Travel Thailand  Loei Province.  


Phu Kradueng National Park
           After a period of great geological change in what is now the highland area of northeastern Thailand, a mountain arose with a relatively flat and large area as its summit, This undulating plateau is full of cliffs, savannas, pine forests, streams, waterfalls, flora, and fauna, that one might be led to think that a "paradise lost" still exists.
      A legend of tingling sound of bells (Kradueng in Thai means bell) gliding down from the mountaintop was heard before anyone had ever climbed it. Hence, the mountain came to be called "Phu Kradueng," One day a hunter fiom the village of Si Than followed the gaur's trails up the mountain and was amazed to find that the mountaintop turned into a plateau stretching as far as the eye could see, with rows of pine trees growing in a strangely orderly manner and the herds of wildlife freely roaming around for food.
     Phu Kradueng, shaped like a church bell, has a plateau summit, with a bird's eye view, is shaped like a heart with the bottom tip pointing towards the southeast. The plateau is bounded in the west and east by steep cliffs. Located in the sub-district of Si Than of Phu Kradueng District in the province of Loei, Phu Kradueng sprawls over an arca of 348.12 square kilometres with 60 square kilometres of plateau. It rises to a height of approximately 1,200 metres above sea level. 
         The mountain was formed as a result of geological forces slowly acting beneath the Earth's crust. Layers of sediments of sand, clay, and rock piled up for millions of years. Then, great earth movements, e.g., the arching and curving of the Earth's surface about 230 million years ago brought the sedimentary rock to the surface, and in the process layers of softer sandstone eroded away, especially at the top of the mountain,thus leaving only layers of sandstone and more solid rock.
    The rock formations underpinning Phu Kradueng were formed during the Great Mesozoic Era and could be called “the Khorat Group.” This rock type comprises four types of rock formation:
          Phu phan Formation underlines the structure of Phu Kradueng from an elevation of above 990 metres.  The thickness of the rock layer is about 300 metres, consisting of light orange-white sandstone, red siltstone, and small igneous rock interspersed with shale.
          Sao Khrua Formation is found at an elevation of above 600 metres and is approximately 380-410 metres thick. It consists of reddish-brown sandstone and some mica, and brownish-grey or brownish-yellow sandstone interspersed with limestone.
         Phra Wihan Formation is found at an elevation of 400-600 metres or in the area above Sam Haek (a resting point on the lower parts of the mountainside commonly used by climbers). It is the thinnest of the four Phu Kradueng layers and consists of pinkish-white sandstone.
Phu Kradueng Formation, the rock layer at the lowest part of Phu Kradueng, i.e., below the Sam Haek resting point, consists of sandstone mixed with brown or reddish-brown shale.
        The southern part of Phu Kradueng consists of pine forests alternating with savannas and meadows. The immense northern part is covered with a virgin evergreen forest, giving moisture and life to numerous streams which merge and flow down to the plains below to become Lam Nam Phong, a main waterway underpinning the livelihood of the people in northeastern Thailand.
       Many waterfalls on the plateau originate from these streams. The pretty Than Sawan and Wang Kwang Streams flow to form reservoirs such as Sa Kaeo and Sa Anodat. The streams then continue and turn into beautiful waterfalls such as Phon Phop, Phen Phop Mai, Phen Phop, Tham Yai, Than Sawan, Phra Ong, Tham So, Pha Nam Pha, and Khun Phong.
           The plateau on the mountaintop stands at an average of 400-1,200 metres above sea level, with the highest point of 1,316 metres called Khok Moei. The mountain base begins at the elevation of 260-400 metres,  and is surrounded by plains, A short distance up from its base, the mountain becomes steeper and abruptly begins to form cliffs. The clifftops offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, Also, the views at sunrise and sunset on some vantage points are especially beautiful and dramatic.
      The mountaintop is usually covered in mist and the weather is normally cool. Average temperature is around 25.9 degrees Celsius. During summer, temperature could rise to 43 degrees Celsius. There is the heaviest rainfall of approximately 160 millimetres in May, In cold season, temperature could drop to as low as freezing point.
     From the topography and climate, the forest at Phu Kradueng National Park can be divided as follows:
      Dry dipterocarp forest is around the foothill up to the height of 300-500 metres, e.g., Sam Haek. It is made up of mostly trees in the Shorea and Dipterocarpus genera.
   Mixed deciduous forest grows at a higher level than dry dipterocarp forest, about 800 metres above sea level. it contains many different kinds of trees such as Makha Mong (Afzelia xylocarpa), Yom Hom (Toona ciliata), and Plao (Croton spp.).
          Hill evergreen forest exists at the level higher than 800 metres, rising up to the plain on the plateau, Important trees are Phaya Mai (Podocarpus nerriifolius), Makhampom Dong (Cephalotaxus grffithii), Sam Phan Pi (Dacrytdium elatum), Mueat (Symplocos macrophylla), and Ko (Lithocarpus spp.).
       Hill pine forest grows at the same level as hill evergreen forest up to 1,200 metres above sea level representing Ko, pine trees, and grass flelds.
      Due to cold climate, results in Phu Kradueng being blessed with rich flora, Each season brings forth a dazzling array of nature's awesome creations, which are a feast to the eyes. Some plants include two-needled and three-needled pine trees, Kradum Ngoen (Eriocaulon henryanum), Krachiao (Cur­cuma parviflora), Som Pae (Vaccinium sprengelii), white and red roses (Rhododendron spp.).
      In addition, Phu Kradueng is the habitat of no less than 276 wildlife species such as serow, Asiatic elephant, deer, tiger, bear, and common wild pig However, various wild animals, e.g., gaur, were reported to be extinct, There are 171 types of birds, for instance, silver pheasant, Chinese francolin, red junglefowl, and black eagle. Rare reptiles can also be found such as Siamese big-headed turtle and yellow tortoise.
     Tourists can freely access through the southern part of the plateau, or 25% of the area, representing well-known tourist attractions. The remaining part in the nor-thern plateau, which contains evergreen forest, stream, and waterfall, need to get permission before entering.
          Phu Kradueng represents all other mountains or "Phu" in l-san of which the characteristics are completely different from those of the mountains in other parts of the country. All cliffs and waterfalls altogether assembled on the plateau of the mountaintop help attract travellers, one after another, to experience the exquisite beauty no matter how hard the travel would be.
Making a trip
By car: Take Highway 1 passing Saraburi City and then take Highway 21 passing Phetchabun. Follow Highway 203 passing Lom Sak and Lom Kao Districts to Dan Sai and Phu Ruea Districts, Loei Province. Or take Highway 1 passing Saraburi, Then turn to Highway 2 (Mittraphap Road) passing Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen. Then turn left to Highway 12 passing Chum Phae District. Then turn to Highway 201 passing Phu Kradueng and Wang Saphung Districts to Loei City.
By bus: The Transportation Company Limited has both regular and air-conditioned buses to Loei Province every day. For more information, contact the Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2), Tel. 0-2936-7972, 0-2936-0667.
By train: The State Railway of Thailand provides the trains to Udon Thani and Khon Kaen Provinces. For more information, contact Tel. 0-2223-7010, 0-2223-7 020.
By plane: The Thai Airways International has flights to Udon Thani every day. For more information, contact Tel 0-2280-0060 .
              Phu Kradueng NationalPark provides both lodges and tents for tourists. The tourists can also bring their own tents. To make a reservation, contact the National Park Division, Royal Forest Department, Tel. 0-2579-7223, 0-2579-5734, 0-2561-4292-3 ext. 724,725. Or contact the Provincial Forest Office, Loei Province, Tel. 0-4281-1112.



Phu Luang National Park
     On the plateau of northeastern region lies a famed mountain range where natural plants and flora are abundant. This range is also the origin of an important river of Loei Province. On the top of this mountain is a huge tableland, higher and bigger than "Phu Kradueng." This range is called "Phu Luang."
          The height of Phu Luang varies from 400 metres to the top of the tableland, covering 140 square kilometres. at 1,200 to 1,550 metres above sea level. The highest peak is Phu Khwang at 1,571   metres above sea level. The area of Phu Luang is more than 896 square kilometres, It covers four districts of Loei Province, that is, Phu Ruea, Dan Sai, Wang Saphung, and Phu Luang Districts.
           Geographically, Loei River divides Phu Luang into two parts. The western part consists of small mountain ranges of 400-800 metres above sea level and the eastern part, which occupies half of the area, consists of a gigantic mountain where the compact rock profile of Phu Luang emerges from erosion . The origin of this rock profile is sandstone, The rock profile at the lower 900 metres above sea level is Phu Kradueng Formation. Beyond this is Phra  Wihan Formation except for Phu Phan Formartion at Phu Yong Phu.
          On top of the range from north to south lies a vast tableland covering an area of 140 square kilometres. On the eastern part there is a lengthy cliff tilting downwards to the centre where grasslands, hillocks, and rock terraces are alternately located. There are several famous cliffs, i.e., Pha Taloen, Pha Chong Natang, Pha Lon Hin Aeo Khan, Pha Kop, Pha Lon Khrueang Bin Tok, and Pha Yueang.
          The tableland on top of Phu Luang is locally known as "Lon" or "Khok." Partially dense pine forests cover the areas, for example, Lon Son, Lon Mon, and Lon Sao Yaeng Khing, Some parts of the tableland are interchanging between savannas and forests. However, these savannas are normally burnt down in cold season and then budded again in rainy season, which are devoured by wild animals, These fields are Khok Huai Toei, Lon Moei, and Lon Khrueang Bin Tok. Short brushwood and earthen wild flowers which
grow interchangeably with hillocks and rock terraces are scattered around pine forests at the edge of the cliff. However, numerous plants and wild flowers found in Phu Luang are densely grown in Phu Ruea District, and alternately bloom all year round.
        Forests and plants in Phu Luang fall in the tropical zone, However, several winter plants such as mountain pine in the Pinaceae family, maple in the Aceraceae family, and oak in the Fagaceae family are found at an altitude of 1,200 metres above sea level. Particularly, plants of Chinese origin are spread in Phu Luang only, such as Son Phaeng or Paek Lom (Calocedrus macrolepis). 
           The type of forest in Phu Luang can be classified according to its altitude. In the valleys or foothill at below 1,200 metres lie moist evergreen forest, hill evergreen forest, dry dipterocarp forest, and mixed deciduous forest. Plants of this zone such as Makha Mong (Afzelia xylocarpa), Yang (Dipterocarpus turbinatus), Takhian Thong or iron wood(Hopea odorata), Op Choei (Cinnamomum spp.), Daeng (Xylia xylocarpa), and Tabaek Yai (Lythraceae spp.) possess economic and herbal value. The higher land at above 1,200 metres above sea level is tableland with sandy soil. Forests of this zone are hill pine forests, Plants of Phu Khwang to Huai Nam Thop area are dwarf wood, lichens, and Khao Tok Ruesi or mosses (Sphagnum spp.).
            The climate of Phu Luang is cool allyear round. In rainy season, heavy rainfalls and clouds cover the plateau from June to September, In cold season, from October to January, the weather is extremely cold, 0-16 degrees Celsius, with heavy fog in the morning and strong winds. In Summer, the weather is very pleasant from February to May with temperature of 20-24 degrees Celsius.
       Due to the thick evergreen forests, wild animals in Phu Luang are abundant and multifarious. A great number of elephants, numbering about 80-100, are found. As well there are gaur, deer, common barking deer, serow, tiger, leopard, bear,langur, gibbon, lesser mouse deer, common palm civet, civet, red junglefowl, some species of pheasant, and various kinds of beautiful birds, Siamese big-headed turtle is one of the rare species in Thailand. The tracks of wild animals are usually found on the forest trails.
            According to a wildlife survey during 1993-1997, there are 4 kinds of vertebrates, i.e.,210 species of birds, 60 species of mammals, 38 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 10 species of fish.
            Due to a rich abundance of nature, the Khok Nok Kraba -Lan Suriyan -Pha Yueang Route is then suitable for plant and forest study. The route is 1,870 metres long and dotted with 11 stations, It takes about 1.5 hours along the route, Station No. 1: You Stand on the Big Table This area is a plain on the top of the mountain with 1,200-.1,400 metres above sea level. It looks like a big table sloping from east to west, Station No. 2: Similarity in Difference A parasite and a dependent plant are similar in that they rely on other plants, but different in that the former only exploits the plant it depends on by sucking food and water, while the latter, on the contrary, supports itself by photosynthesizing and sucking moisture from the air. Station No. 3: Sam Phan Pi It is the name of a medium-sized plant species which sheds no leaves and is found near streams of hill evergreen forest. Station No. 4: Nok Kraba-shaped StoneNok Kraba or nightjar is a species of bird, which lives on the ground and goes for food at twilight or at night. A big stone there is similar to that found in nature. Station No. 5: Wild Orchids of Phu Luang Phu Luang is well-known for its various species of wild orchids including some rare ones such as Rongthao Nari Inthanon and Rongthao Nari Pik Malaeng Po. Each has different blossoming time. Station No. 6: Khao Tok Ruesi Khao Tok Ruesi is a Thai word for a species of moss, which grows in a wet area and a puddle above 1,000 metres high. It acts as an absorber in nature. Station No. 7: Maple Tree The Maple Tree is a species of perennial. It is 15-25 metres high and turns red before shedding leaves in November and December. Station No.8:Jungle Moisture The plants near streams obtain high moisture, so both trees and lower plants, e.g., mosses, ferns, and orchids are well grown. Station No. 9: Where Stream Loses The sand and stones lying on the stream bed could not absorb water. Station No. 10: Group of White Rose White rose is a bushy with 2-5 metres high. It is commonly found at 1,000 metres high above sea level. Station No.1 1: Lichens Lichens or "Fong Hin" in Thai, which are made up of algae and fungi, usually live on stone, branch, and even soil.
             Due to the geography and gorgeous natural resources, Phu Luang National Park deserves to be eternally conserued.
Making a trip
By car: Take Highway 1, passing Saraburi Province and turn right to Highway 2, passing Pak Chong District and Lam Takhong Dam. Then take Highway 201 to Chaiyaphum and Loei Province,
Or take Highway 1 and turn right to Highway 21 to Lop Buri and Phetchabun Provinces, Then take Highway 12 to Lom Sak District and Highway 201 to Loei Province, respectively.
         From there, take Highway 203 and turn left at Kilometre 36 about 18 kilometres heading to the National Park's Office. One will reach an entrance, at Phu Ruea District side (Khok Nok Kraba), which leads to the back of Phu Luang with an eight-kilometre trail.
Buy bus: The Transportation Company Limited has both regular and air-conditioned buses to Loei Province every day. For more information, contact the Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2), Tel, 0-2936-1972. At the Loei Terminal, take Loei -Phu Ruea bus. Get off at the Phu Ruea market and rent a car to the National Park.
               Only in the area of Khok Nok Kraba, an overnight stay is allowed by the Royal Forest Department. For more information, contact the Wildlife Reserve Division, Natural Resources Conservation Office, Royal Forest Department, Chatuchak District, Bangkok 10900, Tel. 0-2561-4292-3 ext 706.