The Ultimate Guide to Loei, Thailand

Misty Mountains; Phu Lan Duan in Pak Chom, Loei, Thailand
Overall Score:9.1

A hidden gem in the heart of the country, Loei boasts a breathtaking landscape defined by lush mountains, rolling hills, and pristine waterfalls. With its charming rural villages and vibrant local culture, Loei exudes a sense of untouched authenticity that feels like a step back in time.

Adventure: 10.0
Gastronomy: 8.0
Culture: 10.0
X Factor: 8.5
Value: 9.0

Population: 21,013 (2017)

Elevation: 253 m (830 ft)

Climate: Tropical Savanna

Currency: Thai Baht (THB)

Time Zone: Indochina Time (ICT), UTC+7

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Length of Trip: 3-7 days.

Trip Type: culture / adventure / gastronomic.

Our Experience: We lived in Loei for ~8 months. 

Disclaimer: Before planning your trip, it’s essential to check for any travel restrictions, visa requirements, and other relevant information, as these might change over time.

Loei is ideal for:

  • Cultural & outdoor enthusiasts.

Loei isn’t ideal for:

  • Party & nightlife enthusiasts.

Table of Contents

Loei, Thailand

Where Time Stands Still

In a remote corner of Isaan, nestled amidst lush landscapes and hushed whispers of nature, lies a province waiting to be discovered – Loei. Here, time takes a slower pace, inviting travelers to escape the bustling city life and surrender to the allure of the unknown.

Imagine waking up to mist-kissed mountains, where the sun gently rises, casting a golden glow over rolling hills and emerald forests. Picture yourself wandering through quaint villages, where the air is filled with laughter and the scent of traditional delicacies. Loei’s authenticity lies in its people, whose warm smiles and genuine hospitality invite you to become a part of their story.

As you venture deeper into the wilderness, you’ll find yourself surrounded by ancient forests that have stood the test of time. These lush woodlands are not just a canvas of green; they are a living ecosystem, housing a diverse range of plant and animal species that have called this region home for generations. The rustling leaves and the echoing calls of unseen creatures create an ambiance that transports you back to a primordial world untouched by modernity.

But it’s not just nature’s grandeur that’ll captivate you in Loei; the province pulsates with a rich cultural heritage. Vibrant festivals that paint the streets in a kaleidoscope of colors, celebrate age-old traditions and folklore passed down through generations.

Whether you seek adventure in the great outdoors or a tranquil respite from the world, Loei awaits with open arms, ready to share its tales of both past and present.

Loei Travel Guide

The Best Things To Do

Loei’s untouched landscapes and cultural await those who seek a journey away from the beaten path of Thailand’s tourist trail. 

Phu Ruea: Experience the tranquil allure of Phu Ruea as mist softly veils the forest-clad mountains, inviting you to embark on a contemplative journey. Meander through meadows and fields, where nature’s symphony fills the air with birdsong and gentle rustling, enveloping you in its serene embrace. As the misty peaks reveal captivating panoramas, you’ll find yourself in reverence of the wonders of the natural world.

Unhurried hikes along well-trodden paths will lead you through a majestic landscape adorned with the scent of pine trees and crisp mountain air, enveloping you in the simplicity of Phu Ruea’s charm. Amidst these breathtaking surroundings, you’ll discover a serene escape, a haven where you can find peace amongst nature. 

Phu Kradueng: Venture into the wilderness of Phu Kradueng National Park on a multi-day hiking expedition. Navigate through lush greenery, uncovering hidden waterfalls and natural wonders that lie along the path, all waiting to be discovered by you. As night falls, the starlit sky becomes the celestial backdrop to your camping adventure, inviting moments of contemplation under nature’s aglow.

As you wake up to the soothing sounds of the forest, you’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to continue your journey on day trips across the mountain’s summit. From the thrill of the hike to the tranquil moments spent gazing at the stars, this multi-day adventure offers you an unforgettable opportunity to immerse yourself in the untamed essence of Loei’s wilderness.

Chiang Khan: Step into the timeless riverside town of Chiang Khan, where century-old shophouses stand as living testaments to the regions storied past. Engage in the time-honored tradition of morning alms-giving, a humbling merit-making experience that connects you deeply to local spirituality.

As you stroll along the town’s Walking Street, prepare to be overwhelmed by the vast display of local crafts and delicious street food, thoughtfully presented by the friendly vendors. And as the sun gently dips below the horizon, you’ll witness the breathtaking spectacle of golden hues reflecting upon the Mekong River, a sight that perfectly encapsulates the irresistible allure of Chiang Khan. 

Phu Suan Sai: Embark on a hike to conquer the mist-shrouded peak of Phu Suan Sai, a mountain of boundless adventure. As you traverse through the dense woodlands, you’ll have the opportunity to catch glimpses of elusive wildlife and unique flora, adding to the thrill of the ascent. Reaching the summit, an awe-inspiring vista unfolds before you, rewarding your efforts with breathtaking views and a deep sense of accomplishment.

After a day filled with exploration, you’ll have the chance to spend the night camping under the countenance of the star-filled sky. Amidst the softening hues of dusk, the wilderness comes alive with the sounds of nature, providing you a soothing escape from the hustle of modern life.

Loei Travel Guide

Food Recommendations

Loei’s culinary canvas invites you to savor the region’s distinct palate. From robust curries to delightful street snacks, these must-try foods epitomize Isaan’s local delicacies.

Kang Liang Goong Sod: Indulge in this herbal soup brimming with fresh river prawns. Its aromatic broth, infused with Thai herbs and spices, warms the soul and tantalizes the taste buds. The tender prawns complement the medley of vegetables, creating a harmonious blend of flavors that embody Loei’s culinary heritage.

Khao Jee: The delightful simplicity of grilled sticky rice, expertly battered with egg and a touch of salt, is pure umami. This cherished street food embodies authentic traditional Isaan cuisine, showcasing the perfect balance of textures and subtle seasoning. The grilled sticky rice, infused with the richness of the egg, creates a satisfying handheld delight that locals and travelers alike relish.

Kanom Krok: Your taste buds will never be the same after trying the gastronomic delight of coconut pancakes – a treat that holds a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors alike. 

Kanom Krok is prepared using a unique cooking technique, where the batter is poured into a specially designed cast-iron pan with half-spherical molds. The result is perfectly round, bite-sized pancakes that boast a crispy outer layer and a soft, slightly chewy center. The magic lies in the blend of coconut milk, rice flour, and palm sugar, infusing each morsel with a harmonious balance of sweetness and richness.

What makes Kanom Krok even more exceptional is the variety of toppings available to elevate the taste experience. From fresh corn, taro, and spring onions to the more adventurous combinations of shredded coconut and pandan leaves, each bite brings a different explosion of flavors.

You’ll find Kanom Krok being skillfully crafted at bustling street stalls, bustling markets, and local festivals throughout Loei.

Wild Boar Red Curry: Delight yourself in a dish that showcases the region’s love for bold tastes. Succulent strips of wild boar are sautéed to perfection in a rich red curry sauce, infused with aromatic Thai spices. The dish offers a delightful balance of spiciness and umami, making it a true gastronomic adventure for those seeking an authentic experience.

Duck Larb: This traditional dish that pays homage to the region’s love for spicy delights. Succulent minced duck is skillfully blended with fragrant herbs, zesty lime juice, and fiery chilies, resulting in a burst of flavors that dance on the palate. The dish is a delightful fusion of spicy, tangy, and savory, embodying the heart and soul of Isaan’s culinary traditions.

Specialty Coffee: Conclude your journey in Loei with a cup of coffee in a cafe overlooking the Mekong, a sensory delight that offers a perfect ending to your trip. Sip on a finely brewed cup of coffee, handcrafted with care and precision, as the riverside ambiance and the gentle breeze from the river elevates your coffee-drinking experience to new heights.

Loei Travel Guide

The Best Areas To Stay

Whether you seek riverside relaxation, city convenience, or mountain retreats, the various accommodation choices in Loei provide the perfect set of options to create a memorable stay.

Mueang Loei: For convenience and accessibility, Mueang Loei is an excellent base for exploring the province. With a bustling city atmosphere, you can find a range of accommodation options, including budget-friendly hostels, comfortable guesthouses, and mid-range hotels. Staying in Mueang Loei ensures proximity to local markets, dining options, and transport hubs for day trips to nearby destinations.

Recommended Hotel: Fortune D

Phu Ruea: Nestled in the mountains, Phu Ruea offers a serene and rejuvenating escape for nature enthusiasts. Here, you can choose from nature lodges and mountain resorts that provide stunning panoramic views and easy access to hiking trails. While this area may lean towards a slightly higher budget, the experience of being surrounded by lush nature makes it worthwhile.

Dan Sai: For a taste of Loei’s vibrant culture and traditions, Dan Sai presents an enticing option. The area boasts a variety of guesthouses and boutique accommodations that showcase the local heritage. While the range of accommodations in Dan Sai is diverse, budget-conscious travelers can still find reasonably priced options without compromising on cultural immersion.

Chiang Khan: This riverside town offers a blend of rustic charm and modern comfort, making it a top choice for travelers seeking a relaxing stay along the Mekong River. With a variety of accommodations ranging from budget guesthouses to boutique hotels, Chiang Khan caters to different budgets without compromising on scenic views and easy access to local attractions.

Recommended Hotel: River Mountain Resort

Loei Travel Guide

The Best Time To Visit

Dry Season (November to February): Loei experiences its most pleasant weather during the dry season, making it an ideal time to visit. The cool and crisp air sets the stage for exploring the region’s natural beauty and outdoor activities. Enjoy clear skies, comfortable temperatures, and lush landscapes, perfect for hiking in the mountains and immersing in the local culture.

Burning Season (March to April): It’s essential to be aware of when farmers engage in the traditional practice of slash-and-burn agriculture. This can lead to haze and reduced air quality, affecting visibility and the overall experience. In all likelihood, the landscapes may not be as picturesque during this time, so it’s crucial to check the air quality index and consider alternative dates if you’re sensitive to smoke or haze.

Monsoon Season (July to October): During the monsoon season, Loei receives rainfall, which may lead to occasional flash floods and road closures, especially in remote areas and national parks. While the countryside comes alive with greenery, some attractions, like Phu Kradueng National Park, close temporarily. If you don’t mind occasional showers and seek a quieter experience, this season can be rewarding for enjoying the region’s landscapes at their lushest.

Loei Travel Guide

Getting Around Loei

Getting around Loei is relatively convenient as the road are good condition, leaving several options to explore the province. Below are the best ways to get around:

Rent a Car or Motorbike: Renting a car or motorbike offers the freedom to explore Loei at your own pace. It’s a great option for those who prefer independent travel and want to venture off the beaten path.

Local Buses and Songthaews: Loei has an efficient network of local buses and songthaews (shared taxis) that connect various towns and attractions within the province. They are a cost-effective way to travel between different locations and experience the local way of life.

Tuk-tuks and Motorcycle Taxis: Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis are readily available in the main towns and can be a convenient mode of transport for short distances or when you need to reach specific destinations quickly.

Cycling: For a more eco-friendly and immersive experience, consider renting a bicycle to explore the scenic countryside and charming villages of Loei. Cycling allows you to connect with nature and take in the serene beauty of the landscapes.

Private Tours: If you prefer a hassle-free experience with a knowledgeable guide, private tours are available that offer curated itineraries tailored to your interests. This option is particularly beneficial for exploring remote areas and learning about the local culture and traditions.

Good To Know

The History of Loei

Loei’s rich and storied history has shaped its unique cultural heritage. The province’s roots can be traced back to ancient times, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements found in the form of stone tools and cave paintings. As centuries passed, various ethnic groups settled in the area, contributing to Loei’s diversity.

During the Dvaravati period (6th to 11th century AD), Loei became part of the Khmer Empire, leaving behind significant archaeological sites that stand as testament to this era. The province’s strategic location along ancient trade routes made it a vital center for commerce and cultural exchange.

In the 14th century, Loei saw the arrival of the Lao Kingdom, which brought influences of Theravada Buddhism to the region. The Lao rulers established several city-states in the area, fostering a distinctive blend of Thai and Lao traditions that still resonates in the province’s customs, art, and architecture.

During the reign of King Rama III in the early 19th century, Loei was formally integrated into the Kingdom of Siam (present-day Thailand), leading to increased migration of Thai people into the region. As a result, Loei’s culture evolved to encompass elements of both Thai and Lao heritage, creating a harmonious fusion that distinguishes it from other provinces.

In the 20th century, Loei underwent further development and modernization, with improved infrastructure, educational institutions, and healthcare facilities enhancing the quality of life for its inhabitants. Yet, amidst progress, the province has successfully preserved its cultural identity and natural beauty, maintaining a serene and nostalgic atmosphere.

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Good To Know

The Phi Ta Khon Festival

Held annually in the town of Dan Sai, this lively event is steeped in local traditions and age-old customs. The festival, also known as the Ghost Festival, features colorful parades, elaborate masks, and vibrant costumes, creating a visually striking spectacle.

The Phi Ta Khon Festival’s origins are deeply rooted in local folklore and beliefs, making it a unique opportunity to witness the blending of ancient practices with contemporary merriment. The highlight of the event is the spirited “Ghost Dance,” performed by locals donning elaborate masks and costumes resembling guardian spirits. 

Visiting Loei during the Phi Ta Khon Festival offers an opportunity to witness a captivating blend of the old and new, as well as a chance to partake in a joyous celebration that honors the province’s unique identity. Prepare to be enchanted by this one-of-a-kind event, where the lines between the present and the past blur.

Good To Know

The Tai Dam Village

Originally from northern Vietnam and Laos, the Tai Dam people migrated to Thailand during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, seeking refuge from political unrest and seeking better opportunities. With their arrival, they brought with them their age-old traditions, weaving skills, and agricultural practices, which they have preserved and passed down through generations.

The Tai Dam Village in Loei showcases their traditional wooden houses, adorned with intricate carvings and designs, reflecting the skilled craftsmanship and artistic expression of their culture. As you stroll through the village, you’ll be warmly welcomed by the locals, who take pride in sharing their heritage with visitors.

Intriguingly, the Tai Dam people are renowned for their indigo-dyed textiles, which are expertly woven into eye-catching patterns and motifs. This artistry has garnered international recognition, drawing textile enthusiasts and cultural enthusiasts alike to witness their weaving demonstrations and purchase unique handicrafts.

Visiting the Tai Dam Village in Loei is not only a chance to witness the traditional ways of this distinctive ethnic group but also an opportunity to support their efforts to preserve their cultural heritage and way of life. By engaging with the Tai Dam community, travelers can gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity of Thailand’s ethnic groups and forge connections that transcend borders and cultures.

Loei Travel Guide

Where Should I Go Next?

After your memorable visit to Loei, you can carry on your journey through Isaan. Head to Udon Thani, a bustling city known for its vibrant markets and historical sites. Explore the picturesque Nong Prajak Park, a serene oasis in the heart of the city, and pay a visit to the striking Udon Thani Museum, where you can delve into the region’s rich heritage. As the sun sets, immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the Night Market, where a delightful array of local street food and handicrafts await.

Next, make your way to Nong Khai, a charming town situated along the Mekong River. Discover the fascinating Sala Keoku Park, home to an extraordinary collection of larger-than-life sculptures inspired by Buddhist and Hindu mythology. Stroll along the riverfront and savor the tranquility of the Mekong, where you can witness the spectacle of the vibrant Indochina Market. Don’t miss the chance to visit the mystical Wat Pho Chai, q temple perched atop a hill that offers views of the Mekong and beyond.

Continue your journey to Bueng Kan, a hidden gem known for its natural beauty and authentic rural charm. Explore the surreal landscapes of Phu Tok, a mesmerizing sandstone plateau that seems to blend seamlessly with the sky, offering an otherworldly experience. For a more relaxed adventure, head to Bueng Khong Long, a serene lake surrounded by lush greenery, perfect for a relaxing boat ride or a leisurely stroll along its shores.

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Loei, Thailand

Actionable Insights

The name “Loei” originates from the Lao language. It is believed to be derived from the word “Loeng” or “Loeng Roi,” which translates to “twenty” in Thai and refers to the location’s historical significance as the 20th province of Thailand. The name “Loei” is a reflection of the province’s unique culture, history, and natural beauty that has made it an appealing destination for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience in Thailand.

Loei is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. Like in any place, it’s essential to exercise standard precautions such as being mindful of your belongings, avoiding poorly lit or secluded areas at night, and staying aware of your surroundings. 

The local authorities are committed to maintaining safety and security for residents and visitors alike. However, it’s always a good practice to stay informed about the current situation and any potential travel advisories before planning your trip.

Loei is known for its tranquil and natural beauty, so it’s not a go-to destination for those seeking a vibrant nightlife scene like you’d find in larger cities. The province offers a more laid-back and serene atmosphere, making it an ideal retreat for travelers looking to unwind and connect with nature.

However, that doesn’t mean you won’t find any evening activities to enjoy. Loei’s local night markets and riverside areas come alive after dark, offering a chance to sample delicious street food, shop for souvenirs, and interact with friendly locals. 

The ideal duration to stay in Loei depends on your travel preferences and the experiences you wish to indulge in. To truly soak in the beauty of the region and explore its highlights, a minimum of 3 to 4 days is recommended. This timeframe allows you to embark on various adventures, such as hiking in the national parks, exploring charming villages, and enjoying the local cuisine. 

If you wish to delve deeper into the cultural richness and interact with the local communities, extending your stay to 5 to 7 days or more would be ideal.

To get to Loei from Bangkok, you have several transportation options:

By Air: The quickest and most convenient way to reach Loei is by taking a domestic flight from Bangkok to Loei Airport. Several airlines operate flights between the two cities, and the journey takes approximately 1 hour.

By Bus: If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, you can take a bus from Bangkok to Loei. There are both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses available, and the journey typically takes around 8-10 hours, depending on the route and traffic conditions.

By Train: While there is no direct train service to Loei, you can take a train from Bangkok to Udon Thani or Nakhon Ratchasima and then continue your journey to Loei by bus or van.

By Car: If you enjoy road trips and have access to a car, you can drive from Bangkok to Loei. The journey takes approximately 7-8 hours, depending on the route you choose.

To travel from Khon Kaen to Loei, you have a few transportation options:

By Bus: Buses are a common and affordable mode of transportation between Khon Kaen and Loei. Regular bus services operate throughout the day, and the journey takes around 4-5 hours, depending on the route and stops.

By Car: If you prefer the flexibility of driving, you can rent a car or use your own vehicle to reach Loei from Khon Kaen. The journey takes approximately 3-4 hours, depending on the specific route and driving conditions.

By Minivan: Minivans also provide a convenient option for traveling between the two cities. Minivan services run regularly, and the journey usually takes around 3-4 hours.

To travel from Udon Thani to Loei, you have several transportation options to choose from:

By Bus: Buses operate regularly between Udon Thani and Loei. The journey takes approximately 2 to 3 hours, depending on the route and type of bus. You can catch a bus from Udon Thani’s bus terminal to Loei’s bus terminal, and the buses are comfortable and reasonably priced.

By Car: If you prefer a more private and flexible journey, renting a car or hiring a taxi is a convenient option. The drive typically takes around 2 hours, and you can enjoy the scenic countryside views along the way.

By Motorcycle: For adventurous travelers, motorcycling from Udon Thani to Loei can be an exciting option. However, it’s essential to have experience riding motorcycles and be familiar with local traffic rules and road conditions.

To travel from Chiang Mai to Loei, you have several transportation options to choose from:

By Bus: Buses operate regularly between Chiang Mai and Loei. The journey takes approximately 6 to 8 hours, depending on the route and type of bus. You can catch a bus from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station to Loei’s bus terminal. The buses are comfortable, and some offer air-conditioning for a pleasant ride.

By Car: If you prefer a more private and flexible journey, renting a car or hiring a taxi is a convenient option. The drive typically takes around 5 to 6 hours, and you can enjoy the scenic countryside views along the way.

By Plane: While there are no direct flights between Chiang Mai and Loei, you can take a flight from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani, which is the nearest airport to Loei. From Udon Thani, you can then take a bus or hire a taxi to reach Loei.

Travel Resources

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Alan & May

Welcome to North of Known! We’re Alan and May, a married couple who have embraced digital nomadism while calling Bangkok, Thailand, our current home base. Over the past 7 years, our shared passion for exploration and adventure has fueled our journey across the globe. Join us as we continue to embark on our nomadic adventures, sharing our insights, discoveries, and travel tales along the way.

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