Phrae Travel Guide
Introduction to Phrae
Founded amidst thick stands of teak trees, the city and province of Phrae in Northern Thailand has long been a great place to live for local Thais, but it has flown under the tourist radar. While everyone rushes off to Chiang Mai, take a break from the crowds here and wander amidst its temples and grand wooden houses, and get a taste of the real Thailand.
Cultural Attractions in Phrae
Like Nan, Phrae is well known within for the temples contained within its borders. Start your cultural explorations here by dropping into Wat Phra That Cho Hae. Built for those born in the Year of the Tiger, it is a popular place of pilgrimage for those birthed under that sign to pray and make merit with the Buddha.
As for highlights, the brass-sheathed pagoda, which reaches 33 metres high, counts as this wat’s star attraction, as it houses a relic of the Buddha (a strand of his hair).
Make Wat Chom Sawan your next stop. Constructed of teak wood in the early 1900s by Burmese forestry workers, this gorgeous temple’s style mirrors the sort one would find in Myanmar. Within, you’ll find small Buddha statues carved from marble and crafted from bamboo & lacquer, and ivory reliefs inlaid with Burmese script.
Seeing how wood doesn’t age well in the tropics, it is remarkable this amazing specimen has lasted as long as it has – ensure this place has a spot on your Phrae travel itinerary.
Next, you’ll come across Wat Pong Sunan. Less mentioned in travel guides, this place can be easy to miss if you constantly have your nose stuck in a guidebook, but you definitely shouldn’t, as this spot is home to a rather impressive Reclining Buddha.
In addition to this, there is a stunning building housing the inner sanctum that is topped by multiple white and gold turrets, making it a great candidate if you are looking to post a cool update to Instagram while you are in Phrae.
End your tour of the Buddhist temples of Phrae by visiting Wat Phra Bat Ming Mueang Worawiharn. Built in 1955 by combining two older temples, this underrated wat is best known for a chedi which reputedly contains a casting of the Holy Footprint of the Buddha.
A peaceful spot located a short walk outside the centre of Phrae, it is also home to what is considered to be the best Buddha statue in town. The grounds are also home to the foundation that was created by writer Chote Phraephunor Yakob, a man who was in line to the throne of Phrae before the kingdom was disbanded.
Other Attractions in Phrae
Like Nan, Phrae was once home to a fiefdom independent of the kingdoms of Siam or Lanna. Walk in the halls of a mansion which once was home to the last ruler of the region by paying a visit to Khum Chao Luang.
Built in 1892 from the teak this region grew rich trading, this grand house was abandoned just ten years later after Shan invaders drove the last lord (or Chao Luang) from its posh interior. Despite the destructive nature of this operation, Khum Chao Luang was left largely untouched.
Apart from cosmetic repairs made to the exterior of the mansion, it remains much like it was more than a century ago. From decorative pieces in the sitting rooms to a dining table dressed with the finest porcelain tableware, fans of beautiful houses will not be let down by this attraction.
Get a taste of the nature Phrae has to offer by making a trip out to Phae Mueang Phi Forest Park. Best known for its unique rock formations, this protected area contains hoodoos and other features of geological significance to go along with the forest trails found here.
It is also a place of local legend: years ago, a woman from a nearby village found gold and silver in these hills and began to excitedly rush home with her findings. The spirits within the rock formations were angered by this, however, making it impossible for the lady in question to find her way. Once she offloaded her bounty, the path she had taken suddenly reappeared. Pro tip: don’t take a single stone you find here home with you.
When travelling through the countryside of Thrae, make time to stop in the village of Ban Thung Hong. This place is known in Thailand for producing a brand of cotton fabric that is dyed indigo. Rather than buy it elsewhere in the country at a markup, you can drop by their OTOP (one tambon, one product) store and get a fabulous piece of quality clothing at a great price.
During the Second World War, the Thai government ended up cooperating with Imperial Japanese forces, allowing passage through their country. While many went along with this arrangement, many others were unsettled by this arrangement.
A force of anti-fascist guerrillas rose up to oppose the Japanese and the Thai regime that supported them – this story is told brilliantly by the Free Thai Movement Museum. With photos, bombs used by saboteurs, and stories from former resistance members, this is a can’t miss spot for history buffs.