The comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently stated that “Survival is the new success.” If the stress of just trying to survive through Covid 19, in addition to the stress of the holidays, is getting a little too much, we suggest you get in your car and drive, not stopping until you reach this month’s Let’s Go destination of Phetchabun. This tranquil province is located approximately seven hours by car from Hua Hin and four hours from Bangkok.
To begin your decompress, head out to Phu Thap Boek, the highest peak in the province. Surrounded by mountains that seem to stretch endlessly, it is a popular place to pitch a tent and sleep under the stars, waking up to a cool breeze while you watch the first light flourish in the morning. Along the way to Phu Thap Boek, you’ll pass thru several thousand acres of cabbage plantations. This province is rich in natural attractions like the Nam Nao National Park, which features many wild animals that can be spotted while trekking, and the Than Thip Waterfall, which is a popular place for swimming.
Wat Phra That Pha Son Kaew is another highlight. This spectacular Buddhist Temple is adorned with over 5 million colorful mosaic tiles and is characterized by 5 overlapping white Buddha statues, which stand amid the mountains.
Khao Kho National Park is a popular stop and is referred to as “The Switzerland of Thailand” due to its beautiful scenery, cool weather, & the 360-degree views from its Khao Takian Ngo viewpoint.
For Buddhists, or those interested in Buddhism, you’ll want to visit the Phetbura Buddhist Park. Here, the residents of Phetchabhun joined hands to build a replica of Phra Phuttha Maha Thammaracha. The big Buddha was cast with pure brass on the occasion of the 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary of King Rama IX. Phra Phuttha Maha Thammaracha is considered to be a sacred image of Phetchabun province.
The word phetcha originates from the Sanskrit word vajra meaning “diamond”, and the word bun from Sanskrit means “full”, “perfect” or “whole”. Hence, the province’s name literally means “perfect diamond.” Diamonds are actually found in Phetchabhun, and appropriately, the Provincial Seal shows a diamond on a mountain and in the foreground tobacco plants, which are one of the crops grown in the province.
Phetchabun borders three regions of Thailand, the North, Central, and Northeast. The central part of Phetchabun province is in the Pa Sak River basin and contains mountain ranges running along both the western and eastern sectors. Between 1968 & 1982, communist insurgents established a base in the mountains. From hidden locations, they fought occasional skirmishes against the Thai Army.
Phetchabun has a rich history dating back more than 1,400 years, the height of which occurred after the 11th century when the city was a point of contact between the Dvaravati and Khmer Empires. The town was a prosperous center, and many ruins remain for visitors to appreciate at the Si Thep Historical Park.
The Park contains ancient ruins, encompassing Si Thep Ancient Town. It is believed to have been built during the boom years of the ancient Khmer empire. A moat and a mound surround the historic town; inside, ponds and swamps dot the compound. Attractions include the Information Centers (there are two: old and new), displaying ancient remains and rotating exhibits on the area’s history and archaeology.
Prang Song Phi Nong spire, one of several Khmer-style spires on site, is also noteworthy, built during the 11th or 12th century in Khmer art’s Baphuon style. The Khao Klang Nai Ancient Monument, lying in the center of town, was constructed even earlier, between the 6th or 7th century. Stucco sculptures of humans and animals decorate its base, made in the Dvaravati style. A worshipping ceremony is held annually at the highly revered Chaopho Si Thep Shrine.
Getting back to nature, twenty-three kilometers from the Thung Salaeng Luang national park’s headquarters in the area of Nong Mae Na, is a savanna approximately 16 square kilometers in size. Surrounded by pine and evergreen forests, a trail through the woods allows you to see wild animals and many flora varieties. Between the rainy and cold seasons, trekking, camping, and biking across the fields is a perfect time.
So, if your stress meter is starting to top out and you’re feeling the need to chill, a trip to the beautiful natural scenery and cool temperatures of Phetchabun, “The Switzerland of Thailand,” will be a very welcome and refreshing respite.