A November 2002 trip
to Loei by markiemark
Quote: Sitting in a valley running north to Chiang Kham on the Mekong River and the Laos border, Loei province is home and neighbor to half-a-dozen mountainous national parks.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Sarai Tong Hotel
Ruam Jit Road
Attraction | "Phu Kradung National Park (part one)"
The trail takes you through different types of forest at different elevations - dry dipterocarp, mixed deciduous, hill evergreen, dry evergreen, and, at the top, pine. However, don't expect to see any wildlife as this is a well-travelled motorway with four service stations along the 5km climb! You'll see many butterflies, and hear the 'peep' of warblers fluttering in the trees, but I think most people are just concentrated on conquering the climb! Having got into a sort of rhythm after 1km, I hit the last 1km which goes steeply up the cliff via scattered rocks and metal stairways too. At last, after three hours, and dripping with sweat, I emerged on the plateau at the top. There were very nice views all around, though a little hazy, and the last 3km to the accommodation center is a level walk through grass fields.
It was getting cloudy at 4pm when I arrived, so I wasted no time in setting my tent up. The campground is enormous--a small section of it lined with Thai Army tents. What I didn't expect having dragged three days of food up the mountain, was a whole plaza of restaurants! I cooked myself dinner and had a sorely-needed mug of tea, then got washed up in time for a drizzly night under canvas! The park seems very popular with young Thai people who bring guitars with them that they can't tune properly. The drizzle ended early the first night, but I certainly needed my earplugs for the next two! (Continued in Phu Kradung Part Two...)
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Nam Nao National Park
Attraction | "Phu Kradung National Park (part two)"
On the second day, I walked across the grasslands to the southwestern edge of the plateau and then back along a path that parallels the cliff's edge. The views out across the countryside were, again very hazy, but the edge of the cliff path is home to dozens of Nepenthes or Pitcher Plants. Shaped like a pitcher with a lid, they attract and then trap insects in the soup at the bottom of the pitcher. There were many, many butterflies, and swallows were constantly swooping only metres from my head. I didn't see much wildlife; there are Sambar Deer that hang around the campsite and I saw two species of squirrel, but that was it! There are a lot of wildflowers, though most blossom around January or March.
All the tracks are well-used and well-signposted; it's difficult to get lost and it's a lovely, peaceful place to walk. I hardly saw a soul all day, but it can be hot as there's little shade. There are some small restaurants at the four view points along the edge of the cliff trail for rest, shade and water.
Phu Kradung National Park
Attraction | "Phu Bo Bit Forest Park"
It was a very overgrown and thorny hilltop that I left following a trail down the west side. This descends through bamboo forest but is not easy to follow as there are many criss-crossing trails. The locals use this area for cutting bamboo, but always looking to head downhill leads to a tiny village of five or six huts, many barking dogs, and a dirt road back to the highway after about 45 minutes from the top. From the main road, it's an easy couple of kilometers back to Loei.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Attraction | "Phu Rua National Park"
The trails, 14km of them, are okay; not a lot of bird life though. I did come across a gorgeous red and gold cloud of Scarlet Minavets - very pretty. Not so many butterflies either. Having said that, the ones I did see weren't as timid about having their photos taken as in Nam Nao! Wildflowers are everywhere on Phu Rua; beautiful vivid blues, purples, yellows and reds - the camera shutter was working overtime! Hardly anyone walks the trails being content with the view point, so I had each one to myself.
Huay Phai waterfall is a pleasant walk - about 2 hours from the upper visitor center, 45 minutes from the lower. The trails are well-marked and fairly clear (so someone else walks them, after all!) Not too much wildlife except the ubiquitous squirrels, and I saw a small olive-green snake slither across my path. Too quick for me to catch it...on camera, of course!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Phu Pha Man National Park
Na Nong Tum, Chum Phae
Khon Kaen, Thailand 4217-
There are five main trails which are well-signed and clear except for the walk to the sunrise viewing point. This is only 100m from the main road further west, so the trail is hardly used as people opt to drive - and it shows! Overgrown and cluttered with fallen debris, it was challenging to find the trail sometimes. I didn't go for sunrise, I took the 1.5 hour walk through the forest and the great view over it to Phu Kradung. However, never in a million years would you ever get me up the viewing tower...I hate heights!
Each of the trails took me through different habitats; grassland, evergreen, deciduous, pine forest, etc. The birds were plentiful and very colourful - so were the butterflies. Flowers have been planted around the visitor centre area and they attract dozens of big, brightly-coloured butterflies. Orchids, flowers, plants, and fungi - the park has the lot. I even saw a troop of Grey Leaf Monkeys on my first walk. (I missed the elephant spotted at the sunrise viewing point at 2am!) There are at least three different species of squirrel; one only about 15cm long, many of them around the campsite.
I had one night at the campsite alone...a bit spooky with all those weird birds and God-knows-what noises! The other three nights I was accompanied by guitar-playing natives! The second afternoon, we had a 2 hour deluge! My tent looked like an island in the middle of it all! Not 1 hour later, the water had all drained away, but the small streams needing to be crossed on some of the trails were now raging rivers!
Nam Nao is a wonderful park if you like walking and nature as I do. I walked 5-8 hours every day, and I saw different things each time - even when walking a trail a second time. I've been back in Loei now for 21 hours and it's rained 14 of them! Maybe I left Nam Nao at the right time!
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