Phayao – small lake town all for yourself

Phayao is a beautiful small lake town between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Not many tourists stop here, making Phayao one of the few places in Thailand where people are still quite curious when they see your long white nose in the streets. We decide to borrow the hotel bicycles to explore the city. So what is to see in Phayao?

On the shore of Kwan Phayao Lake

Firstly, we visit the probably most memorable sight in Phayao: Two white sea snake dragon guardians loom mystically out of the lake waters. Given the lake as backdrop scenery they not only make a perfect photo motive but also infuse a magical “Loch Ness” touch.

Right opposite to the sea snakes is the Pho Khun Ngam Muang Memorial. The bronze statue commemorates a former king of Phayao who was in power roughly 700 years ago. Together with the rulers of the cities and kingdoms of Chiang Rai and Sukhothai, he formed an alliance of non-aggression. During his reign, the state prospered and could expand his territory. The statue itself is hardly worth the visit but it is just across the street from the sea snakes.

Not far away to the west, Wat Si Khom Kham invites visitors to wander around to admire a long row of old stone Buddha statues with one golden Buddha placed in between. A highlight of the temple is the largest Chiang Saen era Buddha statue of Thailand. Chiang Saen is another northern Thai city, which had a particular way of depicting Buddhas between the 11th to 18th centuries. Like his smaller fellows in a row, this Buddha looks pretty aged.

Further east on the lake shore, we hire a small boat to explore the small temple island Wat Tilok Aram in the middle of Kwan Phayao lake. We are the only visitors in the burning heat of the afternoon sun. The main shrine, a 1 meter high sitting golden Buddha, is equipped with a modern sunshade printed with ice cream commercials. If not, he would have certainly melted away. The island radiates calm and serenity. We enjoy our time in this peaceful place very much and rest a few moments in the shade.

Sights away from the shore

After returning to the shore, we set course for Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong, a monastery on the top of a hill close to the city center. Sweat beads are already dripping from our faces when we finally park our bikes at the bottom of a very long stairway leading up to the temple. The stairway’s banister consists of two gigantic red painted dragon snake sculptures. Some additional sweat beads later, we stand at the hilltop in the backyard of the temple. The temple is nice but not extraordinary. It is not well maintained. Well, sometimes the journey is the reward…

Back on our bikes we spend the rest of the day exploring the suburbs and the city center. We meet many friendly people, even find a place (Forno Food & Café) which serves pretty authentic Italian coffee and leave Phayao at night by minibus to Chiang Rai.

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