Route 12 between Khon-Kaen and Sukhothai
Travel to the Heart of Thailand....
I am taking you this time for a long, but oh so beautiful a walk from East to West in this country where life is still so good.
Needless to say, this discovery walk was one of my favourite trip in Thailand, both visually and emotionally. By reading this article, you will easily realize that all these places really touched me. I love these landscapes, these people of a great simplicity and always welcoming with a smile so natural. This smile has not much in common with the one you can find in the hot districts of the capital or in Patong in Phuket. Walking around here and taking your time is a real pleasure, you are not afraid of falling down or being badly welcomed. Everything seems so easy and affordable.
This long trip allows us to connect Khon-Kaen to the Sukhothai Historical Park. Four hundred kilometers to cover on a very beautiful and excellent road, peacefully taking the time to discover and visit beautiful places, and the opportunity to discover or rediscover Thailand.... it is not only Phuket and its white sandy beaches or Patong's nightlife and mass tourism that generate a lot of excesses in many areas.
There, it would rather be a return to a peaceful, more authentic life, meeting welcoming and calm people far from any pollution and also hordes of noisy, invasive, sometimes rude and completely uneducated tourists.
Few people in these places know how to express themselves in English, but no matter what, you always end up being understood: the language of your hands, your eyes, a smile...
There are also few European restaurants in these remote areas, but when your stay goes so well, Thai food is so much appreciated that you can do without your habits during such a visit.
In Phitsanulok, I particularly enjoyed the floating restaurants on the Nan River, offering the opportunity to dine with small groups of musicians to the sound of very pleasant Thai music.
With the exception of Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat which everyone calls Wat Yaï (the great temple), there is not much to visit in Phitsanulok. Generally, travellers only spend the night on the road to Sukhothaï 60 km away. Other temples such as Wat Ratburan, which is brightly lit at nightfall, the Buddha factory and the bird garden are interesting to visit. The night market is also very attractive.
A trip full of charm
Route 12 is a beautiful road linking the city of Sakon Nakhon in the east in the middle of the Isan country to the city of Tak completely opposite and to the west of the country, near Burma. Between these two cities, the distance is 672 km.
But today I am taking you to discover part of this road, namely from Khon-Kaen, a major city in the Isan country, to the Sukhothai Historical Park in the centre of the country. the distance for this part of the road is only... 380km.
Coming from Khon-Kaen, it takes you through two mountain ranges whose altitude does not exceed 1000 metres but which offer fantastic landscapes: greenery, wild and dense vegetation, valleys, rivers and even wild elephants that can be crossed in the Nam Nao National Park.
On the various maps shown throughout this article, you can see the mountain ranges (dark green)... as well as the main attractive sites. By clicking on the maps, you will get an enlargement.
To locate you.... 1st Step
We left Khon-Kaen and his country Isan behind us.
Chum Phae, which is 85 km from the capital Isan, could almost be considered as a kind of "border" because the difference is so obvious between the two regions, the one we have just left, and the one we are quietly entering.
Nam Nao National Park
From Chum Phae to Lom Sak
The large, rather arid and dry deserted areas of the Isan country have given way to green and watered fields, where cultivation is very active: vegetables, fruit, tobacco, sugar cane, rice, in short... many people in the fields to be active.
A few kilometers covered in this area before the first mountains, and we start the climb up to about 1,000 meters of altitude to find ourselves and discover a desert and wild landscape: it is the Nam Nao National Park that shows us its stretches as far as the eye can see.
Many signs warn road users to be very careful of wild elephants that could suddenly get on the road.
It is better to avoid honking the horn and get away from it as soon as possible. A wild elephant has nothing to do with elephants from zoo or tourist training camps.
It sometimes happens that a car is attacked by one of these not so docile pachyderms and the result is often quite surprising: a car completely destroyed. It is the classic blow of the wild animal that is surprised, disturbed and frightened... it only tries to defend itself ! very violent and dangerous reactions can result from it as it happens from time to time.
In this first mountainous massif, you will find no gas station, no garage, no shop: nothing... and this, for about 60 kilometers... except the risk of meeting an elephant... an obvious feeling of isolation that you feel out of place for sure, but not to be afraid of. The road is beautiful to contemplate, and I can assure you that it is a pleasure.
Continuation of this tour.... Step 2
We left Lom Sak district and its cultural landscapes.
We start our ascent to the second mountain of the day, a little different from the previous one.
It should also be noted that the portion of the road between Phitsanulok and Lom Sak is under construction. This one is going through four lanes!
The 60's at the Route 12 Coffee-Shop
A place full of nostalgia
We quickly find ourselves at an altitude of about 800 to 1000 m and here too the landscapes are superb. If the region of Nam Nao Park crossed previously was desert, here it is quite the opposite. There are many dwellings, guesthouses, hotels and restaurants. We are no longer in Nam Nao National Park!
Slowly, we arrive at a coffee shop quite original in the sense that it takes you directly to another era, that of the 60s, "the 60's US"!
There are old gas pumps, an old School-Bus, motorcycles, jukeboxes, record players, in short a magnificent comeback embellished by a musical atmosphere: period music discreetly played in the restaurant, in the shops, on the terrace... it's strange to hear the Beatles, the Bee-Gees, Simon&Garfunkel, Otis Redding or even Percy Sledge in the heart of Thailand... but what happiness experienced during this visit and this discovery... enough to let yourself be taken by a certain nostalgia...
A quiet place despite the quite numerous passages of tourists (rare Europeans) who, in turn, come to visit this place in its every nook and cranny and drink a coffee on the panoramic terrace.
A beautiful place, pleasant and appreciable, but still quite surprising to find such a completely American and retro atmosphere in the middle of Thailand.
16°46'58.27"N - 101° 4'59.66"E
Wat Phasorn Kaew, a jewel in the mountains!
We leave behind us this blessed time, the time of the 60's... and resume the course of our journey.
The road that winds slowly continues to amaze us: a feeling I obviously appreciate. Driving peacefully, we see in the distance a strange dome in the middle of the mountains, and the closer we get to it, the more the mystery invades us. Is it a temple? What kind of temple...?
Intriguing first, then surprising, this very recent temple that we are about to discover is absolutely splendid and well worth a visit.
The work accomplished is remarkable. Its location in the middle of the Khao Kho mountains is an invitation to meditation. Wat Phasorn Kaew dominates the entire region from its 850m altitude.
Its location offers the visitor a pleasant feeling of well-being and tranquility, with superb views of the surrounding mountains.
This newest temple is located in "Khao Kho", not far from "Kaem Son" on Route 12. This region is also known as the Switzerland of Thailand because of the beauty of the surrounding landscapes, the mountains and the fresh air.
The temple is still unknown even by the Thai people.
The main pagoda and surrounding buildings are decorated with several million tiles of coloured mosaic and other superb pottery.
You will find an article dedicated to this temple with other pictures by clicking here:
16°47’23.07″N - 101° 2’57.27″E
the road runs along a river, the Wang Thong, on which beautiful waterfalls offer the visitor a beautiful sight.
Kaeng Sopha Falls on Wang Thong
Kaeng Sopha WaterfallAlong this beautiful Route-12, the Wang Thong River (formerly Nam Khek) offers magnificent scenery, as evidenced by the first fall of Kaeng Sopha, which could easily serve as a natural setting for an adventure film in the Indiana Jones style or equivalent.
Kaeng Song Falls
Kaeng Song Waterfall
During the rainy season, the abundance of water is such that the falls become almost invisible. The currents that have turned into rapids have become far too powerful, dangerous and inaccessible for simple Sunday bathers.
The noise of the falls is impressive in some places, the power too, but what a beautiful sight!
In any case, we... we are there today at the right time: not very strong current and many bathers coming from the nearby city of Phitsanulok. The inner tube rental companies are also there... so that the children can have fun in the water. A nice atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon.
You will find an article with other pictures by clicking here:
Rafting in Kaeng Song or Kaeng Sofa !
For this type of sporting outing, the best period is between June and October.
But I advise you to click on this link which will give you other useful information....
A few hours in Phitsanulok
Phitsanulok is located in the heart of Thailand's central plains, at an altitude of 45 meters, on the Nan River, on which there are still some floating houses and restaurants, but less and less with time...
Phitsanulok is connected to the capital by the northern railway network, which connects Chiang Mai to Bangkok daily (Hua Lamphong Station).
The city also has an international airport, which is an important air hub, with regular flights to the city, thanks to Nok Air, a Thai low-cost airline based at Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport.
Buses also provide access from Phitsanulok to the main cities of the country. For long-distance journeys, it is the number one means of transport in Thailand because the network is dense and the fares affordable.
To the east, waterfalls and national parks (Thung Salaeng Luang, Phu Hin Rong Kla, Namtok Chat Trakan and Kaeng Chet Khwae) offer highly enjoyable walking opportunities in the middle of nature.
In the centre of the city, Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat which was built in 1357.
In 1419, the king of Sukhothaï Sailuethai, vassal of Ayutthaya, transferred his capital from Sukhothaï to Phitsanulok. The city remained the capital of the kingdom of Sukhothaï until its disappearance in 1448.
The King of Ayutthaya Borommatrailokanat in turn transferred his capital from Ayutthaya to Phitsanulok in 1463 to better control the northern borders of his kingdom during the war against Lanna (1456-1474). It was during his reign that Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Nang Phaya were built. His successor Boromma Ratchathirat III (1488-1491) brought the capital back to Ayutthaya.
In 1555, King Naresuan the Great was born in the city, and the region was an important recruiting ground during his wars against the Burmese of the Taungû Dynasty4.
In 1756, King Boromakot had the mother-of-pearl interior doors of Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat built.
Rice fields around Phitsanulok
Sukhothai Historical Park
Sukhothai the magnificent
This long trip on this superb Route 12 (380 kilometres from Khon-Kaen) could not have had a better epilogue than a visit to the magnificent Sukhothai Historical Park, which is located about 60 kilometres west of Phitsanulok. These kilometres covered from the Isan country were a real pleasure: wild landscapes, temples, impressive waterfalls, and finally a site of all splendour!
This is the last stop on our tour in central Thailand.
I deliberately split my photos taken here in Sukhothai into two distinct parts: those of the morning, and those of the evening... between these two periods, the light is completely different and offers lighting that allows you to obtain really splendid shades.
In the early hours of this beautiful sunny day, the first idea is to get away from the hordes of tourists who wander around a few times anyhow, and then, it must be recognized that seeing entire groups moving in disorder in the middle of these historical ruins is not really enjoyable and not very practical to take pictures... in short, I quickly find myself alone, free of any movement, I have all the latitude, freedom and all the time. My little family abandoned me, it must be said that here in Sukhothai the park being so vast, bicycle rental companies are located near the main entrance... nothing could be easier to ride a bike in this magnificent park. So I find myself alone to take my pictures....
End of the day at Sukhothai Historical Park....
Happy with my pictures of the beginning of the day, I come back with the sun desceding. There are far fewer tourists, or at least fewer groups. It would be more like isolated visitors, alone or in pairs... it's much more pleasant.
The sun gradually descends and the stones take on a really superb orange colour. A really enjoyable moment, and which will inevitably give nice results... I enjoy it a lot... I must say that with the bike, it is easy to move from one site to another in a short time...17°1'45.80"N - 99°41'58.20"E