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One tourist brochure we came across described Phayao (พะเยา) as the 'Vienna of South East Asia'. Although this is just slightly stretching the truth, Phayao is certainly an elegant and attractive town. Its setting on Kwan Phayao, a vast wetland, gives the town a back-to-nature feel that’s utterly lacking in most Thai cities, while the tree-lined streets, temples and traditional wooden houses of ‘downtown’ Phayao provide a pleasing old-school Thai touch.

The little-visited and quiet town is the perfect place to break up your journey to/from Chiang Rai, and can also serve as a bookend to a drive from Chiang Khong.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Phayao.