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).
In 1955 a fire destroyed most of the old downtown area. It was rebuilt with concrete midrise buildings, and is dreary and hot (even by Thai standards). At night the river and the train station get slight breezes.
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.