- Southeast asia
A Complete Backpacking Guide to Phitsanulok
Phitsanulok, a 600 years old capital city of 800,000 people located in the lower northern part of Thailand right by Nan River, may not be a city people put into their backpacking itinerary when they are traveling in Thailand.
Phitsanulok, a city full of history displaying an unfiltered Thai life, is probably one of the most authentic cities you can visit in Thailand if you wish to see how most Thai people actually live outside of the bubble that is Bangkok.
With all its tourist attractions, things to do, a little insider's tips from my local friend who was born there, I have decided to write a complete travel guide on how to spend one-day in Phitsanulok to help backpackers like you get off the beaten path in Thailand and really experience Thailand as locals do. Without further ado, let's begin looking at all the things you can do on the map:Table of Contents
- Phitsanulok Itinerary Map
- Thailand Travel Video
- When to Visit Phitsanulok
- Where to Stay in Phitsanulok
- How to Get to Phitsanulok, Thailand
- How to Get from Phitsanulok Airport to the City Center
- How to Get Around Phitsanulok
- How Many Days to Spend in Phitsanulok
- How Much Money Do I Need For Phitsanulok
- Is it Safe in Phitsanulok, Thailand?
- Internet in Thailand
- Travel Insurance
One Day Backpacking Itinerary For Phitsanulok
- Pay Respect at Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat
- Stroll Around Wat Chedi Yot Thong
- Check Out the 700 Years Old Chedi at Wat Aranyik
- Have Lunch at Hoi Kha Rim Nan Noodle Restaurant
- Check Out all the Ancient Ruins at Wat Wihan Thong
- Learn the History of Phitsanulok at Chan Royal Palace Historical Center
- Admire the Old Phitsanulok City Walls
- Relax at Wat Rachaburana at Sunset
- What to Eat and Drink in Phitsanulok
- Further Reading for Thailand
Phitsanulok Itinerary Map
Thailand Travel Video
Watch on Youtube
When to Visit Phitsanulok
The best time to visit Phitsanulok is from November to January where the weather is a bit cooler and less humid due to Thai's northern climate which should make your outdoor activities a little more fun.
That said, Thailand in recent years has suffered a lot from air pollution due to the burning season and it is extremely prevalent during Thailand's winter period (December - January) so even though the weather is cooler, your visibility might not be the best. Be sure to buy a face mask if you decided to visit Thailand during this time.
March - April is the hottest and humid period of the year so if you can't handle heat very well, avoid visiting during this time. The air quality may be a bit better during this time but it's not guaranteed.
All the other months are considered to be a rainy season which, even though the weather is a little more manageable than the summer months, you will also be seeing a lot more rain which might prevent you from enjoying the outdoors. Air quality during this time should be better due to rain.
As you can see, the best time to visit Thailand used to be during its wintertime BUT now that the air quality is getting worst and worst, you will have to decide which is more important to you as a traveler, good weather but bad air quality or vice versa.
Where to Stay in Phitsanulok
Budget - Nap Corner hostel - 9 USD/Night (Dorm) - Great location, very cozy, air-conditioned, and offers free bikes if you need one.
Mid-Range - Dragon River Avenue - 32 USD/Night (Deluxe Double or Twin Room + Free Breakfast)
How to Get to Phitsanulok, Thailand
Getting to Bangkok, Thailand
In order to get to Phitsanulok, you will first have to get to Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. Thankfully, Bangkok is a large hub in the region and so you should have no trouble finding a flight from your home country to Suvarnabhumi International Airport or Don Muang International Airport (budget airlines only), Thailand.
From the US, unfortunately, there are no longer direct flights offering from Bangkok to the US via Thai Airways due to operational cost but you can get a cheaper, possibly better service through Emirates, Qatar, or Turkish Airline from the East Coast or ANA Airlines or Korean Air from the West Coast, with only one transit.
From Europe, you can fly direct from most popular European hubs like London, Paris, or Frankfurt via Thai Airways or local carriers like British Airways, Air France, or Lufthansa. You can also go with Etihad, Qatar, or Emirates if you don't mind transiting.
From within Asia, there are several low-cost airlines offering several routes from many hub cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Jakarta to Bangkok that you can pick from. AirAsia and Thai Lion Air are great low-cost option but keep in mind that with budget airlines like these, you will be landing at Don Muang Airport instead of Suvarnabhumi Airport, which might be more ideal than flying regular carrier if you wish to fly domestically to Phitsanulok after.
Getting from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, Thailand
By Air: There are several ways you can go for to get from Bangkok to Phitsanulok. The fastest way and not too expensive is to fly from Don Muang Airport to Phitsanulok Airport via AirAsia which should cost you around 1,000 THB with luggage allowance and takes about 1 hour.
By Train: You can also take a train from Bangkok Hua Lamphong Train Station to Phitsanulok Station. There should be around 5 trains per day that takes about 5 - 6 hours and cost around 700 - 1000 THB.
To book a train in Thailand, you can do it here: Book a train from Bangkok to Phitsanulok.
By Bus: Last but not least, you can take one of the many direct buses that leave daily from Morchit Bus Terminal to Phitsanulok Bus Terminal which should take about 4 hours and cost about 300 - 400 THB.
To get a bus from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, you can book through here: Book a bus from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, Thailand.
How to Get from Phitsanulok Airport to the City Center
If you decided to fly into Phitsanulok, there is only one way to get to the city center which is via fixed-cost taxi drivers that are often waiting for you in front of the airport. The cost is 150 baht fixed and you can tell them to drop you off where ever your accommodation is in Phitsanulok City Center.
There used to be a shuttle bus connecting the airport and the city center but when I was there (Dec 2019), it has stopped running for the past 3 months and it doesn't look like they are going to continue any time soon, possibly due to how few tourists are visiting Phitsanulok, so do not hold your breath for it.
How to Get Around Phitsanulok
Every tourist attraction I have listed here are all within walking distance so you should not have to rely on any public transportation while you are in Phitsanulok.
That said, in case you plan to travel further outside the city, you can get either a motor-taxi or a Song Taew, a Thai-style public transportation/pick-up truck with a roof that also acts as a taxi if you pay them enough.
You can find these Song Taew running around the city with a determined route but if you wish to charter them to go to some places, you can find some from this bus stop here and then you can negotiate the price. You will also find Motor Taxi for hire at that bus stop too.
Be sure to negotiate the price before you get on one of these taxis so they won't try to scam you and that you will know exactly how much the trip is so you can decide whether it is worth it or not.
How Many Days to Spend in Phitsanulok
For all the tourist attractions I have listed here, you do not need more than one full day to see them all so I would recommend spending at least 2 nights in Phitsanulok, preferably on the weekend so you can visit the Night Bazaar during the best time.
Day 1: Spending the morning visiting all the temples within the proximity of the city center before continuing on to the other side of Naar River and check out Wat Wihan Thong, its museum, and ended the day with street food at the Night Bazaar.
How Much Money Do I Need For Phitsanulok
From the itinerary above, we can roughly calculate how much money you will be spending for a one-day itinerary in Phitsanulok as follows:
Accommodation: With a total of 2 nights, you will be paying around 18 USD (568 THB)
Food: Food cost about 50 THB maximum per meal per person in Phitsanulok so you can expect to pay about 150 THB for a day in Phitsanulok.
Transportation: Since everything is within walking distance, you will not be paying anything for transportation, so 0 THB.
Activities: For Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, you will have to pay 40 THB to enter. All the other temples are free to enter so that is it for activities. 40 THB you will spend on activities in total.
Total Budget for 1 day in Phitsanulok: 758 THB (24 USD)
Is it Safe in Phitsanulok, Thailand?
Phitsanulok is very safe compared to crowded big cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. They do not get a lot of tourists so you will unlikely encounter any scam attempts like other touristy places in Thailand.
That said, I still recommend you exercise precautions like you would when traveling in any country. Watch your belongings and do not make it easy for thieves and pickpockets to snatch your stuff off of you.
Internet in Thailand
There are 3 major carriers in Thailand, AIS, DTAC, and True, all of which offer a pretty similar range of traveler's packages as well as coverages. I personally use AIS as I have been with them since my first phone and they have a lot of Support Center around Thailand and their coverage hasn't failed me yet so if you are looking for a reliable carrier, I can recommend AIS.
There are 3 packages for tourists, 5 GB for 5 days at 160 THB, 15 GB for 8 days at 299 THB, and 30 GB for 15 days. Depending on how long your trip to Thailand will be, you can pick one of these 3 packages that fit your itinerary the most.
With these 3 packages, you can top-up more in case you need more data or calls for your trip. More often than not, 5 GB is more than enough for me to travel around Thailand for a month.
For more information about Thailand's local sim card: Thailand's Prepaid Data Sim Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Thailand, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
One Day Backpacking Itinerary For Phitsanulok
Pay Respect at Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat
Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat is one of the most important temples in the history of Thailand. The temple was built in 1357 during the Sukhothai era, the first established Thai kingdom. It has been operating for 700+ years seeing kings and kingdoms come and go.
The highlights of this temple are the famous gold-covered statue of the Buddha, known as Phra Phuttha Chinnarat. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful and magnificent Buddha images in Thailand which I have to agree with.
The moment you walk into the stunning symmetrical hall and look up at the bright gold-covered body of the Buddha and all the decor inside, you will realize exactly why this is one of the most renowned Buddha images in the country.
Other than the Buddha image, the Khmer-style Prang, which you can see from afar is said to have been the place they enshrined relics of the Buddha. There is a steep staircase where you can walk up to the top and see the scenery of the surrounding from up there.
Behind the temple, you will also find a 9m tall standing Buddha image holding his right hand up. The Buddha image is called Phra Attharot and you will find many old ruins of the remaining halls of the temple all scattered around the statue.
The temple opens from 9 AM to 4 PM and foreigners are asked to donate 40 THB for an entrance fee although sometimes they do not even force you to do it. That said, it is always nice to donate a small sum that goes into maintaining this temple.
Stroll Around Wat Chedi Yot Thong
After visiting Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, you can continue east and walk toward Wat Chedi Yot Thong to check out its ancient Sukhothai-style pagoda. It is a small temple and it should take you less than 15 minutes to see everything but since it is on the way to another temple, we might as well stop by to see what a 700 years old Chedi looks like now.
As you walk into the temple courtyard, you will find a large red brick lotus bud-shaped Chedi in the original Sukhothai style standing tall at 21 meters, one of its kind in the area.
Wat Chedi Yot Thong opens from 6 AM to 5 PM and you do not have to pay anything to enter and see the pagoda. There is also not a whole lot of information about it except a very simple description of its dimension, which is quite common here in Thailand as a lot of the history was not being recorded until later on.
Check Out the 700 Years Old Chedi at Wat Aranyik
From Wat Chedi Yot Thong, continue east and you will arrive at the entrance of Wat Aranyik, another great historical temple with several ruins of the old Sukhothai temples you can check out.
As you walk on to the temple ground, you will find a mix between new modern temple buildings, a school, and among the tall grasses and dry forest, you will find a large red brick chedi piercing out from the forest. That is the original Chedi of Aranyik Temple built during the Sukhothai period in the 14th Century.
Around the old Chedi, you will also find several old abandoned ruins, some of which still have a number of Buddha images lying around the altars. You will also see a small batch of wooden houses where the monks live in.
I am unsure what the opening time is for this temple but the entry fee is free as usual and if you are following my itinerary to the T, you should be done from this temple by 12 PM, in time for lunch.
Have Lunch at Hoi Kha Rim Nan Noodle Restaurant
One of the most popular restaurants among local tourists is the Hoi Kha Rim Nan Noodle Restaurant located along the Nan River. Be careful, as there are a lot of copy cats around, even more so near this original restaurant so be sure you get into the right one.
Hoi Kha Rim Nan Noodle Restaurant is known for its Sukhothai-style noodle which in my opinion is the best type of noodle there is in Thailand. The one I would recommend is the Egg Noodle Tom Yum Sukhothai noodle (or just show them this: บะหมี่น่ำต้มยำสุโขทัย), together with Nam Gek Huay (Chrysanthemum Drink) (น้ําเก๊กฮวย), and a side dish of Fried Wantan (เกี๊ยวทอด) as seen above.
All of this should cost you 85 THB, 35 THB for the noodle, 20 THB for the drink, and 30 THB for the side dish which in my opinion, is a pretty great deal even compare to Bangkok price.
Fun fact, Hoi Kha, in Thai means the action of hanging your legs hence why the restaurant seatings are built the way they do, so you can hang your legs out and eat, carefree.
Check Out all the Ancient Ruins at Wat Wihan Thong
Wat Wihan Thong is my favorite temple in Phitsanulok, hands down. Even though the name suggested that it is a temple, Wat Wihan Thong is actually more like a small historical park with several stunning ruins all scattered around an open field, almost like an open-air museum.
It is believed that Wat Wihan Thong was built in the 15th Century when Ayutthaya reigned over this part of Thailand. The highlight of Wat Wihan Thong is the remains of the prayer hall where you will find a large standing Buddha statue at the end of the hall.
The Buddha image is in fact renovated but both the base of the prayer hall as well as several stone columns you see in the hall are all in its original form from the 15th Century.
Right near the prayer hall, you will also see a massive prang, or what is left of it, built in a corn cob shape which is popular during the Khmer period.
There are several other ruins as well that are worth visiting within Wat Wihan Thong such as another prayer hall near the prang and the beautiful Sri Sukhot Temple, where you can see the remnant of royal temples used by Ayutthaya Kings back in the days.
Learn the History of Phitsanulok at Chan Royal Palace Historical Center
Wat Wihan Thong is actually within the Chan Royal Palace Historical Center which is a replica of an old palace that was believed to have been built in the 15th Century by the kings of Ayutthaya.
Within the Chan Palace, you will also find a museum that explains the history of the place, how they discovered the ruins and shows the importance of one of the greatest king of Ayutthaya, King Naresuan.
The museum opens from 9 AM to 4 PM every day EXCEPT Monday. The entrance is free and inside you will find a wealth of information about Phitsanulok and how it played a role during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods. It is also a great place to escape from the heat and rest a little inside the air-conditioned museum hall.
Once you are done, be sure to also walk a bit north from the museum and go and pay respect at the Chan Royal Palace, a palace where King Naresuan who ruled the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1590 until 1605 was born.
Admire the Old Phitsanulok City Walls
Now that you are on the other side of the Nan River, it would be a shame not to walk a little further and go check out the Old Phitsanulok City Wall located just northwest of Phitsanulok city center.
The wall was constructed during the Ayutthaya era but maintained its Sukhothai-style technique of clay workmanship. It was used to protect the city from Lanna and Burmese invasions that had always plagued this part of the kingdom.
It was essentially destroyed by King Rama I of the Ratanakosin Dynasty to prevent the enemies from using it as a shelter. You can still see the remaining renovated part of the wall and moats here in Phitsanulok.
Relax at Wat Rachaburana at Sunset
After spending the afternoon on the other side of Nan river, you can come back and stroll around Wat Rachaburana, an old temple built in the 15th Century when Phitsanulok was chosen as the capital to fence off against the invading Lanna kingdom to the north.
Since that time, the Chedi Luang, an old red brick pagoda located within Wat Rachaburana temple ground is all that remains of the original temple structure.
You will find a spacious temple courtyard to walk around, places to sit among the pagodas, and just off across the road, you will see the beautiful Nan river, making it the perfect place to stroll around at sunset.
The temple ground opens 24 hours so you can stroll around as long as you like. Be sure to check out the inside of one of the temples within Wat Rachaburana where you will find a golden Buddha statue that they claim is over 700 years old.
What to Eat and Drink in Phitsanulok
Have a Quiet Coffee at Made For Mouth Cafe
If you are looking for the local's favorite cafe, I can recommend Made For Mouth Cafe, located in a Gas Station near Phitsanulok Old City Wall. The cafe is a local franchise that sells pastries as well as coffee and other Thai-style drinks like Thai Milk Tea etc. There is no better way to support the local community than to buy their homegrown stuff.
Eat Your Way Through Phitsanulok Night Bazaar
At night, this road turns into a night market with shops and street food stalls on both sides of the road. You can find all kinds of delicious and cheap Thai street food here.
From Pad Thai, Hoi Tod (crisp fried mussel pancake), meatballs that cost 5 THB per stick, to all kinds of delicious snacks and desserts that you can indulge yourself in all night.
Enjoy a Drink or Two by the Nan River at Night
If you are looking for a nice place to sit quietly and enjoy a drink or two by the river, you can cross the river to the other side and you will find plenty of shops and bars along the side of Wang Chan Road that you can pick from and drink the night away.
Have a Yolk Ice Cream at Charoenphol Ice Cream
Last but not least, and thanks to my local friend, you can try one of the best yolk ice creams out there at Charoenphol Ice Cream located near Phitsanulok Clock Tower.
The place may seem run-down but they have been serving this egg yolk on 4 scoops of Thai-style coconut ice creams for years since my friend was still young. Simply go there and show them the photo above and you will see why it is so delicious.
And there you have it, complete backpacking guide and a one-day itinerary for Phitsanulok. Are you excited to go off the beaten path in Thailand and explore a more authentic Thailand? If so and you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments below.
Further Reading for Thailand
Looking for more information for your trip to Thailand? Here is a collection of articles about Thailand that you might find useful:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to Southeast Asia? You should check out our 3 Months Backpacking Itinerary for Southeast Asia.
- More often than not, your journey in Thailand will begin in Bangkok. Here is a 12-Hours Guide to Spending Time in Bangkok.
- Did you know that the cradle of Thailand began in the ancient city of Sukhothai north of Bangkok in the 13th Century? If you are interested in the history of Thailand, here is The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Sukhothai.
- Sukhothai has a twin city that had prospered together since the first founding of the Siam Kingdom. The ancient city is called Si Satchanalai, 60 km north of Sukhothai and there are many less-traveled ancient ruins there waiting for you to explore. Here is A Complete Backpacking Guide to Si Satchanalai.
- Kamphaeng Phet, which translates to "The Wall of Diamond" was an outpost town than had played a role in protecting the Siam Kingdom from invasion for several decades and you can still see the remnants today. Here is A Complete Backpacking Guide to Kamphaeng Phet.
- Lampang is low-key, one of the most laid back places in the north with a northern-vibe similar to Chiang Mai but much quieter and more authentic. If you are looking to go off the beaten path in Thailand, check out The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Lampang.
- Spending a few days relaxing in Lampang? Here are 9 Best Cafes and Restaurants to Try in Lampang.
- There is no need for an introduction to the renowned old capital city of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai. Here is a One-Day Backpacking Itinerary and Things to Do in Chiang Mai.
- Have a day to spare in Chiang Mai? How about going on a day-trip to Lamphun? Here are 7 Best Things to Do in Lamphun.
- Looking to change things up a little? How about we head down to the south of Thailand and explore one of my favorite places in Thailand? Here is How to Travel to Khao Sok National Park, Backpacking-style.
- One of the best places to go snorkeling in Thailand is Koh Lipe, an island in the far south of Thailand. Here is The Ultimate Snorkeling Guide to Koh Lipe.
- Photos worth a thousand words, but what is worth more than photos? A video. Here are travel videos I made for Thailand: Timeless Thailand, a journey into the North of Thailand, Long Tail Thailand, explore the beautiful south of Thailand, and taking it slow with Slowed Down Bangkok travel video.
- Wondering where to go after Thailand? How about you continue on to Malaysia, Myanmar, or Indonesia?
- For all articles about Thailand, visit Thailand Travel Guide page.
- Looking to travel to Southeast Asia? Check out all my articles about Southeast Asia here: Southeast Asia Travel Guide page.
- You can see all my Asia related articles here: Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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