Local’s Guide to Phu Lang Ka
A grass-covered limestone karst protrudes out from the ground – there could be crystal blue sea water surrounding it and you could be in Thailand’s south. Instead, it is enclosed by more greenery in every direction: rice fields, trees and more mountain formations. Beyond that, only clouds. This isn’t Thailand’s south, but instead the far north, practically on the border with Laos. And while Phu Lang Ka, located in Phayao province, on the border with neighbouring province Nan but really in the middle of nowhere, might not be somewhere you visit for action-packed adventure, for stunning vistas like this it is absolutely the place to head to.
Phu Lang Ka’s only accommodation option, the aptly named Phu Lang Ka Resort, offers admittedly very basic accommodation and it’s no longer as cheap as it used to be either – but it offers views you just can’t beat. The town is best visited in the dry, cool season between November and March, when if you can tear yourself out of bed early enough you are sure to be treated to a sunrise like no other, as spooky low-lying misty clouds linger above what looks like an ocean in the valley down below, the limestone karsts poking their heads out of the top and a bright sun making a dramatic appearance on the horizon, over Laos far in the distance.
At other times of the year, like in the western summer’s rainy season, you might have more of a cloudy sky but there are still great views to be bagged, and all year round you will find that Phu Lang Ka’s altitude means it enjoys far lower temperatures than elsewhere in the country – which is why Phu Lang Ka Resort might be just about the only place you stay that not only has no air
conditioning, but not even a fan!
The best way to get around and explore the area is to rent a motorbike from the resort and take to the snaking, winding roads.
A river and waterfall, several temples, stunning limestone karsts and further afield even a national park await exploration, not too far from the resort and all easily taken in on two wheels. The landscape in the area is unspoilt and beautiful, and flowers unseen elsewhere in warmer parts of Thailand are abundant here. Phu Lang Ka, the ideal spot for a few days of pure and utter relaxation and the feeling of being a million miles from civilisation – expect no phone signal, that’s for sure – is also a spot that will bring out your inner photographer and provide plenty of inspiration for some enviable shots.
Transport can be patchy, given the remoteness of the area, so this is a trip you will want to plan with a little more care than other places you can get to on a bit of a whim. It is a long trek from Bangkok, so for the most comfort take the overnight sleeper train to Den Chai and change for a bus to Chiang Kham – potentially with a change in Phayao, depending on your luck. If you make it to Chiang Kham on time, you can catch one of the two daily departures towards Nan, leaving Chiang Kham at 10.00am and 11.20am – ask the driver for Phu Lang Ka Resort and you will be dropped right at the side of the road, just a few seconds’ walk away. Otherwise, catch the one daily bus departure from Phayao to Pong – the owner-come-bus conductor can then give you a lift to the resort in her 4×4 for 1,000 baht (the resort can also arrange pick-ups for around the same amount if you call in advance). Rooms at Phu Lang Ka Resort cost 500 baht per night – all the rooms are the same, basic but worth the views – little English is spoken, but to try your hand at booking call 054 4155 70 from within Thailand.
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