We broke the journey from Chiang Mai to Laos, spending a couple of days in the relaxed, and un-Western, town of Phayao.
Phayao is a three hour bus ride from CM through hilly, wooded and pretty countryside. We headed for the Jumjai Guesthouse – very nice, wooden floors and walls, very clean – and friendly staff with just enough English to get by. It’s a few yards from the road along the lake front (the lake is the largest body of fresh water in northern Thailand, formerly a collection of swamps and small lakes until dammed by Thailand’s Fisheries Department in 1941).
We wandered along the lakefront to Wat Sri Kom Kham where there is (apparently) the largest (of its type) Buddha in the world, built between 1491 and 1524 in the open but now enclosed.
The grounds of the wat are quite extensive and it is a pleasant place to spend an hour or two. We did notice a particularly large spider… It’s web was above a path we took. The body is about 3 cm long. I’ve no idea whether it is poisonous.
There is a quite strange collection of statues in the Heaven Hell Park within the wat grounds. The statues are supposed to relate to a particular sin: the long tongue indicates a liar, the disembowelled woman had an abortion, the cauldron is boiling up sinners.
On the walk back from the wat, we stopped for an hour by the lakeside, watching fishermen out on the lake in their narrow boats, until the sun dropped behind the mountains. A very pleasant and peaceful day. And despite Phayao being a popular tourist destination for Thais, we only saw a couple of other Westerners.