Loei Province in the far west of upper northeastern Thailand, or Isaan, is defined by the natural beauty of its landscape which embraces mountain ranges, rocky outcrops, waterfalls and extensive forests. Then there’s the mighty Mekong and the rich lowland farmlands.
Remote and sparsely populated, the isolation, open spaces and abundant fresh air make Loei an attractive destination for natural and cultural ecotourism, while the provincial capital, also known as Loei, retains a charming small town feel.
The scenic landscape gives the province its unique ecotourism appeal. The beautiful and unspoiled Mekong River between Pak Chom and Chiang Khan, two traditional small towns with wooden shophouses and narrow streets joined by a winding riverside road, offers fine views of neighbouring Laos, shoals, rapids and sandbanks, as well as rich farmlands and orchards. Loei’s Mekong Valley really is a bucolic, rural idyll. Pla Ba Waterfall near Phu Ruea, Loei Province
Away from the Mekong, Loei boasts two of the country’s leading national parks: Phu Kradung and Phu Reua. There are also the less well known but beautiful and isolated Phu Suan Sai (also known as Na Haeo National Park) and Phu Luang Wildlife Preserve, as well as numerous waterfalls along the Thai-Lao border and in the mountain ranges surrounding the province. Because of the low population, much of Loei is covered with various types of forest – mainly tropical evergreen mixed with deciduous trees and pines and even maple trees – as well as savannah on the uncultivated lowlands.
Rich farmlands nestled away in the many mountain ranges produce an astonishing variety of crops. Traditional crops include rice, soybean, maize, sesame, bananas, tamarind, lychee, longan and mangoes. In recent years, new crops have been introduced that have added substantively to the province’s rich agricultural output, including rubber, macadamia nuts, coffee and temperate flowers such as roses, hydrangeas, petunias, African violets and phlox. Grapes flourish in vineyards around Phu Ruea District, and Chateau de Loei wines first bottled in 1995 are now exported to Europe, Australia and Japan. Loei has also long enjoyed a reputation for growing the kingdom’s best cotton, and producing the warmest cotton quilts in Thailand.
Separated from nearby Laos by the broad Mekong River in the east and the much smaller Hueang River to the west, the province has a distinctly Lao cultural feel. This manifests itself in the local dialect, religious architecture, history and cuisine. Yet links with central Thailand are also strong, as exemplified by the provincial symbol, the stupa at Wat Phra That Si Song Rak in Dan Sai, founded in 1560 as a sign of enduring friendship between the Kingdoms of Ayutthaya and Luang Prabang.