Nestled in a peaceful corner of the lower northern region of Thailand, the small town of Uthai Thani is situated among the embrace of lush mountains, a diversity of ethnicity, and beautiful culture.
Cruising along the Sakae Krang River is the most relaxed way to explore the genuine spirit of Uthai Thani. The Boat ride brings you back through Thailand’s yesteryear when the riverside lifestyle thrived amongst clusters of rafts and floating houses.
The Sakae Krang River is a waterway that has been a lifeline for the people of Uthai Thani since early times. Life on and around the river eventually grew from a small community into the major province that it is today. Some residents continue to live and make their livelihood on the river. The most striking indication of the bond between the people and the river occurred in 1906 when King Rama V visited the Northern provinces and stayed in Sakae Krang village, where the monk Phra Khru Uthai Tham Nithet built twin rafts to receive the king. In addition, at the end of the Buddhist Lent, Buddhists from many regions congregate at the foot of Khao Sakae Krang in Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri for a major merit-making tradition called Tak Bat Thewo. This festival has been held in Uthai Thani since ancient times.
If you plan to visit over a weekend, be sure to stroll through the Saturday walking street at Trok Rong Ya, it will showcase the busiest moments in this charming small town. Once an opium-filled lane, Trok Rong Ya now serves as the center of the Chinese-Thai community amidst the legacy of unique architecture. Many houses are open for public visits, with small displays of the community’s history. On Saturday evening, the quiet lane turns vibrant when vendors set up their stalls and temporarily change it into a lively shopping place.
The town contains quite a few notable Buddhist temples. One of the most extraordinary is Wat Tha Sung, also known as the Glass Temple. When you step into the temple’s main Chapel, you will find an elaborately decorated glittering hall. Every square inch inside the hall is covered with shiny glass. You’ll also find a crystal coffin containing the undecayed body of the famous monk “Luang Pho Ruesi Ling Dam,” who built the temple.
One of the province’s main draws is Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri at the foot of the Sakae Krang Mountain. After a journey of 449 stairs, you will reach the top of the mountain where Buddha statues and secular items of interest are located, along with a panoramic view of the town. Locals regard this area as sacred, making it a popular place to visit and pay respect.
In addition to the beautiful temples, the area around Uthai Thani Province is also full of remarkable natural wonders. Fifty kilometres from Mueang Uthai Thani is Tham Hup Pa Tat, a cave which the Abbot of Wat Tham Thong discovered. In 1979, Luangpho, the Abbot, climbed down in this valley and found a lot of Tat trees, which are ancient and in the same species as palm trees. He drilled the cave to open the entrance in 1984. Later, the Department of Forestry announced this area as a conservationist area because of its fantastic topography and rarely-found plants such as Tao Rang, known as the fishtail palm.
The Pa Tat Forest is also fascinating in that it is a natural primeval forest, regarded as the Jurassic Park of Thailand. You’ll also want to visit the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for its abundant forests and wildlife. It has been registered as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Visitors can hike, study nature, and spot animals on designated routes.
After spending several days experiencing the charm of Uthai Thani’s slow lifestyle, I was reminded of a quote by a wise man named Ferris Bueller, who once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop & look around once in a while, you could miss it. Ferris could have been speaking about Uthai Thani.