Travel to Phichit Province, Thailand
A Land of Legends and Crocodiles!
Thailand’s province of Phichit is close to where the Central and Northern Regions meet. It sees relatively few visitors but is well worth a few days’ stopover.
Phichit has a long history and was an important Siamese settlement during both the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms. There are several ancient sites throughout the province.
The province is also steeped in interesting legends about Chalawan, the Crocodile King. According to local folklore, there was once a huge crocodile ruler who lived in a cave. It is said that upon entering the cave, all crocodiles took on a human form. Chalawan was an aggressive and power-hungry leader with a hunger for human flesh. Two sisters went to the canal to play, and Chalawan fell in love with one, kidnapping her and carting her off to his cave.
In his lair, Chalawan appeared to the girl in his human form, but she resisted his advances. The girl’s father was devastated and offered a large reward for anyone able to rescue his daughter and kill the fearsome crocodile king. The story tells of a skilled man, Krai Thong, who traveled to Phichit from a far-away province, determined to defeat the monstrous crocodile. He fought the beast in the water, then followed the wounded crocodile into his cave, and they fought again, with Chalawan then in human form. Krai Thong was victorious, killing Chalawan and saving the young lady. He became a local hero.
Because of the local stories, there are many crocodile references throughout Phichit today.
I spent two days exploring various places around Phichit and was pleasantly surprised by how fascinating the area is. I can’t believe that it doesn’t receive more visitors! It’s quirky and interesting, and there are cool things to see and do.
Phichit Historical Park is a must-visit. Not only is the ancient city thought to have been founded in the mid-1000s, but it is also home to Chalawan’s cave. You can see the place where locals say the mighty crocodile king once lived, and there are statues that replicate the battle between the crocodile and Krai Thong. You can also explore the overgrown ruins, with the crumbling walls and chedis all that remain of the once-lively city.
The once-abandoned Wat Pho Prathap Chang is another interesting attraction for history lovers. The ancient temple has a large hall and a number of chedis within its surrounding walls. Wat Nakhon Chum is another ancient temple in Phichit.
Bueng Si Fai is another crocodile-related attraction. While the lake, boardwalk, and aquarium aren’t especially out of the ordinary, there’s a gigantic, open-mouthed crocodile statue in the flower-filled park. It’s a fabulous photo spot! Nearby, there’s a crocodile pit where you can toss chunks of meat down to the waiting crocodiles.
As I have a small obsession with so-called hell temples, I really wanted to visit Wat Mai Plai Huai while in Phichit. The temple has a hell garden, filled with statues showing the grisly fates that await people in the afterlife if they sin during their time on Earth, as well as large statues of Thai ghosts. There are also many large and beautiful statues of the Lord Buddha and figures that depict the Buddhist idea of heaven.
The temple isn’t without its crocodile features either; there’s a giant, scaly crocodile statue near the entrance. You can walk up the crocodile’s tail for a closer look at the glistening shrine perched on its back. Two smaller crocs stand to attention at the gateway, and there’s a sly-looking crocodile statue close to the pond.
Elsewhere, Wat Sri Sattharam has a sizeable white crocodile statue that you can walk through!
You’ll find crocodile images in many places around Phichit — even the town clock is encircled by small reptilian creatures!
Although I was mainly intrigued by the province’s crocodile legends, I did pay a visit to Wat Tha Luang, one of the area’s most revered temples (without any crocodile associations!). Tranquil and pretty, the temple is home to a significant bronze statue of the Lord Buddha. The grounds have even more interesting statues, some of which are used to hold up lights.
My trip to Phichit was quick, but it’s definitely a charming place that I would love to re-visit and explore in more detail one day.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Several daily buses connect Bangkok with Phichit, with a journey time of around six and a half hours. Alternatively, Phichit is on the Northern Railway Line, which runs between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Once you arrive in Phichit town center, it’s easy to explore on foot. However, as many places of interest are in other parts of the province, having your own transportation is highly recommended, especially if time is limited. You can also charter tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis from the bus station; prices will depend on your negotiating skills, the number of people, and where you want to visit.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Although I didn’t include the Provincial Museum on my itinerary, if you have time, it’s probably worth a visit to learn more about local history and culture. It’s located in Phichit town center.
Stay – Accommodation
Orchid Place Hotel – A lovely budget hotel in Phichit town center, Orchid Place Hotel has double and twin ensuite rooms. All rooms have free Wi-Fi, a TV, a telephone, a fridge, a desk, and a wardrobe. Upgrade to the VIP rooms for more amenities and space. The daily free breakfast helps you stretch your travel funds even further. Reception is open at all times, and the hotel offers laundry services and free parking.
Roseinntaphanhin – Located in the district of Taphan Hin, Roseinntaphanhin has a local vibe and is close to the Nan River. There are rooms and suites in different sizes, all with a private bathroom. In-room amenities include a TV and free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is included in the rates, and the hotel has a stylish on-site restaurant/bar with a 24-hour room service menu.
Rabieng Nam – The peaceful and attractive Rabieng Nam resort has a choice of standard, modern, or river view rooms. All have a private bathroom, an outdoor seating area (the river view rooms have a small roof terrace with a hammock!), a fridge, and a TV. The resort has a small fitness center and a restaurant that sells an assortment of Thai dishes.
Eat – Restaurants
There are plenty of local restaurants around Phichit, with some that focus on one particular specialty and others that have extensive menus. You’ll find the most dining options in Phichit town center, with places like Big Seafood, Mae Aree Noodles, Mame Shabu, and Nok Noi Restaurant to tempt you. There are also branches of the popular Thai restaurant chains of MK and Hot Pot Buffet. Fans of street food should check out the evening market, where you’ll find an array of quick and cheap Thai favorites to satisfy your hunger.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Although any time of year is suitable for a visit to Phichit, the cool season (between November and March) generally has the most pleasant temperatures for walking around and sightseeing. The town sees few foreign tourists, so you don’t have to worry about seasonal crowds.
Most attractions are open daily from around 9 am to 5 pm, though do check individual sites before visiting to avoid disappointment.
Safety – Possible risks
Watch out for crocodiles!
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Phichit is generally a fairly affordable Thai province to explore. Most temples are free to visit (although donations are very welcomed). Accommodations and meals are typically in the lower price range.
At the time of writing, there is no admission fee for Phichit Historical Park.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Remember to dress conservatively when visiting temples in Thailand; this means shoulders covered and shorts/skirts/dresses that reach to the knees for women, and no tank tops for men. Respect that there may be people praying and making merit at religious sites.
If you choose to feed the crocodiles at the crocodile pit, you might see people goading the creatures with chunks of flesh. Don’t be tempted to do the same — just feed them!
Reality Check – Be Aware
While there are many awesome things to see and do in Phichit, it is not on most travelers’ Thailand itineraries. Getting around (outside of the main town center) can be difficult if you don’t have your own transportation and don’t wish to use tuk-tuks. There may also be language barriers to contend with; make sure you have a decent translation app and can show addresses written in the Thai script. You won’t find a huge selection of amenities that cater to tourists, but … that’s part of the joy of stepping away from the typical tourist trail and spending time exploring a lesser-visited Thai province like Phichit!
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