Loei in the Northeast of Thailand shares a border with Laos and is one of the least populated provinces of Thailand. Temperatures can vary widely here with temperatures higher than 40 degrees Celsius in the month of April and then repeatedly dropping to below 0 degrees at night-time in December. A mountainous county Loei has two national parks, Phu Kradueng National Park and Phu Rua, a wildlife shelter and a profusion of other scenic places. There are also many famous Buddhist temples and images to visit in this province.
Phu Kradueng National Park is home to Phu Kradueng Mountain, 1,350 meters above sea level, you can walk to the top if you are very fit. At the top of the mountain are thick forests and pine trees hiding a variety of wildlife. Phu Ruea National Park is a craggy mountain range, known as ‘Boat Mountain’ because the way the rock sticks out resembling the bows of a junk. The park is not as big as Phu Kradueng, but it is slightly higher at 1,375 meters. From this lofty position you are able to see the Mekong and Hueang rivers separating Loei from Laos. The mountain tops are grasslands and there are some weirdly formed rock formations to be seen. The cooler climate in this region has resulted in an abundance of orchid species which flower throughout the year.
Phra That Si Song Rak is a Buddhist stupa that was built in 1560 by Laotian and Thai kings. It is situated on the Man River and was built to celebrate a peace pact made between the two kingdoms; locals have held a yearly celebration at That Sri Songrak for centuries which turns into a major Loei attraction.
Kaeng Khut Khu is a small island in the middle of the Mekong River. During the rainy season it is submerged but then between February to May the rock and its surrounding sandy beaches can be explored. Boat cruises are available up the Mekong to the island and other natural attractions; cruises pass Kaeng Khut Khu, Phu Khwai Ngoen and Phu Pha Baen.
Wat Si Khun Muang was constructed before 1834 by Phra Khru Butdi, a former abbot of the temple. The temple possesses many significant artifacts, particularly a Lan Xang gilded carved wooden statue. Also of importance is the gilded carved wooden pulpit upon which monks preach sermons and the Hang Hot, a thin water pathway in the shape of a Suphannahong Royal Barge previously found throughout the northern region but hardly seen today,. When you pour water into one end of the pathway, the water flows down to the respected, high-ranking monks, who sit at the opposite end. This is a symbolic act of paying respect and blessings.
Phu Luang Widlife Sanctuary is 1,550 meters above sea level and a good place for trekking from October to April. Also known as the ‘Emerald of Isaan’ due to its vast amount of plant life. Every imaginable types of orchid are grown in the sanctuary which amounts to more than 160 species. The reserve also protects several species of animals and is home to around 100 wild elephants protected under the Elephants Rehabilitation Project.
Phi Ta Khon Festival is a traditional festival that has evolved from an ancient Buddhist legend. It is said that when Prince Vessandorn, the Buddha's incarnation, returned to his city everyone was so happy that even the spirits turned up to join in the celebrations. Phi Ta Khon is celebrated mostly by young men, who dress up as spirits in masks and robes and parade a sacred Buddha image whilst teasing the crowds of onlookers, and monks telling the story of the Buddha's last great incarnation before he attained Enlightenment. The festival is held during May/June.