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A number of the greatest issues to do in Phrae, Thailand… a city of indigo clothes, teak wooden homes, and conventional crafts.
Far within the north of Thailand, peaceable Phrae is way too typically neglected by guests.
The small capital of a sparsely populated and sleepy province of the identical identify, Phrae feels pretty “off the overwhelmed path”. Particularly when put next with north Thailand’s extra well-known cities similar to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
However it’s time to place Phrae in your Thailand bucket listing! In the event you love heritage, conventional crafts, nice meals, and laid-back vibes, that is the city for you! Listed here are a number of the high issues to do throughout your go to…
Disclaimer – my journey to Phrae was supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. As all the time, all phrases and opinions are 100% my very own.
What’s Phrae Identified For?
Simply over a century in the past, Phrae was the rich coronary heart of a booming teak logging trade. Putting teak wooden mansions nonetheless dot the city, however the bustle of commerce is lengthy gone. As a substitute, this can be a quiet little city beloved for its sleepy vibes, fabulous espresso retailers, and conventional crafts.
Probably the most well-known native craft is Mo Hom: northern Thailand’s iconic indigo-dyed textiles.
Spend 5 minutes in Phrae and also you’ll rapidly realise that this pure blue dye is an intrinsic a part of the city’s identification. Indigo-dyed garments and textiles are in each store, on each road. Virtually each native wears it – even the pets!
Buying, craft-making, temple-hopping, or discovering native historical past… no matter you’re into, there are loads of enjoyable issues to do in Phrae to maintain you busy. Simply you should definitely spend a while stress-free and having fun with the city’s chilled-out tempo of life, too!
Fast Listing: High Issues to do in Phrae (should you’re brief on time)
In the event you solely have a day or two within the metropolis – right here’s a fast listing of the can’t-miss sights in Phrae, Thailand. You’ll discover extra information on each within the subsequent part.
- Take a tram tour of town centre.
- Uncover the custom of Mo Hom pure indigo dye and take a tie-dye workshop.
- Don’t miss Wat Phra That Cho Hae temple.
- Look across the historic Governer’s Palace (Khum Chao Luang).
12 Issues to Do in Phrae, Thailand
1. Take a Tram Tour of the Metropolis Centre
For the right introduction to Phrae and a fast overview of town’s high sights, hop aboard one of many Tram Excursions of town centre.
These cute little open-sided trams are top-of-the-line issues to do in Phrae and an effective way to see the highlights of the city in a single afternoon. They’ll take you previous many of the main sights and temples, stopping at some so you may get down and take pictures.
Good to Know: The tram excursions depart from outdoors Khum Chao Luang Museum (see part 8). The motive force’s commentary is in Thai, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a enjoyable solution to discover and also you’ll get overview. High tip: drop pins in your Google Maps to remind your self which spots you wish to come again to when you’re in Phrae.
2. Uncover the Custom of Thai Indigo at Baan Thung Hong Village
One of many issues Phrae is most well-known for is the artwork of Mo Hom indigo dye. You’ll see individuals sporting indigo-dyed garments ALL over northern Thailand. Mo Hom clothes is usually nicknamed “Thai denim” as a result of it’s so prolific!
Mo Hom was dropped at Phrae by migrants from Puen in Laos. The Puen individuals had been farmers, and used the hom plant which grows within the close by mountains to create a dye that provided pure solar safety. This pure dye turned one in every of Phrae’s hottest exports, from hand-painted textiles to easy tie-dyed clothes.
Thung Hong, a village on the outskirts of Phrae, is the house of Thai indigo. Right here, you’ll discover a small market and plenty of retailers and stalls promoting an enormous number of textiles and garments.
Ban Pa Ngiam is without doubt one of the authentic workshops, so is without doubt one of the greatest locations to be taught extra. The store is run by Prapapan Sritrai – aka Auntie Ngiam, a third era craftswoman who discovered easy methods to make the dye from her grandmother.
Go to to see artisans at work creating indigo-dyed merchandise – and to buy lovely hand-made merchandise. You too can take a workshop to make your very personal tie-dyed indigo memento. There’s a spread of nice patterns to select from – some easy, some extra difficult – so you can also make a shawl, bag, or t-shirt that’s utterly distinctive.
3. Take a Tye-Dye Workshop at Baan Matjai Do-it-yourself & Cafe
There’s one other excellent place to attempt Mo Hom indigo dying for your self. Household-run Banmatjai (additionally known as Baan Matjai) is a stunning workshop, cafe and boutique retailer simply north of Phrae.
In the event you love arts and crafts, that is the place to return! In addition to indigo workshops, in addition they provide pottery portray classes – and have a beautiful espresso store the place you’ll be able to calm down (when you determine simply what number of indigo items you wish to purchase!).
I had an absolute blast on the Banmatjai indigo workshop. The beautiful women who run the store will enable you select and form your design (I like to recommend holding it easy if it’s your first attempt!). Then, you merely dip it into the dye, rinse it off, and cling it as much as dry.
Head for a espresso when you wait – or take a look at the gorgeous boutique looking for sliiiightly extra skilled indigo items! The workshop prices 150 THB and it’s a very enjoyable solution to make a novel memento of your time in Phrae.
4. Pay a Go to to Wat Phra That Cho Hae Temple
Phrae is dwelling to one of the vital essential Buddhist temples in northern Thailand: Wat Phra That Cho Hae. The massive golden chedi (stupa) within the temple advanced is alleged to deal with the hair and left elbow relics of Lord Buddha – so this is a crucial pilgrimage website for Thai Buddhists and the centre of Buddhism in Phrae.
The 33m-high chedi was constructed between 1336 and 1338 and is roofed in vibrant brass sheets coated with gold inlay. The identify “Cho Hae” identify refers to a standard satin cloth which was wrapped across the historic pagoda when it was first constructed.
In the event you can, attempt to time your go to with Wat Phra That Cho Hae Competition, held throughout the fourth lunar month of the yr (normally round February or March). Devotees stroll clockwise across the chedi holding lit candles. Outdoors, a big honest is held across the temple with music, meals, and celebrations.
5. See Conventional Bamboo Hat Making at Hommai Baandin
Uncover extra native crafts at Hommai Baandin in Ban Na Laem, a small village on the outskirts of Phrae. Right here, you’ll be able to see the artwork of conventional bamboo and palm leaf hat making.
Proprietor Kris based Hommai Baandim when she realised that the heritage of Lanna-style hat-making was nearly misplaced. Throughout the Covid pandemic, Kris got here dwelling to take care of her mum – and realised that her village was the one place in Thailand that also make this hat.
She fashioned a small collective, Kublon Neighborhood Enterprise, to protect this – together with different conventional crafts. There’s a small restaurant serving scrumptious native delicacies, hat-making demonstrations, and even a small workshop so you’ll be able to uncover the craft for your self.
6. Find out about Lanna Historical past on the Komol Vintage Textile Museum
Located about 45 minutes drive west of Phrae city centre, within the close by Lengthy District, Komol Phaboraan Textile Museum is value a day journey for anybody serious about studying a little bit extra about native historical past and tradition.
Phrae was as soon as a part of the Lanna Kingdom, together with close by Nan province and most of Northern Thailand. Komol Museum options a set of historic materials from the Lanna individuals, a few of that are over 200 years outdated and fantastically preserved.
Proprietor Komol Phanichpan observed that a few of these materials and types had been dying out, so opened the museum to protect them. The gathering has expanded through the years and consists of a number of attention-grabbing items, together with conventional attire worn in Thai movies and the sarong worn by Bui Simon – the Thai Miss Universe winner in 1988.
DON’T miss the basement rooms which home essentially the most uncommon exhibit within the museum: a set of Barbie dolls. It began as a set of dolls in hand-made outfits showcasing totally different native costumes. However the distinctive exhibit grew to incorporate Barbies from the enduring Dolls of the World assortment, in addition to quite a few popular culture dolls similar to Marvel and Harry Potter characters!
7. See the Reclining Buddha and Big Tortoise at Wat Phong Sunan
There are a lot of lovely and historic temples to go to in Phrae’s small, peaceable city centre. But when solely have time to go to one, make it Wat Phong Sunan.
This lovely and eclectic temple advanced has a number of intriguing options. There’s a Buddha statue stated to be over 560 years outdated, a powerful golden reclining Buddha statue, and an unlimited golden turtle statue.
However maybe most eye-catching is the frilly picture corridor, which is roofed with a forest of 108 white spires – every topped with a gold cone. Go to round sundown to see these catching the sunshine fantastically.
8. Step Again in Time on the Phrae Governors Palace (Khum Chao Luang)
Khum Chao Luang, the previous Governor’s Palace, is a good place to study Phrae’s historical past. This spectacular mansion was inbuilt 1892 for Chao Luang, the final ancestral ruler of Phrae. He lived there till 1902 when Phrae’s independence got here to an finish and he fled to exile in Luang Prabang.
Like lots of Phrae’s historic mansions, the palace is crafted largely from native teak wooden (see part 9). Phrae’s teak trade was booming on the time, and Chao Luang had turn out to be very rich off the again of the teak commerce – as you’ll be able to see from the extravagant furnishings and artefacts discovered all through the property.
There’s a darker historical past right here, too. The basement beneath the mansion incorporates a small jail with three low-ceilinged cells. Apparently, these had been used to imprison slaves. One of many rooms above has a small trapdoor within the wood flooring to permit meals to be handed right down to the prisoners under.
9. Uncover Phrae’s Historic Teak Buildings
A century in the past, Phrae was the centre of a thriving teak logging trade. Commerce with European powers in the beginning of the nineteenth century introduced an enormous growth to the native financial system – and plenty of native nobles turned very rich from it, constructing extravagant, European-influenced wood mansions.
Right this moment, Phrae’s teak buying and selling legacy nonetheless has a robust presence all through the city, which is dotted with historic teak buildings. Probably the most notable is the Governer’s Palace (see above), however there are a lot of extra to look out for as you discover Phrae city centre.
To be taught extra, head to the Teak Museum. Consisting of three teak buildings which beforehand belonged to the East Asiatic Firm, the museum delves into the historical past of teak logging. There are additionally shows of regionally crafted teak merchandise similar to arts, footage, and crafts work.
Extra teak buildings to look out for:
- Wat Chom Sawan – see part #10
- Vongbury Home Museum – see part #11
- Ban Prathap Chai – accomplished in 1976.
- Gingerbread Home Gallery – retailers, a restaurant, an artwork gallery, and a B&B in a standard teak wooden home.
- Baan Thep Museum – a historic mansion transformed right into a museum.
- Wichai Racha Residence – a good looking, red-hued mansion inbuilt 1898 by Cantonese artisans.
10. Go to the Teak Temple of Wat Chom Sawan
Probably the most iconic teak buildings in Phrae is Wat Chom Sawan (or Wat Jom Sawan) a Burmese-style temple constructed largely from teak wooden. Development started in 1894 and was accomplished within the early 1900s, so there’s lots of historical past right here.
Inside are colourfully painted teak wooden ceilings and fantastically carved wood pillars. Look out for the “Luangpho San”: a determine woven from bamboo and lined with gold leaves over black lacquer.
11. Try Vongbury Home Museum
There’s yet one more notable teak wooden constructing to go to when you’re in Phrae. Khum Vongbury (or Wongburi) Museum is housed in a shocking pink-and-white teak mansion relationship from 1907.
I solely visited the surface of the property, which is beautiful in its personal proper, with lengthy verandahs, rows of shuttered home windows, and elaborate wooden carvings.
Inside is a small museum showcasing the heritage of the household who constructed and owned the home, with artefacts from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries together with furnishings, artwork, and silverware.
12. Escape to Phae Mueang Phi Forest Park
Escape into nature with a visit to Phae Mueang Phi Forest Park, situated about 12km north of Phrae’s centre. The forest park is greatest recognized for its uncommon rock formations, with sandstone columns carved by years of abrasion – some as much as 30m excessive.
Phae Mueang Phi roughly interprets as “Ghost City Grove” – due to the spirits that stay within the forest. Based on native legend, an aged girl discovered some silver and gold within the forest years in the past. When she tried to take it dwelling, the forest spirits triggered her to get misplaced till she put the treasure again.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to go to Phae Mueang Phi on my journey – however as one in every of Phrae’s hottest sights, I’d say it’s a must-do. The simplest solution to attain the park can be by renting a moped, however you possibly can additionally take a taxi – simply be certain to pre-book the return journey.
The way to Get to Phrae in Northern Thailand
Air: There’s an airport in Phrae, and it used to have home flight connections with Bangkok. Sadly, these flights haven’t but resumed for the reason that pandemic. The closest airport is in close by Nan, about two hours drive from Phrae. There are twice-daily flights from Bangkok to Nan by way of AirAsia.
Practice: There is no such thing as a prepare station in Phrae itself, however there’s one at close by Den Chai. That is about half-hour from Phrae centre and there are common transport providers between the 2. Den Chai is on the primary Bangkok – Chiang Mai prepare route so there are common providers.
The prepare from Bangkok to Den Chai takes 8 to 9 hours. Tickets begin from round 250 THB ($7 USD). From Chiang Mai to Den Chai, the journey time is round 4 hours, with tickets from about 150 THB ($4 USD). Click on right here to go looking prepare occasions and ticket costs on 12Go-Asia, my most trusted reserving platform.
Bus: Phrae has first rate bus connections with the remainder of Thailand. From Chiang Mai, the journey time is round 4 hours and prices round 150 THB ($4 USD). A bus from Bangkok to Phrae can take something from 7 to 12 hours, with costs various relying on the service.
I all the time advocate utilizing 12Go-Asia to examine occasions and costs and to e book tickets. They even have pictures of the providers so you understand precisely what to anticipate!
It could be a comparatively small city in a far-flung northern province, however Phrae has lots to supply guests. The entire province has a wealthy historical past and a good looking tradition to find.
Phrae’s conventional arts and crafts are what set the realm aside. The area’s heritage feels very a lot alive, particularly once you meet locals like Kris at Hommai Baandim and the women behind Banmatjai, who’re preventing to maintain the province’s traditions alive and maintain them present.
A couple of years in the past, the Phrae Craft Truthful was launched to showcase and rejoice the distinctive crafts and expert artisans that make this province such a particular place. It’s held yearly over the primary weekend in December – so should you’re in Thailand on the proper time, be certain to move as much as Phrae for the Craft Truthful.
With a lot to see and do in such a small city, you possibly can simply spend a number of days exploring Phrae and the encircling province. Come for the heritage, the historical past, the teak mansions, and the purchasing… however keep for the city’s splendidly laid-back vibes!
Are there any extra nice issues to do in Phrae, Thailand that I’ve missed from this listing? Scroll down to depart a remark!