Geographically located in the Lower North on the bank of the Ping River, Kamphaeng Phet (pronounced Gampaeng Pet) is 358 kilometres from Bangkok. To its East are riverine flatlands while the western areas are made up of high mountains lush with fertile forests where a number of national parks have been established.
Areas along the river bank at present-day Mueang district used to host several ancient towns which had played a major role as strategic front-line frontiers since Sukhothai was the kingdom’s capital down through the times of Ayutthaya and early Rattanakosin (Bangkok) eras. In fact, the name Kamphaeng Phet actually means as strong as walls or forts make of diamonds.
Its great history fell into oblivion and Kamphaeng Phet was an ordinary, smallish province city until the establishment of the historical park and its listing as a World Heritage site in 1991. Still, Kamphaeng Phet is—unlike its well-known neighbour Sukhothai—ignored by the main flow of tourists. This is why the city has barely any offers geared to the needs of international travellers. Some may view this as a drawback, but those looking to experience the authentic, upcountry Thailand, are coming just to the right place.
Moreover, Kamphaeng Phet is a “banana capital”. Its local speciality are “egg bananas” (kluai khai in Thai), whose fruit are only about 10 centimetres (4 inches) long, almost ovally shaped (hence the name) and much more aromatic then the run-of-the-mill long, bent banana varieties sold in most non-tropic countries. Kamphaneng Phet Province exports bananas worth 200 million baht each year.
5 Reasons Why You Need To Visit Kamphaeng Phet
Thailand is one of those magnificent countries that has a multitude of attractions on offer. Alluring beaches, delectable food, and culture! Lots and lots of culture! The temples that can be explored around this enchanting country are nothing short of breathtaking!
One place that is routinely left off the typical backpackers itinerary is Kamphaeng Phet, located between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
We visited this quaint town and easily came up with 5 reasons why you should spend some time in Kamphaeng Phet!
1. No Tourists!
Not just compared to the rest of Thailand we had visited, but just in general! The hostel we were staying in had two other people in it (and this was supposedly the most popular guesthouse in town according to a number of very high profile websites and guide books).
We received friendly, curious stares from all the Thais at the night markets and on the streets. We believe many of the locals thought we were lost!
The historical park was empty all bar a few Thai’s exploring. We can count on one hand the number of “farangs” we saw in two days in this quiet town.
2. Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park is a fascinating archaeological site filled with ancient temples and ruins.
It is separated into two sections: The first is situated within it’s ancient walls and surrounded by a moat; The second is outside the walls set in the forest. The best way to explore this park is by renting a bicycle, which you can do from Three J Guesthouse or directly from the ticket booth upon entering (30 baht for the day).
You are free to wander around the ruins at your leisure, and can climb on many of the temples. Just remember never to climb onto anything with a Buddha image. 150 Baht ($5) for entrance to both sites.
3. Hot Springs and National Parks
Not too far from town are the beautiful Phra Ruang Hot Springs, a set of natural hot pools that reputedly have therapeutic benefits for those who take the plunge into their steaming waters!
For the active and adventurous type, Khlong Lan and Mae Wong National Parks are a short drive away. Famous for their trekking opportunities and beautiful waterfalls, these make for a great day out to be at one with nature!
4. It’s Cheap
Those who are familiar with the South of Thailand will know the prices can be almost double those found in the North for just about anything. Bangkok is also relatively expensive in comparison to the North.
Kamphaeng Phet enjoys budget-friendly prices for most items. A crepe the size of my arm filled with caramelised onions and peanuts with a side of cucumber and chills was 60 cents!
Delicious coffees and teas from a modern cafe ran at $1 a piece. Hard to beat these prices! Even including a day at the temples, our total price for one day for two people was $30
5. Great Location
Conveniently located between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Kamphaeng Phet makes for an ideal stop off to break up the long bus ride. It can be visited either on the way to Myanmar or to the North of Thailand and public transport in the form of sonthaews, minivans and large buses are readily available to take you to most locations.
Kamphaeng Phet is the quintessential Thai town. History, culture, friendly locals, everything you could want! While it might not have enough attractions to hold your attention for more than a few days, it is definitely worth adding a detour into your itinerary to explore this often-ignored gem!