Waterfalls, Lakes and Cannonball Trees at Phayao

Continuing our journey from Chiang Mai through Chiang Rai  after our visit to the Baan Koh temple in the northern part of Lampang, we now head for the small northern Thai province of  Phayao. The city of Phayao is located at the Phayao Lake (Kwan Phayao) in the valley of the Ing River. Three large mountains surround the valley – the Doi Luang, Doi Khun Mae Fat and Doi Khun Mae Tam – making this a very picturesque town.

Overlooking Phayao Lake from the mountains beyond coming from Wang Nuea District in Lampang.

Waterfalls along the highway to Phayao

Lake Phayao is the largest fresh-water fish habitat in the upper North which provides the livelihood for many local people. To protect the lake from pollution, motor boats are not allowed on the lake.

We decided to stop and have lunch in front of the lake. There were several restaurants to choose from. We ordered grilled salted fresh water fish, Som Tam, sticky rice, BBQ chicken and the speciality – “Jumping Shrimp Larp”. The shrimps literally jumped out of the pot when Vithi removed the lid!!! He and his sister enjoyed this dish immensely but I’m sorry to say, I didn’t try it!

An old wooden house in front of the lake belonging to one of Vithi’s uncles.

The 40 foot high Buddha at Wat Sri Khom Kham at Phayao. The temple houses the largest Buddha statue of northern Thailand, Phra Chao Ton Luang, a sitting Buddha with a lap width of 14 meters and height of 16 meters. It is said that it took no less than 33 years to complete it.

Automatic blessing machines at Wat Sri Khom Kham.

At the temple, there were lots of Cannonball trees in full bloom. The “Cannonball Tree” is so called because of its brown cannon-ball-like fruits. The tree produces very large, distinctive flowers that are orange, scarlet and pink in color, and form large bunches measuring up to 3m in length.

The Canonball Trees are grown extensively in Shiva temples in India. In Hindi it is called Shiv Kamal (also known as “Kailaspati”). In Tamil, it is called the Nagalingam tree. The flowers are called Shivalinga flowers in Hindi. Hindus revere it as a sacred tree because the petals of the flower resemble the hood of the Naga, a sacred snake, protecting a Shiva Lingam, the stigma.

In Thailand, Sri Lanka and other Buddhist countries, the tree is often planted at Buddhist temples. It is often mistaken as the Sala Tree, Shorea robusta, the tree under which the Buddha passed away and under which the previous Buddha Vessabhu attained enlightenment.

Naresuan University, Phayao Campus.

The lake view from Vithi’s office at the Institute of Research and Study of Lanna Tai, Naresuan University, Phayao Campus. This is a different lake from the one in the town.

We finished up our trip in the old city of Lampang where we enjoyed more seafood and local dishes at Vithi’s former grandmother’s house before returning back to Chiang Mai late in the evening. Just another day in Vithi Phanichphant‘s interesting life!

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