birthplace of Naresuan the Great. Within the shrine is a statue of the king in the posture of declaring independence from Burma. The entire site of the palace has been restored and renovated as a major historical area.
The 700-year-old Giant Tamarind Tree is located at Tambon Ban Kok outside of town. To reach it, take the road to Nakhon Sawan and turn left at the foot of the bridge across the Nan River proceeding for a further 700 metres.
The Folklore Museum on Wisutkrasat Road in town has some of the largest collections of indigenous arts and household utensils. These include pottery, ancient kitchenware and agricultural tools and other native products, all reflecting the lifestyle and creativity of the community. The founder of the museum, S. Maj. Tawee Buranakhet, has been designated a leader in the area of sculpture and indigenous art preservation. He also operates a foundry sepecialising in casting Buddha images and statues, which is situated opposite the museum and attracts many visitors.
The City Walls of Phitsanulok were originally made of clay similar to those of Sukhothai and built during the Ayutthaya period to deter raids from Lanna and Burma. Today, its remnants can be seen to the north and east of town. The original City Moats measuring 12 meters wide are still in existence to the west of town parallel to Phra Ruang Road.
House-boats on Nan River are a landmark of the province. On both banks of the river which runs from north to south past the town are lined with hundreds of such floating rafts, a scene representing the serene ambience of the community.
Attractions on Phitsanulok-Lom Sak Route (Highway No. 12)
Cutting through the eastern mountain ranges of Phitsanulok, the route offers several spots of attractions including waterfalls and forested areas within national parks. To visit these places transport can be hired from operators in town, the most convenient and popular means of travelling. Attractions include:-
Wang Nok An Waterfall within the Sakunothayan Arboretum, which is one kilometre off the main highway at Km. 33. A small fall fed by the Wang Thong stream, there are the Kaeng Sai Rapids lying across the waterway creating small levels of current.
At round Km. 45 is the Kaeng Song Waterfall.
Nam Tok Poi is a waterfall one kilometre off the main road at Km. 60. The surrounding natural area is suitable for recreation and relaxation.
At the end of the highway at Km. 72 and a further 2 kilometres off the road is a huge, 3-level waterfall, Kang Sopha. Water flows down rocky crevices through shady forests. Best time to visit is during September-December when the flows are at maximum.
The Thung Salaeng Luang National Park is a huge area blessed with beautiful pineries and fields bright with colourful flowers and blooms in different seasons, particularly during late rainy season (October). The park headquarters, where information may be obtained and accommodation booked, is located at Km. 80 of High - way No. 12. Towering mountain ranges are watersheds feeding several streams flowing into the Nan River.
Most of the park's attractions are suitable for nature treks. Starting from the sub-office at Km. 100) and the route leading up to Khao Kho some 40 kilometres further on, the following spots may be visited:-
Thung Salaeng Luang, a savanna-type grassland covering an area of 16 square kilometres with high mountain ranges as backdrops.
Thung Phaya is a grassland hemmed in by pineries and virgin jungles. It is 12 kilometres further from Tung Salaeng Luang.
A flatland on the mountain-top in the heart of the park, Thung Non Son is noted for its profusion of wild flowers during October-December. It is located 16 kilometres by car and a further 15 kilometres on foot from Ban Nong Mae Na.
About 5 kilometres from Nong Mae Na is a 50 metres x 100 metres wide rapids, Kaeng Wang Nam Yen, affording a delightful scenery.
There are also a couple of caves with beautiful hanging and protruding groups of rocks. However, the access is not too convenient. For those who want to stay overnight in the park should contact the park authorities in advance and make their own arrangements for camping gear and provisions as there aren't as yet any facilities available.
The Nam Tok Chat Trakan National Park covers forested areas to the northeast with headquarters some 145 kilometres from town. lt is accessible by taking Highway No.12 all the way to Ban Yang. At Km. 68 turn left into route No. 2013 to Nakhon Thai district. Then continue further on route No.1143. just before reaching Chat Trakan district there is a turn to the waterfall a distance of another 10 kilometres. A major attraction of the park is a stunning 7-level waterfall cascading down high mountains. ln front of the lowest level is a beach and a wide pond suitable for recreation. Several bee-hives are located over the cliff. On some other cliffs are traces of carvings indicative of prehistoric symbolism. Tourists may camp out within the park after contacting the park officials.
The Phu Soi National Park stretches along the Thai-Laotian border within Chat Trakan district with the highest peak being 2,102 metres above sea level and the climate cool most of the year. One of the most attractive features of the park is the savanna amid dense pineries. During the rainy season wild flowers run riot all over the area. There are also beautiful waterfalls amid dense foliage, eminently suitable for jungle walks. However park rangers should be contacted to act as guides to the various attractions. As overnighting is necessary, camping equipment should also be prepared.
Phu Hin Rong Kla is an outstanding national park with unique scenic attractions and historical significance. It was once the stage of armed conflicts due to political differences between the Thai people themselves.
Located to the northeast along the border between Phitsanulok and Phetchabun, Phu Hin Rong Klo can be reached by taking a right turn at Km. 68 of Highway No. 2013, a distance of 28 kilometres from which is Nakon Thai district. Then proceed on Highway No.2331 for another 31 kilometres.
Many buildings and structures are reminders of those struggles. The living quarters, schools, hospitals and other facilities of the former Communists have not changed much since those far-off days. There are also a couple of beautiful waterfalls.The prevalent rocky grounds are strangely-shaped, some of which having deep crevices as if created by earthquakes. Others are full of jagged rock formations spreading over a wide area.
There are facilities for accommodation and food, as well as camping sites.
The Bank Kaeo Dog Farm specialises in raising the Bang Kaeo breed of dogs. The Bang Keao is a mixed breed of wild and domesticated canines. Characteristically, their mouths and tails look similar to those of jackals. They are noted for their devotion to their owners. Bang Kaeo dogs do not come cheap.
The Traditional Long-tailed Boat Races are usually held in October when the Nan River is full. The fair is held in front of Wat Phra SiRatanamahathat. Robes are placed over the Phra Buddha Chinarat, and there are contests of boat processions and races with scores of boats.
Most of the popular items available in Phitsanulok are food products. Widely bought by tourist are Kluai Tak (dried bananas), a preserved product with sweet and soft texture. Also popular are items made from pork such as Naem and Mu Yo.
Most visitors like to use tricycles for night tours to town's markets, particularly around the river banks where a great variety of tasty dishes can be found. A most interesting way of preparing a dish is the so-called Phak Bung Loi Fa whereby the cook expertly tosses and throws the morning glory vegetables while frying it.
COPYRIGHT: Information on this page is used with permission from the Tourist Authority of Thailand. Additional information from brochures produced locally and notes made by Panrit Daoruang and Richard Barrow. All photographs on this web site are the property of Panrit Daoruang.