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The small market town of Phrao has few formal "attractions" -- save a hilltop temple -- but no shortage of tranquillity to offer travellers.

Precious few foreign travellers make it to Phrao -- partly because it isn't covered in many guidebooks, in itself surprising given just how accessible it is to Chiang Mai and even to Chiang Dao.

Set in a stunning wide, rice-filled valley, Phrao is reminiscent of Pai many years ago, particularly when the rice is just about to be harvested, giving the valley an emerald green sheen.

The surrounding area is dotted with interesting small villages where day to day rural life can be observed at a relaxed pace.

You can walk or cycle from village to village, tour a smattering of small wats and hike up to great hilltop viewpoints.

While the main accommodation is a little out of town, again that's half the attraction -- as the main town itself has little of interest.

Set at the crossroads of Route 1150 and 1001, around 100km from Chiang Mai, a visit to Phrao works in well if you're travelling under your own steam and are looking to keep off the main roads between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for example, or Chiang Dao and Phayao if you're travelling east west.

A highly underrated destination.

Text and/or map last updated on 11th August, 2009.

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