Arrive here after a sojourn in the region's remote countryside and the capital city is little more than a reminder that concrete and congestion still exist. Not that it's a bad place, but, as the Tourism Authority of Thailand itself used to say, 'the city of Loei has little to hold the traveller's interest'.
Phu Reua National Park
Phu Ruea means 'Boat Mountain', a moniker stemming from a cliff jutting out of the peak that's sort of in the shape of a Chinese junk. The 121-sq-km Phu Ruea National Park isn't one of Thailand's most impressive reserves, but it does offer vast views from the summit (1365m), reached by either a sŏrng·tăa·ou or a 1km footpath.
Phu Kradueng National Park
Capped off by its eponymous peak, Phu Kradueng National Park covers a high-altitude plateau, cut through with trails and peppered with cliffs and waterfalls. Rising to 1316m, Thailand's second national park is always cool at its highest reaches (average year-round temperature is 20°C), where its flora is a mix of pine forest and savannah.
High up the side of a beautiful limestone mountain, Tham Erawan is a large cave shrine, featuring a giant seated Buddha. Gazing out over the mountain-studded plains below, the Buddha is visible from several kilometres away and can be reached by a winding staircase of 600 steps. The views are superb, especially at sunset.