The Misty Mountains of Phu Ruea
The first light of morning sets aglow the mist-veiled crags, slowly transitioning the sky from a deep blue to a smoldering orange. As these contrasting hues gracefully converge, nature unfolds its polarizing beauty.
With the ascent of the morning sun, the lush terrain encircling Phu Ruea awakens.
Adorned with rolling hills that stretch to the horizon, the verdant landscape remains unspoiled, only punctuated by the subtle presence of quaint rural villages.
Atop Phu Ruea, you’ll encounter more than a scenic vista…
The summit is also home the majestic Phra Phuttanavabanphot – an intricately-crafted golden Buddha that was relocated to the national park in 1977, from Wat Phra Yat in Ayutthaya.
Getting to Phu Ruea’s Peak: Around 1.3 kilometers shy of the summit, park rangers have established a makeshift roadblock, accompanied by a designated parking area for visitors. From this point, two routes lead to the peak:
Option 1: Take a cramped songthaew for 10 baht or…
Option 2: Take the nature trail and walk underneath the canopy of a captivating rainforest.
We chose the nature trail and enjoyed the rejuvenation it provided, on both our ascent and descent.
The path itself is lined with wild flowers, mosaics of lichen, and towering pine trees – ones that dampen powerful gusts of wind into a soothing gentle breeze.
If you’re able to journey through the rainforest on foot, its trail unquestionably offers the most rewarding route to Phu Ruea’s summit. Opting out of the leisurely convenience of a songthaew ride, will grant you an invigorating and refreshing start to your day.
Located just a short 10-minute drive from Phu Ruea National Park, you’ll discover Wat Somdet, a serene Buddhist monastery.
This architectural gem was commissioned by Princess Srinagarindra and showcases intricately carved teakwood Vihāras, along with skillfully crafted Buddha and Naga statues made from jade stone.
In total, the monastery comprises four Vihāras encircling the central Ubosot, which houses the remarkable Phra Kring Pawaret statue.
What sets Wat Somdet apart lies not only in its architectural design but also in the meticulous attention to detail evident in the sculptures and carvings scattered across the temple grounds.
Unlike most Thai temples, these sculptures and carvings are organized into clusters, each group narrating a series of distinct yet interconnected stories that collectively form a meaningful sequence.
For those interested in temple-hopping after Wat Somdet, about 2 kilometers down the road stands Wat Pa Huay Lad.
Constructed in 1940 under the guidance of Luang Pu Chob Thansamo, this temple is renowned for its rich history of pilgrimage traditions and its extensive array of larger-than-life statues.
Inside Wat Pa Huay Lad, a colossal white Buddha image graces the far end of a grand central hall. Within these hallowed walls, you’ll be encouraged to perform a religious ritual that begins with a donation in exchange for a small bouquet of marigold garlands.
With these flowers in hand, you’ll approach a painting of a monk beside the Buddha image. There, you’ll sit and recite a sermon of the monk, followed by a request for the monk’s guidance in a specific aspect of your life. To complete the ritual, you’ll depart the central hall and strike each of the three gongs in sequence, in accordance to the written instructions.
Hours of Operation: 5:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days a week.
The fees are 20 baht for Thais and 200 baht for foreigners. Additionally, the park charges a 20 – 30 baht parking fee for vehicles.
Yes, you can camp at Phu Ruea National Park. The park offers camping facilities for visitors who want to experience the natural beauty and tranquility of the area. There are designated camping areas equipped with basic amenities such as toilets, water sources, and fire pits. Keep in mind that the weather can get quite cold at night, especially during the winter months, so make sure to bring appropriate clothing and sleeping gear to stay warm.
Phurua Inn is the best value hotel in town and it’s only 15 minutes away from the national park by car. The rooms are clean, have aircon, and Jok (Thai congee) is served for breakfast every morning. Alternatively, if you’re craving a place with a mountain view then you can check out, Phu Sumphao Valley, which is located right next to the park.
Phu Ruea National Park is open year-round, but the best experience will be during Isaan’s cold season (November – February) – during this time you’ll get to experience the sea of fog that this place is known for. If possible, we recommend avoiding Isaan’s burning season (March – May) as the view will be filled with haze – similar to our experience at Phu Suan Sai.
Not all the time, but Phu Ruea’s peak is one of the coldest places in Thailand. It’s known for its chilly temperatures, especially during the winter months of November to January. The higher altitude of Phu Ruea contributes to its cooler climate compared to other parts of Thailand. It’s a popular destination for Thais and tourists alike seeking a break from the country’s typically warmer weather.
Yes, Phu Ruea is definitely worth visiting for nature enthusiasts and those seeking serene beauty. The tranquil charm of its misty landscapes, lush forests, and vibrant wildflowers, as well as the captivating sunrise views, make it a must-visit destination in Isaan.
Tip #1: To maximize your sunrise visit, we recommend arriving at Phu Ruea National Park at 5:00am, so you can have ample time to walk the nature trail on the way up to the peak.
Tip #2: If you’re willing to wake up early and have a car, Phu Ruea National Park can be a solid daytrip during an extended stay in of Loei’s more popular destination such as Chiang Khan or Phu Kradueng. In all honesty, there’s no reason to stay near Phu Ruea for longer than one day.
Tip #3: During the cold season, Phu Ruea’s peak reigns as Thailand’s coldest location. It’s also incredibly windy and situated in an exposed spot, so please layer accordingly. By layering a waterproof jacket over a fleece sweater (accompanied with warm socks), you’ll keep plenty warm.
Tip #4: Next to the highway (on the road to/from Phu Ruea), there’s a small market that runs from the early morning into the evening. Here you can find some inexpensive yet delicious food, making it a great place to pick up a quick bite after exploring the park.