Top Attractions & Activities: 5 Reasons To Visit Phitsanulok, Thailand

Top Attractions & Activities: 5 Reasons To Visit Phitsanulok, Thailand
Sarah J
Sarah J 

Phitsanulok is a province in the lower part of Northern Thailand. Often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour, the ancient city of Sukhothai, Phitsanulok is home to picturesque mountains, rolling plains, fertile agricultural land, intriguing caves, cascading waterfalls, dense and wildlife-rich forests, and a number of excellent cultural attractions.

If your time is limited, or you just want to focus on a relatively small area of the province, there are several terrific things to see and do within close proximity of the main provincial capital, also called Phitsanulok.

Here are five top attractions and activities to enjoy in Phitsanulok:

1. Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat

top attractions & activities: 5 reasons to visit phitsanulok, thailand | wat phra si rattana mahathat

One of Phitsanulok’s most-visited attractions, Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat is a historical temple that houses one of the most esteemed Buddha statues in all of Thailand. If you find the temple’s name a bit of a mouth-full, don’t worry – it is often referred to as the much easier Wat Yai (Big Temple).

Built in the 1350s during the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom, the main hall features spectacular doors that are inset with gleaming mother-of-pearl, ornate chandeliers, golden roof beams, a striking crimson-coloured ceiling, attractive murals, and grand columns with gold and black patterns. Soak up the beauty before kneeling down to admire the revered statue of the Lord Buddha.

The main Buddha figure is called Phra Buddha Chinnarat. Cast from bronze and later covered in a layer of gold, this particular Buddha image is often said to have the most beatific face of all of Thailand’s Buddha statues. Many people visit here to pray and make merit, and visitors are asked to sit or kneel to take photographs.

Within the temple’s pleasant grounds you can see replicas of ancient pagodas, Buddha statues in diverse postures, shrines, and ornamental gardens, as well as viewing a range of religious artefacts in a small onsite museum.

There is no admission fee, although donations are very welcome. Visitors are asked to dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered.

2. Wat Ratchaburana

top attractions & activities: 5 reasons to visit phitsanulok, thailand | wat ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana (sometimes also spelt as Wat Rat Burana) features a tall ancient chedi (a Buddhist stupa) that can be seen from quite far away. Rising up from the temple’s grounds, it is actually more impressive when viewed from some distance. The weathered upper section sits atop a stepped-brick base, is draped in pink, yellow, and white cloth, and is surrounded by several smaller spires.

Along with ornate temple buildings, shrines, and a number of Buddha statues, you can also see a wooden boat that was used by one of the country’s most beloved past kings, King Chulalongkorn.

There is no charge to visit Wat Ratchaburana, although, like all temples, donations are appreciated.

3. Other sacred temples around Phitsanulok

top attractions & activities: 5 reasons to visit phitsanulok, thailand | other sacred temples around phitsanulok

Phitsanulok has a number of revered temples, each one offering something different and interesting for visitors.

With a main temple hall similar to that at Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, Wat Nang Phaya is most well-known for a large collection of consecrated stone tablets that were discovered in the crypt in the early 1900s. As you walk through the rounds you’ll see several stupas wrapped in saffron cloth and a diverse, and sometimes bizarre, collection of statues. As well as statues of the Lord Buddha there are cartoon-like animal figurines and small statues of cheerful soldiers.

Built during the Sukhothai period (1230s to 1580s), Wat Chedi Yod Thong has a unique historic chedi in its grounds. Constructed in the shape of a lotus bud, it is the only surviving such chedi in the whole of Phitsanulok Province. If you like exploring old ruins, Wat Aranyik would be a great place to visit.

4. Sgt. Maj. Thawee Folk Museum

top attractions & activities: 5 reasons to visit phitsanulok, thailand | sgt. maj. thawee folk museum

Named after its founder, the Sgt. Maj. Thawee Folk Museum has an extensive collection of items related to almost every aspect of Thai life throughout the ages. Items are spread between several traditional Thai-style buildings, and you’ll also find a small, and very inexpensive, gift shop, nice gardens, and a mini aquarium. Shoes need to be removed to go inside the various buildings.

Unlike many museums in non-touristic parts of Thailand, many of the displays and exhibits in the Sgt. Maj. Thawee Folk Museum have very detailed descriptions in English. It is a fascinating museum and one which is highly recommended for people who want to learn more about Thai culture and Thai life from the past.

The agricultural section is particularly interesting, more so than it might sound, with old farming equipment and animal traps. Whoever knew that mini-portcullises were used to decapitate pesky snakes?! Or that there were intricately-designed frog traps that could be worthy creations of someone with advanced engineering skills? Step out into the simulated pathway of Tid Chan, supposedly designed so as to try and make humans feel similar sensations to fish caught in traps. In reality, you’re just locked out of the building, surrounded by rickety equipment, and have to walk around the outside of the building to retrieve your shoes!

With displays containing coins, religious items, textiles, art, household equipment, tableware, pottery, tools, weapons, toys, herbal medicines, and other diverse objects, plan to spend at least an hour exploring the museum. Admission is a modest 50 THB (approximately 1.40 USD) per person.

5. Local markets around the city

local markets around the city

The local markets around Thailand are often a terrific place to start if you’re keen to sample local fare. Phitsanulok is no different, and its markets won’t disappoint. Tuck into some local mi sua (rice noodles), savouring the taste and enjoying the result of preparation methods that have been handed down from generation to generation. Another popular product from Phitsanulok is dried banana, known locally as kluai tak. Sweet and bursting with flavour, you can find those that have been coated in chocolate, dipped in strawberry frosting, covered in sugar, and other tempting twists.

The province’s location, at the meeting point between Central and Northern Thailand, means that you can find plenty of delicious options at mealtimes. Touring the markets is also a brilliant way to experience a conventional Thai shopping experience. The markets commonly sell a range of other wares, such as clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Vendors set up close to most of the city’s main temples, and you can also enjoy browsing the diverse offerings at the large market near to the train station, open during the day and evening.

Other reasons to visit Phitsanulok

Phitsanulok is one of Thailand’s oldest cities, and it was the nation’s capital for a brief period. It was where the mighty King Naresuan was born, the king responsible for driving Burmese invaders from the land towards the end of the 16th century and giving local Tai peoples their independence once again. There is a shrine in honour of the former leader at Chandra Palace.

See the houseboats that bob on the Nan River, explore the remains of the old city walls, visit a small bird sanctuary and a foundry, and enjoy visiting a part of Thailand that sees relatively few international tourists. Don’t miss Phitsanulok when travelling around Thailand!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Originally from the UK, Sarah has been mostly based in her second home of Thailand for the past five years. As well as exploring new places, learning about different cultures, and sampling lots of...Read more

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