The Emerald Ring of the Northeast 3 Lofty Hills of Loei

| March 7, 2016

“The Town Amid Rolling Hills the Coldest Place in Siam” is “Loei” at the northern tip of the Northeast. Today. the surrounding hills are no barriers for tourists heading for Loei each year. Improved communication routes bring in ever-increasing visitors. especially during wintertime. when the icy cold weather from the northern hemisphere moves in from China. and the temperature plummets to 3 degree Celsius below zero. with frost formed on grass leaves and tree branches. called by local people “Mae Khaning”. With the cool weather. Loei has become a center of temperate zone fruits. flowers and vegetables. But most importantly, its three lofty hills. Phu Kradueng, Phu Ruea, and Phu Luang have been discovered as the sources of all-year round flora. “Loei” or the point beyond. is today. a focal point of interest.
Starting off from the city of Loei early in the morning, but not before treating yourself to a delightful breakfast along main roads such as Charoenrat, Ua Ari, and Nok Kaeo, with hot dishes such as noodle soup, wanton, and the famous “pan omelet” served in small pans, laced with seasoned pork, Chinese pork sausage, or minced pork, taken with sandwich bread, hot coffee or cocoa. Recommended are Makan Shop on Rueam Chit Road, open from 05.00 a.m. every day, Rot Loet Shop on Charoenrat Road, near Phu Luang Hotel, and Valentino Shop on Nok Kaeo Road. For a pleasant lunch, try a takeaway chicken rice at Nang Nueng Shop on Rueam Chai Road.
A trip across 3 hills of Loei is best taken from November to March, as the cool weather prevails, wildflowers are in bloom, and the three hills are open to tourists. They are closed in the rainy season, opening Trekking is available to go to the summit of Phu Kradueng after October, to allow nature to regenerate. 2-wheel drive cars can be used on the route over Phu Kradueng and Phu Ruea, but for the lofty Phu Luang Hill, the Hill in the Cloud, 4-wheel drive cars are the only option. Preparations and caution must be taken for driving on a mountain road and in foggy condition.
First and foremost is Phu Kradueng. Take Highway No.201 (Loei-Chum Saeng) from Muang District southwards, passing Wang Saphung District and Nong Hin Sub-District. Turn right into the 2-lane Highway No.2019 in Phu Kradueng District to reach the Phu Kradueng National Park Office, a distance of 20 kilometers If coming from south of Loei Province, follow Highway No.201, passing Chum Phae District of Khan Kaen into Loei Province up to Ban Pha Nok Khao, going straight for 3 kilometers and turning left at the three-way intersection into Highway No.2019 to the park office. Parking areas are provided at the office. Tourists usually come to Ban Pha Nok Khao and take mini-buses to Phu Kradueng. Chae Kim’s Shop opposite Pha Nok Khao on Highway No.201 is, therefore, a major meeting point, with food service, restrooms, and shelter for travelers. The place is especially lively during wintertime.

Khun Pong Waterfall Loei Thailand

Khun Pong Waterfall Loei Thailand

Phu Kradueng is a mountain with a flat top, the feature known as tableland, rising to an elevation of 1,360 meters. Other hills in Loei share the same feature, ranging in height. Trekking is the only means for visitors to view the endless wonder of the park, largely covered with cloud forest, seasonal tropical forest, and submontane evergreen forests. The trek starts from the tourist information center (Ban Si Than) at the foot of the hill, covering a distance of 5 kilometers to the flat top of the hill crowned by meadows, pines, and wildflowers. A final trek of 3 kilometers through the pine forest and savannah takes visitors to the tourist information center (Wang Kwang), all well-marked trails to cliffs, waterfalls, and meadows. Highlights include Tham Yai, Wang Kwang, Than Sawan, Phen Phop, Phen Phop Mai and Tham So Nua Waterfalls, resplendent with rare flora in the lush background. With such diverse attractions, visitors spend at least 3 days and 2 nights camping out on Phu Kradueng.
A popular activity for visitors to Phu Kradueng is sunrise and sunset watching, with rock cliffs as lookout sites such as Pha Nok Aen for sunrise, Pha Mak Duk and ultimately Pha Lom Sak for sunset. The latter site, with a solitary pine tree over the cliff that seems to protrude into the void, has become a symbol of Phu Kradueng, with visitors queuing up to have their photographs taken. Several other lookout sites to the west include Pha Cham Sin, Pha Noi, Pha Yiap Mek, and Pha Daeng, ending at Pha Lom Sak, an entire distance of 9 kilometers. There is also the “Restricted Forest” area, off-limit to visitors, due to the concentration of wildlife and rare flora.
The plateau is studded with pines, oak, beech, born-beam trees and conifer. Maples turn red in early winter. Violets, orchids, daisies and various wildflowers take a turn to decorate the plateau. In early October, after the rainy season when the park is first opened to visitors, moss, fern and lichen are abundant. Accommodations and spacious camping site are available. Tents and bedding materials can be hired. Food can be bought or cooked over charcoal stoves on hire.
The descent is not as arduous as the ascent Washrooms are provided free-of-charge at the foot of the hill, where trekkers can take a bath and change clothes.To travel further to Phu Ruea, take Highway No.201 back into Loei and turn let into Highway No.203 to Phu Ruea District, a distance of about 50 kilometers, with rolling hills on both sides. Phu Ruea can be spotted on the right and Phu Luang on the left.
On Highway 203, there are several agro-tourism sites to visit, featuring temperate zone flowers and vegetables. At kilometer 57 a sideway to the left leads to Phu Ruea Highland Agricultural Station run by the Department of Agriculture, where fruits such as strawberry, longan, macadamia nut, persimmon, pear, and Chinese walnut experiment. AI kilometer 61, some 12 kilometers from Phu Ruea District Office towards Dan Sai District, is the production site of Chateau de Loei wine of Wanothayan Vineyard, a famous export item. The vineyard covers an area of over 32 acres, open to visitors for a tour of the vineyard, the winery and wine-tasting.

Also on Highway 203, there are 3 famous resorts in the category of Unseen Paradise, combining modern facilities with the local charms and natural surroundings. They are Phu Pha Nam Resort, with log cabins straddling the mountain range, Loei Ulavadi Resort, with earthen huts in a fine flower garden, and Ajatana Lake and Hill, just 18 km. from Phu Ruea National Park. in Balinese and Mayan styles, with the lake and the hill as the backdrop, combined with Thai massage for good health. There are also good accommodations in Phu Ruea District, including Phu Ruea Chalet, Phu Ruea Country Resort, and Sabanga Resort.
At Phu Ruea District Office, a 4-kilometer sideway to the left leads to Phu Ruea National Park. At present, the park allowS cars up to the second checkpoint. Phu Ruea rises about 1,365 meters. It is famous for cold climate in winter, foggy morning, and spectacular sunrise at Pha Lon Noi and Decho Viewpoint. The cloud-covered hills can be observed in the morning both on Phu Ruea and at resorts downhill. The park provides accommodations and camping site. Food can also be bought.
A 700-meters trekking path leads from the parking area to the top of the hill, passing Pha Lon Noi and traversing rich submontane evergreen forest, with diverse wildflowers. Towards the summit, there are meadows, pine forest, and rock garden. On top, a prominent Buddha image “Phra Nava Banphot” is enshrined in the open. A nature study trail runs through the rock garden, with legend related rocks of peculiar shapes, at Phan Khan Mak, Hin Taek, and Phali Gardens. Best knows are Turtle Rock and Shiva Rock. About 2 kilometers from the park office, there is Huai Phai Waterfall, 30 meters high, to enjoy.

Take the same path down from Phu Ruea up to Highway No.203. At kilometer 36, turn into an asphalted road of the Public Works Department No.2011 for about 3 kilometers, there is a Y-shape intersection. Turn left to Ban Na Noi, with laterite road running about 5 kilometers, passing Huai Thong Checkpoint, up to the Khok Nok Raba Forest Warden Unit of the “Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary Area”, a distance of 18 kilometers. The last stretch is winding with sharp bends on steep elevation. As a wildlife sanctuary area, it is not meant for tourism. Visitors need to obtain prior permission from authorities of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department in the area and submit the document to the forest warden at Phu Luang to be let in.
Phu Luang is 1,200 meters above mean sea level and is known as the “Emerald of the Northeast”, with the prevalent cool climate and humidity the whole year round, contributing to the growth of various flora, especially hundreds of rare orchids. Dinosaur footprints were found at Pha Tloen, indicating that the hill was 165 million years ago a habitat of herbivore dinosaurs. Visitors are allowed from Khok Nok Kraba within one day, without an overnight stay on Phu Luang. The area is full of rare flora, fern, moss, and lichen. Of special interest is Paphiopedilum sukhakuluil, native to Phu Luang, and cannot be found anywhere in the world. It is in the rainy season when Phu Luang is closed that wildflowers are in bloom in profusion.
“Lan Surlyan” has been open to tourists, to the back of Khok Nok Kraba, with huge rocks in peculiar forms and shapes and rare orchids. And about 6 kilometers from Khok Nok Kraba, there is “Paek Kham Pine Forest” lush with pine trees. Coming down from Phu Luang, Highway No.203 leads back to Muang District of Loei. The emerald ring of the three lofty hills of Loei, rich in flora, fog, and rolling hills is an impressive route for all motorists.

Loei Map Thailand

Loei Map Thailand

Category: Loei