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Remote northern Thailand, Phu Lang Ka

  • somtam2000

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    Joined Travelfish
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    You may have noticed on the main Thailand page we have a photo of a rustic hut with a splendid view -- the photo was taken at Phu Lang Ka -- one of those amazing little places you'll never read about in the guidebooks.

    Today I found a website that has just gone a blog post on this very location -- with more pics. The blog is Calypso Island Tours and you'll see the specific blog post here.

    If you're travelling northern Thailand and want to get well off the beaten track, this place should absolutely be on your short list, so give the blogpost a read and get out there!

    #1 Posted: 18/2/2009 - 07:02

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  • hanumann

    Joined Travelfish
    6th October, 2005
    Posts: 2

    Here's an update on Phu Lang Ka. I was there for a 2nd time in December 2009! http://www.calypsoislandtours.com/blog/index.php/thailand/phu-lang-ka-revisted/

    #2 Posted: 6/2/2010 - 05:40

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 730
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    hi hanumann, was there last Dec too. your 2008 report (& also the one on Nan) was most useful when planning my trip, thank you lots! & thanks also to Travelfish - that's how i found out about Phu Langka :)

    about the lack of foreign tourists, yup didn't see any farang faces while there. curious to know, how much English does Kevan speak? while there i couldn't find anyone who spoke any English. had to communicate with Yanisa (Irin) in Thai all the way, incl in writing (email)...cos if you wish to book, they ask for a 50% deposit into their Krung Thai Bank acct, which in addition to language, presents an additional barrier for foreign tourists from overseas wanting to stay there - bank charges alone cost far more than food + accomm. though this is the standard practice for such accomm in the area (incl most if not all places at Phu Chi Fa), & i understand their reason for doing so.

    anyway they were kind enough to waive this requirement after i explained my situation (hell LOT of dictionary flipping to write those emails :P), provided i called ahead the day before i arrived. they are very popular with Thai tourists during the cold season, while i was there Yanisa was turning away phone bookings cos they were full. they have space for tents, & think they do rent tents too.

    bungalows simple but nice & clean enough for me, attached bathroom has Western toilet (scoop flush) + hot shower & no sink but good enough. simple porridge breakfast incl in B600/bungalow room rate, & their little restaurant serves dinner. 'price-less' (no prices indicated) menu changes daily, whatever's available is written in Thai on a whiteboard...they read it aloud to me so that i could order - faster than me trying to read handwritten Thai :P helped that Yanisa's younger sis speaks some Chinese too. fish + vege + rice for two (Asian-sized appetites) came up to B170.

    some of the Thai tourists brought their own portable stoves, pots, meat & vege for DIY suki. among the Thais were families who'd driven up from Bangkok in huge SUVs with young kids & grandma in tow, quite a few motorbike tourists on huge bikes, college/uni friends (with the usual campfire + guitar but surprisingly no boombox unlike the Phu Chi Fa crowds), couples. many many big fat SLRs clicking away. Phu Langka photos from Thai photo club websites/forums here & here - such sites are great for finding out about places that aren't mentioned in English-language guidebooks/tourist info.

    we walked for a couple of KMs along the HWY in both directions to check out the views & plants & decide on a vantage point for the next morning's sunrise. the resort itself has amazing views (incl from the bungalows) but we ended up in someone's corn field for better :P great that this place is way quieter than the cold season circus atop Phu Chi Fa. the morning views were well worth the journey :) yet to process photos but here's one from my dummy camera (travel partner's the one with big fat SLR). there was quite a nice sunset too but no one seemed to notice it.

    the gumdrop-shaped karst hill in the valley below the resort - there are dirt paths leading to it & around it, wonder if anyone has explored it? looks like there's a cave within the hill itself? & along the road in the valley i think i saw some signboards indicating some cave 'reserve'.

    bit of info for those who hafta get there by public transport like me...
    1. Phu Langka Resort is in a village called Ban Pang Ma O.
    2. Phu Langka itself is in Phu Langka Forest Park, turn off to the park is ~20km north of Ban Pang Ma O along the Chiang Kham -Song Khwae-Nan highway.

    if you wish to get to the resort, do ensure that the bus driver is clear about where to let you off along the highway, else you might end up ~20km away from where you want to be, along a road that sees only one bus per day in either direction. Nan bus station staff didn't seem to know about the resort (when trying to figure out how much to charge us for bus fare), but the bus driver knew the place.

    getting to Phu Langka Resort from Nan bus station:
    take the Nan-Chiangrai bus that goes via Chiang Kham (there's another Nan-Chiangrai route that i believe goes via Phayao & nowhere near Phu Langka). one daily AC bus, B120 fare, officially departs at 0900, but in reality at 0830 (was full by then) - good to get there early. if coming from northern Nan province, catch this bus in Tha Wang Pha, at the junction with the road to Song Khwae. some time after passing through Song Khwae, at ~1100ish the bus descends into a broad flat valley with a gumdrop-shaped limestone hill sticking out on the right side of the road...time to remind the driver to let you off at the resort when the bus climbs out of this valley.

    leaving Phu Langka Resort:
    to Chiangrai/Chiang Kham/Thoeng - wait by the road outside the resort for the same bus (described above) to pass.
    to Nan - check with resort what time the bus in the opposite direction passes by.
    just as we were waiting by the road outside the resort, a whole songthaew-load of Thai tourists arrived (they'd charted the vehicle from Chiang Kham)...could hear the KA-CHINGGGG!! as the driver's eyes lit up upon seeing us standing there...managed to negotiate a ride down to Chiang Kham for B50/person (though he unsuccessfully attempted to triple the fare once he heard my travel partner speak English).

    this was my second time to Chiang Kham (first time here)...aim was to check out Wat Nantaram, a beautiful wooden Burmese-style temple. someone else's photos of the place here. a place that people might be interested in visiting on the way to/from Phu Langka.

    #3 Posted: 6/2/2010 - 13:40

  • hanumann

    Joined Travelfish
    6th October, 2005
    Posts: 2

    Yo Wandering Cat:

    Your description of Phu lang ka was very detailed and spot on. I am inviting you to post the same response on my blogpost(see URL above)
    Nobody at Phu lang ka has any reasonable facility with English including Irin (who I thought was the younger sister). Kevan understands english better than he speaks it!

    I have a friend in Bangkok, who handles my communications (mostly with Irin)... In November 2008 (my first visit), Kevan took me and several other people to the cave that you mentioned as well as 2KM (R/T) walk up a small waterfall.

    By the way I will packaging Phu lang Ka to the farang market for stays of 3 days or more including one sighsteeing option. I will have to figure in my service fee for these type of bookings (probably $60 - 90USD depending on the number of people).

    Too bad I haven;t checked out the Wat in Chiang Kham. next time

    Regards,,,

    Hanumann
    http://www.calypsoislandtours.com/blog/
    Did you see my Nan and Phu Lang ka Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt1DTf1seYY

    #4 Posted: 6/2/2010 - 15:23

  • Irukandji

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    Pardon me for reviving an old thread, but does anybody know of a way to get to Phu Lang Ka from Chiang Rai without renting a car or a motorcycle? We're going to be teaching English at an orphanage near Chiang Rai for six weeks, and will thus only have the weekends to explore. We would love to pop to Phu Lang Ka for a weekend, but information on the internet regarding routes there seems to contradict itself, with some mention of local buses (#677 - can anyone confirm this?), but many sources reporting a total lack of public transport.

    I'm not an adept driver at all, and haven't driven a motorbike in my life, so I'd prefer avoiding that option if at all possible.

    #5 Posted: 14/7/2010 - 16:39

  • Irukandji

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    (Oh, right. I should have re-read wanderingcat's post a few more times before posting, sorry.)

    So I expect the Nan - Chiang Rai route has buses going the other way, too, right? Does that go directly via Ban Pang Ma O, or are there further buses involved? From Ban Pang Ma O, how does one go about getting to the forest park itself?

    It's our first visit to Thailand, and I'm having a hard time working out to what extent it's possible to just 'translate' the abovementioned route from Nan to the reverse direction. Help? :)

    #6 Posted: 14/7/2010 - 18:11

  • kerrieh

    Joined Travelfish
    1st November, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Buses (1 a day... sometimes 2 - check in the bus station the night before) leave from Nan and Chiang Rai at 9am everyday.

    Get there early. Everytime I have travelled on them the buses are nearly always full and (unless you see a paper note pasted onto the ticket window on the bus station the night before telling you that there will be an extra journey) there is only one a day in each direction.

    From Chiang Rai the bus stops in Chiang Kham for around 10 minutes. After that it goes to the junction for Phu Langkha Forest Park, then Pang Ma O village, then Phu Langka resort in this order.

    I've never stayed in Phu langka resort but have passed by it a lot. It does look nice, and is set in beautiful surroundings. Last time I went to Phu langka forest park I met an American guy who raved about the place (he cut short his trip to Phu Chi Far - another mountain that Thai people love to cram themslves onto in the cold season - to go back there a week later, and I saw him there again.)

    You can camp in Phu Langka Forest Park (the Forest Park's about 8km from the main Chiang Kham-Nan highway... start walking up the road and chances are that someone will stop and give you a ride the rest of the way...) If there are no cars in sight and you do end up walking further, 2-3km up the road there's a small royal project centre which sells locally grown coffee.

    If you camp in the forest park, around 5am you can take a pick up from the campsite to the top of the mountain (another 3km or so up a steep dirt track road) and watch the sunrise. If you're on your own the pick up's expensive. If there are other guests camping or staying in the bungalows there, the national park rangers will invite you to share with them (It cost 100b for two of us to go to the top.)

    Phu Langkha resort is around 15-20km away from the forest park. If you stayed in the resort and wanted to go to the mountain top too you'ld have to ask the owners to arrange a guide/ride for you.

    You can do the trip by public transport but it's not easy. If you can't speak Thai get someone to write your destination down for you (in Thai) so that you can show, as well as tell the driver exactly where you want to get off.


    For anyone else who's interested in travelling from Chiang Rai to Nan, I've done the journey several times. I love it. As long as you're not travel sick, Chiang kham-Nan is one of the most scenic journeys in the north.

    The best way to travel on this road. (if you are a competent rider) is by motorbike, or pickup truck, as there are a lot of detours that can be made. Just after Phu Langkha resort, steep limestone karsts appear from nowhere, and there's a village (Baan Sakeorn) and the turn off for another National Park (Tam Sakeorn - sakeoen cave- National Park) where there's a cave, a trail to a waterfall, and places to camp.

    Continue towards Nan and you arrive at Yort. One of the Karst cliffs has a small temple at the bottom, and it's worth stopping to take a few photos. Just after Songkwae village there's a turn off for Baan SanJaleorn, a mien village that grows coffee. From Sanjealoern you can take a dirt track road towards the coffee plantation, or a concrete one down to the 'nam orrk roo' a gush of water that's not quite sure whether it's a waterfall or mountain spring.

    The road between Ta Wang Pa and Nan has more attractions, Wat Nong Bua temple, Wat Don Moon temple/Thai Leui homestay village, the Nan riverside art gallery and Pa Toob caves. All of these are worth seeing but since they're covered in most northern Thai guidebooks I'm not going to rabbit on about them.

    For anyone who likes to get off the beaten track and doesn't need to rush to Chiang Rai/Nan, the journey's a great way to spend a few days.

    #7 Posted: 1/11/2010 - 01:50

  • Dutchgirl

    Joined Travelfish
    20th December, 2009
    Location Netherlands
    Posts: 52
    Total reviews: 7

    Thanks Kerrieh, for your description of the routes to Phu Langka. We're going there next Feb, driving 8 days in our rented pickuptruck from Chiang Mai to Nan, to Phu Langka, to Phu Chi Fa, along the Mekong up north, to Mae Salong and back to Chiang Mai. I'm gonna find out if your roads and sidetrips can be fit in our plans. They sound great!

    I'm sooo looking forward to driving around that beautiful area! If you have more must-sees, must-do's, please let me know!

    #8 Posted: 1/11/2010 - 04:22

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 730
    Total reviews: 4
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    have been to both Phu Chi Fa & Phu Langka resort (on separate trips)...& am glad that i went to Phu Chi Fa first. though Feb won't be as crazy as Dec, there are a lot more tourists (& noise) at PCF.

    north of PCF, there is Doi Pha Tang, another (quieter than PCF) viewpoint overlooking the Thai-Lao border. like Mae Salong it's also a KMT Chinese settlement. possible stop for you when travelling between Chiang Khong & PCF.

    between PCF & Chiang Kham, there is a warm waterfall called Namtok Poo Sang.

    if you're into temples & Tai Leu culture, north of Tha Wang Pha are Pua & Chiang Klang towns with more Tai Lue temples & some nice countryside. if you want specifics let me know. TWP & Pua aren't too far apart so if you need to overnight in the area, Pua has nicer accomm. though after exploring Phu Langka & Nan you might find places like Mae Salong a bit too 'touristy'...

    #9 Posted: 1/11/2010 - 11:17

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