Phitsanulok Travel Guide
Introduction to Phitsanulok
For many foreign travellers, Phitsanulok is a city they only see through the window of a bus as they travel to Chiang Mai or BKK. This is a shame, as there are a number of attractions that make this town worth a visit of two to three days.
From a deeply respected Buddha image to the former stronghold of the Communist Party of Thailand, there are many reasons for cultural travellers to make a stop in Phitsanulok.
Cultural Attractions in Phitsanulok
Start your cultural explorations in Phitsanulok by paying a visit to Phra Si Ratana Temple. While it may not look like much from the outside, this sacred place is where one of the most significant Buddha images in Thailand is located.
Next to the Emerald Buddha (found in the Grand Palace in Bangkok), the Phra Phuttha Chinnarat is the most revered sculpture in the kingdom. Made of bronze, it was one of the three castings requested by the monarch of Sukhothai in the mid-14th century.
After help from a white-haired sage who disappeared as mysteriously as he arrived, the third copy ended up being the one which sits proudly at the centre of this heavily-visited wat.
After you have gotten your fill of one of the more fabulous Buddha statues you’ll see during your travels in Thailand, move on to Wat Ratcha Burada. Much less crowded than the previously mentioned temple, it is a good spot to go to get some peace and quiet if the throngs of tourists and hawkers are starting to get to you.
There are a number of things worth seeing and doing here; while its main Buddha statue isn’t as auspicious as the one in the Phra Si Ratana Temple, it is over 700 years old, plus it contains a boat once used to transport King Rama V – crawl under it three times for good luck!
Round out your day of temple tramping in Phitsanulok by dropping by Nang Phaya Temple. Its Buddha image is also worth checking out, as it is adorned with a Phra Nang Phaya amulet and a triple-headed naga. With a fraction of the people other temples in town get, it is a good place to soak up the serenity for which Buddhist temples are famous.
Before leaving town, get an idea how life was in rural Thailand in past generations by perusing the exhibits in the Sgt. Maj. Thawee Folk Museum. Named for the former military officer who once owned the building which now houses the artifacts of this institution, you’ll find everything from the implements of a traditional Thai kitchen to the tools used to castrate bulls (!).
With English captions available for foreigners, well-tended gardens, and even an aquarium which shows off the fish commonly found in the rivers and lakes of Phitsanulok province, this attraction will occupy more of your time than expected.
Other Attractions in Phitsanulok
Get back to nature and learn how the Phitsanulok region was once the front line of an ideological guerrilla war by spending a day exploring Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park. Its highlands were the perfect hiding place during the 1970s for the Communist Party of Thailand, which set its aims on overthrowing the government in the same way the Vietnamese were.
Unlike the latter country, Thai forces manage to keep the rebels contained in their mountain strongholds until they eventually accepted an offer of amnesty in return for ceasing hostilities. In addition to touring their former school of indoctrination, meeting hall, and the caves where the comrades used to hide when air strikes were incoming.
There is more than history on offer here: this park offers opportunities for spectacular mountain views and hikes amid lush montane rainforest.
Not keen to go hiking, but still want to admire some amazing mountain scenery? Drive along the Phitsanulok-Lom Sak Route. Known officially as Route 12, this stretch of highway (built as part of an international trade route between Burma and Vietnam) is blessed with countless mountain panoramas as it climbs up and down the rugged terrain found in this part of Thailand.
If you have ever wondered how the countless Buddha images seen throughout are made, you’ll get a chance to see their makers in action at a Buddha Casting Factory. Located across the street from the Sgt. Maj. Thawee Folk Museum, you’ll see first hand how artisans create Buddhas of all sizes from start to finish.
While modern methods are used these days, you’ll get to see exhibits which explain how these religious icons were made in the old days. There is a gift shop on the way out, but we caution you against buying any Buddha paraphernalia as souvenirs.
Here’s why: it is against the law in Thailand to transport Buddha images outside the country’s borders without official permission, a fact which has led to many embarrassing moments when leaving the country.
Finish off your time in this underrated Thai city by attending the Phitsanulok Night Bazaar. Located close by to the train station, it mostly deals in food, so if you are famished after a long day of sightseeing in the Phitsanulok area, you know where to go for local eats.