After a few hours on the coach from Chiang Mai, we arrived in Phayao. The town itself was pretty unattractive, but I decided to hold my judgement until we had seen more of Phayao than the road to the bus station. We took a tuk-tuk to the Tharn Thong Hotel, which we had booked after seeing it recommended in my Lonely Planet: Thailand guidebook.
About a minute down the road, we turned into the reception area of our hotel. We had agreed to pay 50 baht for the tuk-tuk ride, which turned out to be about one baht per meter. We unloaded the bags and I headed to the reception desk to check-in. The woman behind the desk didn’t understand when I said we had a booking, but it didn’t matter – of around 50 numbered pegs behind the desk, only three had been relieved of their keys. Lulled into a false sense of security by the great accommodation we had enjoyed so far in Thailand, we didn’t ask look around the room before paying for our night’s stay.
A man led us through to a tall, ugly building behind the reception area and first lot of rooms. Having shown us to the door and left us in the empty foyer, he took off. We stepped into the lift, noticing a sign which said it was ‘out of order between the hours of 10.30 – 15.30′ and headed up to the fourth floor. The sense of relief from having survived the ascent soon disappeared when we stepped out and saw a starkly lit corridor with rubbish pushed against the walls at various intervals. We let ourselves into the room and let out simultaneous groans. The room, like the building it sat in, looked like it had been abandoned some years ago.
The wall sockets and light switches were either hanging out the walls or completely missing, revealing a tangle of exposed electrical wires. The walls and floor were dirty, with large mucus stains on the walls around the bed and there were long, black hairs hanging from the thick cobwebs in every corner. The bathroom was worse, with a small, filthy toilet and the faint smell of sewerage coming from a drain in the floor. Thankfully, the view was stunning:
We decided to get out of the Tharn Thong as soon as possible, reasoning that if wejust used it for sleep, it might not be too much of a problem. We walked about half a mile to the edge of the Kwan Phayao, a large swamp/lake, the reason for our visit. We were initially underwhelmed, but as the sun began to set we saw the real beauty of the town’s one saving grace.
Unfortunately the tourist map didn’t have great dinner suggestions:
After the sun had set, we took a boat over to the site of the Wat Tilok Aram, a temple that was submerged beneath the lake.
After seeing the temple site, there was nothing left to do, so we filled time in the classic small-town way.
After a few drinks, we headed back to the hotel. We quickly got ready for bed and settled down to sleep on the papier-mache mattress. We couldn’t sleep, and the mosquito net we had put up to discourage any insects from coming for a cuddle came down in the middle of the night. By the early hours of the morning, the eggy sewerage smell coming from the bathroom intensified to the point that at 5.30am we decided to get out before choking to death. We quickly packed up and headed out of the hotel and towards the lake to watch the sunrise.
With the sun in the sky, we headed to the station and got the first bus out of Phayao.
Tharn Thong: 2/10 – two points awarded for the (apparent) absence of rats
Phayao: 4/10 - four points awarded for the beautiful views across the lake