There isn’t a whole lot to do in Phu Lang Ka, it has to be said. This remote hilltop village in Phayao province is known more for its beautiful vistas than anything else – but those vistas are in themselves worth writing home about.
Perched up in the hills on the provincial border of Phayao and Nan, Phu Lang Ka has just the one accommodation option, Phu Lang Ka Resort. The ‘resort’ offers very basic – to put it nicely – rooms and bungalows all set attractively around the site so as to make the most of the view below; beautiful countryside and rice paddies, temples and limestone karsts of the kind more well known to exist in Krabi or in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay.
The low temperatures at this kind of altitude in this northern area of the country – so far north, in fact, that on a clear day you can see into Laos on the horizon – mean it is one of the few guest houses you are likely to find in Thailand that not only comes without air-con, but in fact without a fan too – because you simply don’t need it.
Unless you have your own transport this is certainly a trip that needs planning, rather than being organised on a whim, since local transport connections are few and far between. Food and drink are available at the resort in high season, but when we visited in September’s rainy low tourist season nothing was on offer, meaning it was a case of buying ingredients from the one lone shop in the village down below and cooking for ourselves in the resort kitchen (there is also a basic restaurant in the village, its friendly owner selling noodle soup and very good papaya salad). Yet in a way this adds to the rustic, campsite-type appeal of the place, and certainly the owners of the resort are accommodating and go out of their way to provide everything you need; even lending us their motorbike free of charge for our two-day stay, to enable us to get down the snaking roads to said grocery shop and explore the area around Phu Lang Ka.
Which is certainly the best way to do it – 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 whole area is also awash with beautiful flowers, not generally seen in other lower altitude areas of Thailand because of the warmer climate; together with the simply stunning landscape and the inquisitive yet warm and welcoming locals, Phu Lang Ka makes both for a naturally photogenic destination and the perfect spot for a few relaxing days just soaking up mother nature at her best.
Rooms at Phu Lang Ka Resort cost 500 baht per night – little English is spoken, but to book call 054 4155 70. To reach Phu Lang Ka, take the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Den Chai, departing from the main Hualumphong station at 10.00pm and arriving in the early morning. Catch a bus to Chiang Kham (you may need to change buses in Phayao) before taking one of the two daily departures (10.00am and 11.20am) from Chiang Kham towards Nan; ask the driver for Phu Lang Ka Resort and you’ll be dropped right at the side of the road, about 50m from the resort. If you miss this last connection, either take the one daily local bus from Phayao to Pong, from where the bus conductor can give you a ride by pick-up to Phu Lang Ka Resort for 1,000 baht, or break it up with an overnight stay at the nicer-side-of-decent Chiang Kham Hotel.
Additional photography by Wisan Saentheweesuk.