Located in the lower north of Thailand, the lush and green province of Phichit is known for its captivating legends, fearsome crocodiles, tangy pomelo fruit, and long history. A place where you can combine gorgeous natural attractions, interesting culture, ancient historical sights, and more than a pinch of the quirky, Phichit is a great place to spend a few days experiencing a side of Thailand that is rarely seen by outsiders. Be inspired by these top things to do and see in Phichit:
1. Journey back in time and explore ancient remains
Phichit was part of two mighty Siamese Kingdoms in times gone by – the Kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Each powerful Kingdom left its mark on Phichit, with some striking ruins just begging to be explored today. And, unlike in the main hearts of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, the ruins are often very quiet and thus allow you to close your eyes, soak up the serene atmosphere, and imagine how they must have been in the past. You can enjoy a wonderful slice of history away from the madding crowds and throngs of tourists.
Wat Pho Prathap Chang dates back to the early 1700s. Within the thick outer walls you can see a number of small chedis and a large Buddha statue in what was once the main shrine (known in Thai as the wihan). Whilst much of the site is now just bare brick, you can spot some patches of the original plaster that once covered the entire site.
At the large Phichit Historical Park you can wander through ancient remains and see how nature is once again trying to reclaim its land. Overgrown and slightly wild, crumbling stupas and walls compete for space with sturdy tree trunks and branches. A ditch surrounds the site, previously adding extra protection to the ancient city. The city is believed to date back to the mid-1000s.
2. Dare to step down into Chalawan’s lair
Within Phichit Historical Park, close to the main parking area, you can see the place where the mighty and formidable Chalawan is believed to have lived.
Local legend tells of an enormous and monstrous half-crocodile and half-man, Chalawan: The Crocodile King. Living in a cave with his devoted followers and a harem of beautiful ladies, Chalawan is said to have one day cast his roving and lustful eye on another attractive lady. He kidnapped the lady and carried her off to his lair, subsequently angering the girl’s wealthy father. With a princely reward offered to anyone who could kill Chalawan and release the girl, legend tells of a brave soul named Krai Thong who accepted the challenge to emerge a hero.
Entrance to the historical park is free.
3. Feel the serenity at Wat Tha Luang
One of Phichit’s most important Buddhist temples, the historic Wat Tha Luang can be found alongside the banks of the Nan River. The main hall is home to a bronze statue of the Lord Buddha. Although not a particularly big statue, what sets this apart for Thai people is its style – it was crafted in the northern Chiang-Saen style. You will see many Thais kneeling in front of the statue and praying, as well as people leaving offerings of flower garlands, single lotus buds, and incense. Look out for the colourful sticks with all denominations of bank note clipped to them … money really does grow on trees!
Outside of the main building, there are several statues, as well as lottery ticket sellers and vendors selling items for making merit. The large lights are pretty interesting too; rather than being set into the ground, as in most places, the halogen lights are held aloft by traditional statues!
4. Go crazy for crocs at Bueng Si Fai
Bueng Si Fai is a swamp and lake, home to different types of aquatic life. A wooden boardwalk allows you to venture out over the water to peer down into its murky depths. There is a small (and, probably rather unimpressive for most) aquarium at one end of the lake. Whilst the collection of fish, kept in sad small tanks, is really nothing to write home about, photo opportunities abound with the quirky stuffed crocodiles. Ever wanted a selfie with a crocodile sporting a loud and garish Hawaiian shirt?! Here’s your chance! It is free to enter the aquarium.
At the other end of the lake is a pretty park, with sweet-smelling flowers and plenty of shade to relax on one of the benches. The highlight is a massive crocodile statue, mouth wide open, looking rather like it is menacingly grinning at you! Its scaly tail is poised as though ready to lash out and its bulging eyes seem to follow you wherever you go. Interesting, there is a (usually locked) meeting room within the reptile’s belly!
You can see many live crocodiles at the nearby crocodile farm. Plates of tender raw chicken are available to buy to throw to the creatures lurking below the walkway. The strong snap of their powerful jaws as they snatch the flaccid meat certainly reminds you that you really wouldn’t ever want to meet one down a dark alleyway!
5. Stroll through Heaven and Hell at Wat Mai Plai Huai
With a main gateway flanked by two small crocodile figures and a gleaming temple building rising up from a pretty pink lotus flower, you know that a visit to Wat Mai Plai Huai is going to be interesting. The sweeping grounds are, indeed, filled with many curious and fascinating delights.
A small mosaic covered shrine glints and gleans in the sunshine from its position on top of a large crocodile. If you walk the path up the crocodile’s tail for a closer look, you will find that people have left a random assortment of offerings inside, such as mirrors, talcum powder, flowers, and makeup.
Numerous gorgeous statues are spread around the complex, telling tales of Thai folklore and spiritual beliefs. Of particular beauty is a tall pagoda with many small statues placed in uniformly carved alcoves. Many beautiful Buddha statues draped in golden and orange cloth mark memorials to people who have passed away.
A section devoted to Buddhist Heaven shows how righteous people can expect to spend a period of time between death and rebirth, with peaceful-looking souls and saffron-clad monks creating an aura of tranquility and calm.
Step into Buddhist Hell, however, and the atmosphere is very different! Angry hounds rip people apart limb from limb, monstrous demonic-like creatures hack and shred bloody flesh with vicious-looking saws, and people roast on spits and boil in pots. Large representations of ghosts cast their evil eyes over the scenes of horror and, in general, the vibe is one of gruesome terror!
Other Phichit attractions to tickle your fancy
The cute town clock has a circle of jolly crocodiles at its base and the Khao Phanom Pha Gold Mine shows how the town used to make an income in the past. Wat Bang Khlan has a selection of old items, such as pottery and statues, and other interesting sights include the ancient Wat Nakhon Chum and the scenic Dong Charoen Vineyard. A perfect place to learn more about Thai culture, folklore, religion, and history, arrange to visit fascinating Phichit when you are next in Thailand.
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