When three-day weekends happening, traveling outside of Lampang can be difficult. Flights, trains and buses tend to book up QUICKLY and it becomes such a hassle. However, one particular weekend in July, a few of my friends and I were able to catch the Green Bus to a sister city, 190km to the northeast, called Phayao, Thailand.
Phayao is not a famously known city, nor is it a popular travel destination. However, being a teacher, you hear a bit about neighboring provinces and this particular location intrigued us.
While Phayao is a small town there were several options for accommodation. Many places were located along the main road off of Phayao Lake. It’s kind of the only true location to stay as this is where majority of events take place.
We stayed at RerkDee Bed and Breakfast, located towards the west side of the lake. I shared the budget double room with my friend and it cost us THB1,130 for 2 nights with breakfast included, total; around 615 baht each (USD 20). It was easy to book through booking.com and we found that this place was in the best location.
I didn’t do much research prior to booking a place to stay, as I was kind of tagging along. My two guy friends had already booked a room at that BnB, so that’s where my other friend and I stayed too.
Things to Do
We didn’t really have a plan or any idea on what to do when we arrived into Phayao. The lake is the big attraction and there is a weekend market, but that was about it. We only had two nights so we weren’t worried about finding things to do. Plus, I was just happy to be out of Lampang for a little while.
Watch the Sunset at Lake Phayao
This one is pretty self explanatory. There were several places along the lake to stop, throw down a blanket, grab a beer, and sit to watch the sunset. There were even a few places that were rocky that were great for sunset if you don’t have a blanket.
We ended up finding a beautiful spot along the eastern side of the main walkway with several rocks. We were at the edge of the lake with nothing blocking our view. The sunset our first night was quite stunning.
There was a slight breeze that you could feel and see in the small ripples of the water. Plus, palm trees lined the lake which gave the sunset a little more of a special vibe.
Rent a Motorscooter
This one wasn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be. Lampang has several motor scooter rental shops, so we thought it would be the same in Phayao. Nope, there was only one, according to our BnB. The shop is located at the bus terminal with zero signs. We tried asking around but we had no luck at first. Finally, someone pointed us into the right direction.
The rental shop is towards the back right corner if you are standing at the front looking at the terminal. There was a big red sign with a Thai word but nothing labeled with motor scooter rentals. Thankfully, we got it all sorted out and called the number listed.
Only issue we had occurred within the first 10 minutes of driving. We were making our way out of the city to head to one of the local waterfalls when one of the tires popped. Luckily, we found a local shop and changed the tire right away.
Tan Tong Waterfall
I had previously google bookmarked this waterfall, but didn’t know how far it was truly located from Muang Lampang. When we arrived in Phayao, I realized it was fairly close. We decided as a group to go explore and try and find the waterfall.
Fun Fact: the waterfall is actually in Lampang province but located at the far northeast tip right along the Lampang-Phayao border.
It was a beautiful drive going from Phayao to Tan Tong Waterfall. It’s about 35 km and took us a little over an hour. The road is quite windy and steep at times. I actually got a little nervous about the bike I was driving because it just didn’t have that great of power. I was full throttle for majority of the hills.
Granted, we could only rent two bikes and there were four of us, so we had two people on the bikes. This isn’t the best for these motor scooters. Thankfully, the bikes made it safely there and back with a pit stop along the way.
I couldn’t even tell you where the pit stop was, but it was a beautiful mountain lake with gazebos. We may have gotten a little lost along the way, which is how we ended up on a pit stop. But it was a good pitstop, nonetheless.
By the time we made it to the waterfall, we were famished. Luckily there were small stalls that serviced drinks and food at the waterfall, so we immediately ate lunch. Then we just relaxed and hung out at the waterfall. It was pretty anti-climatic to be honest, but a waterfall is a waterfall.
The journey is is half the fun anyways! We saw so much flora and fauna throughout rolling hills and mountains. It truly was a beautiful little excursion outside of town.
Take a boat to Wat Tilok Aram
Located in the middle of Lake Phayao, Wat Tilok Aram is truly unique. Only accessible via non-motorized slow boat, this temple has a few Buddha and Naga statues, a tiny chedi/pagoda, candles for prayer and worship, and a Buddha tree. The entire trip only takes about an hour. It costs 30 baht from the transportation office located along the main road.
At the transportation office, there are places to purchase worship candles, flowers, and fish food. There were several opportunities to give thanks and worship to Buddha at the temple. There is also a fish farm located there, hint the fish food.
Visit the OTOP market
This one was an extremely RANDOM find. We were just driving around the city and found this huge OTOP Market. It wasn’t truly open since it was a holiday, when we visited. However, you could see that it was a huge market space. Worth a visit.
What is OTOP?
OTOP stands for One Tambon One Product, which was started to promote locally made and market products in the 7000+ tambons.
Tambon are sub-districts around Thailand and each tambon selects a main product to receive the OTOP branding. It was started back in 2001 and was canceled for a short time, before being rebranded.
Since the location is written in Thai on google, I have placed a pin on the map to help you.
Other things in Phayao
- Grab your photo with the “Welcome to Phayao” rock sign located along the lake.
- Visit the Pho Khun Ngam Muang Monument
- Visit the Phayao Cultural Exhibition Hall
Eating and Drinking
Just like many Thai towns, much of the food we ate were local restaurants that didn’t have names we could read. We would just walk around the town, find a restaurant with a menu and then order. But there was one thing that was a must.
Eat "Kung Den"
The first thing my volleyball girls said to me after I told them I was going to Phayao was, “Teacher, you eat Kung Den.”
I had no idea what they were talking about but they were dancing when they said it. Plus, I know the word kung in Thai translates to shrimp. When I combined the word with the dancing movement, I deducted they said dancing shrimp. Seriously, this is a thing; dancing shrimp. They had to actually show me videos so I knew exactly what they were talking about.
Apparently, it’s a dish that Phayao is known for, so for our first dinner, we found a restaurant with Kung Den. Talk about an experience. They are these small grey shrimps that jump out of the bowl when you open the lid. We had no idea how to eat them so we had dancing shrimp all over the table.
Thankfully one of the restaurant owners came over and showed us the proper way to eat them. It honestly had the taste of ceviche with a little more crunch. I didn’t mind it, but it was weird feeling the shrimp dance in my mouth.
Phayao, like many Thai cities, have various night markets. The larger markets typical occur on the weekends. On Saturday nights, they have a very large market located at the east-end of the lake. It’s called Phayao Lakeside Walking Street It surrounds the park that is down at that end and filled with food, clothes, and shops. The food was delicious.
On Sundays, I felt like the whole main city was full of street shops. The market was HUGE winding between the streets. It was crowded but most markets are, so you just have to learn to manage.
Similar to the rest of the Northern provinces, Phayao, Thailand has a variety of coffee shops located throughout the main city. If you’re a coffee drinker, I suggest visiting Cupcake at Phayao Cafe and Bakery, All About Coffee, I See You @ Phayao or Lake Cafe Coffee. For an extra special treat, visit Phayao Coffee Roasters.
Enjoy a nice dinner by the lake
If you’re looking for a nicer type restaurant then head towards the west end of the main city. Here you will find a variety of restaurants overlooking the lake. Beware of the bugs, especially if you visit during rainy season.
Restaurants like View Lover, Lake Cafe, Aurora and Seeview Phayao are a few to name. We ate a delicious dinner one night at Seeview. I had mango cashew chicken, and holy smokes, it was delicious. These dinners tend to be on the more pricy side, but they are worth it.
General Thoughts on Phayao
Although there is not a huge difference between Phayao and Lampang, in terms of food, coffee and culture, the atmosphere of a smaller town was a nice change. I could immediately feel the sense of small town when walking along the lake.
I felt that the 3 days / 2 nights, we spent here was a good enough time to see the sights. Although it was challenging getting motorbikes, everything worked out and we could get out and explore.
There was a bar, maybe two, in town so we were able to enjoy a solid night out. This city might not be a huge touristy destination like Chiang Mai, but I loved seeing the sleepier side to Thailand.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and companies I use personally.