Phitsanulok (พิษณุโลก) is a historic city in Lower Northern Thailand, about halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It has a population of around 80,000.

A city in the lower part of northern Thailand rich in historical, cultural and natural attractions, Phitsanulok is some 377 km from Bangkok. The province around it covers an area of 10,815 square kilometres, featuring mountains, plains and forest in the east and river basin. The Nan River, lifeline of the province, runs through the heart of the city.

Phitsanulok is a regional commercial and transportation hub. Many travellers will at least pass through Phitsanulok on way to and from the north. While the city itself is not the most exciting or prettiest place in the world, it can be useful for stocking up on supplies, and Phitsanulok is a great starting point for exploring the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai. The local TAT office is at 209 Thanon Borom Trailokanat (08:30-16:30 daily).

History

The city dates back to the 10th century when the Khmer ruled this region. Formerly, the city was named Song Khwae, meaning two rivers, as it was located between the Nan and Khwae Noi River. The original location of Song Khwae city is at Wat Chulamani. Around the year 1357, king of Sukhothai, Phra Maha Thammaracha Lithai, decided to move the town to its present location. Since then, Phitsanulok served as a strategic border town ruled by members of the royal family.

During the Ayutthaya Period, the town played a larger role as a buffer town between Ayutthaya, the capital city, and the northern kingdom. Following an administrative reform by King Borommatrailokkanat, it had served as the capital city for 25 years. After that, the town was downgraded to a strategic border town. It has played a major role in blocking the invasion of Burmese troops. King Naresuan the Great, who ruled the town in a capacity as Crown Prince, mobilized troops from Phitsanulok to fight against the Burmese who then ruled over the Siamese Kingdom, and reclaimed independence in 1584.

Phitsanulok became a strategic town in coping Burmese invasion again in 1775 in the Thon Buri period. During a tough battle, the Burmese army’s commander requested an appearance of a Thai commander, Chaophraya Chakri, and predicted that he would become a king. Chaophraya Chakri was later crowned the first monarch of the Rattanakosin period, King Rama I the Great of the Royal House of Chakri. Phitsanulok was upgraded to be a circle called Monthon Phitsanulok in 1894 in the reign of King Rama V. Now, Phitsanulok is a province.

Get in

By plane

Nokair offers regular flights between Phitsanulok and Bangkok Don Muang (50 minutes). Bus #4 runs to the airport, as do tuk-tuks for about 10-20 baht.

Kan Air flies to Phitsanulok and back from Chiang Mai.

By train

There are several daily services north to Chiang Mai and south to Bangkok. Both take about 6-7 hours.

By bus

Extensive bus services connect Phitsanulok with Chiang Mai and Bangkok. As Phitsanulok is a major transportation hub, there are also regular services to the northeast. Phitsanulok is about 390 km from Bangkok. Buses take 5-6 hours for the journey. The return trip can take as long as 7 hours, depending on the Bangkok traffic. The bus to Chiang Mai takes 6 hours.

The main bus station is 2 km east of the train station just off Singhawat Rd. From there buses leave for Chiang Mai, Tak (via Sukhothai), Khon Kaen and Bangkok, as well as the surrounding provinces and to the towns within the province.

You can reach the bus station by tuk-tuk, or hop on the bus on one of the stops downtown, for instance, on the broad road passing south of the Topland Plaza Hotel (a little west of the hotel). Note that the stops and buses have signage in Thai only.

Get around

Public buses serve the town and there is no shortage of tuk-tuks and taxis. No. 1 bus serves the route between the central bus station and the train station in the town centre, and leaves from the short road leading from the highway to the bus station.

Decent motorbikes (Honda Wave, etc.) can be rented from the shop near the central bus station, at prices somewhat higher than the Chiang Mai standard (starting ~200 baht)

See

Phitsanulok is not well known to foreign tourists and thus has retained the charm of a typical, larger Thai city. Unfortunately, most of the older parts of the city were destroyed in a disastrous fire decades ago.

More sights can be suggested by the helpful Tourism Authority office, at 209/7-8 Boromtrailokanat Road, a few streets south of the train station (walking 5-7 minutes)

Do

Visit the temples and stroll around a Thai city that is still relatively unspoiled.

Eat

Several markets offer the typical variety of food stall dishes. During the day check out the market just south of the train station, which turns into a popular night market scene in the early evening. Some of the best buys are gai yang (grilled chicken) and kweitiou pat Thai (Thai-style fried noodles).

The Night Bazaar along the river offers lots of tourist-type food options plus after-dinner shopping with the usual night market items.

Central Plaza Shopping Mall: there are many kind of restaurant such as Thai food, Japanese food, Western food. Standard chain restaurant fare. There is a Tesco-Lotus downstairs for self catering and other essentials.

The Big C mall: 3 km east of the city centre, a big superstore and has a wide range of small restaurants and a food hall.

Tesco Lotus: 5 km. east of the city centre, a big superstore and has a wide range of small restaurants, food hall and teather.

Get out

Phitsanulok is a good stop - over from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Bangkok - take the railroad south.
Chiang Mai - take the railroads north.
Sukhothai - a good option for a day-trip.