Sukhothai period

Phitsanulok Province

Phitsanulok (พิษณุโลก) is one of the provinces (changwat) of Thailand, located in the North of Thailand. Neighboring provinces are (from east clockwise) Loei, Phetchabun, Phichit, Kamphaeng Phet, Sukhothai, Uttaradit. In the north-east it also has a short border with Xaignabouli of Laos.


The first element Phitsanu (Thai: พิษณุ) is a cognate of Vishnu, a Hindu god (see, e.g. Witnu, Thai: วิษณุ). Lack of a v sound in the Thai language accounts for the two forms. The second element lok (Thai: โลก) means globe or world. A loose translation of the entire name would be Vishnu's Heaven.



Most of Phitsanulok has a hot tropical climate with considerable annual rainfall (annual rainfall is approximately 1.8 meters). In the higher altitude regions of the province, however, the climate is cool, with temperatures peaking at around 25° Celsius, sometimes dropping below the freezing point. With regard to rainfall, there is a dry season and a rainy season. The rainy season begins in the spring and ends around November. Deforestation and urban development along the river banks, combined with the extensive amount of rainfall in the region, have led to some climate change issues, primarily manifested in recent severe flooding within the province and elsewhere downstream of the Nan River.


Phitsanulok is home to a plethora of animal and plant species, including a number of endangered species, vulnerable species and near threatened species. Indigenous animal species include a variety of mammals (including endangered tigers and the vulnerable asiatic black bear), crabs, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and over 190 species of birds. Indigenous plantlife include numerous species of flowering plants including the endangered phayom, Hopea ferrea and Dalbergia oliveri, the vulnerable Hopea odorata and Sumatran Pine, and a variety of conifers and clubmosses. Near threatened birds include the Siamese fireback and Oriental darter. The Siamese fireback has been nominated to be the national bird of Thailand. Wildlife conservation is just beginning to be realized in the province. Plans for sustainable development are being implemented, and over the last 30 years, more and more land has been set aside as protected areas. The protected areas in Phitsanulok include the province's four national parks.


Topographical features within the Phitsanulok Province include the Phetchabun Mountains, the Nan River and several of its tributaries, waterfalls, rapids, swamps, forests, grasslands, caves, a reservoir and an extensive network of canals. Populated areas of the province are largely cleared of natural vegetation and adapted for farming. The land within the province is situated in the Greater Nan Basin, which is part of the Chao Phraya Watershed. The province includes land within both of the Greater Nan Basin's sub-basins, i.e. the Nan Basin and Yom Basin. The provincial capital of Phitsanulok is sometimes called Song Kwae, the city of two rivers, an ancient name dating to a time centuries ago when the Nan and Khwae Noi rivers met near the city. These two rivers of the Phitsanulok Province are still of major significance to the residents of the region.


Much of the province is supported by a sedimentary basin known as the Phitsanulok Basin. The basin is bounded to the west by the boundary fault, to the east by the Phetchabun fault, to the north by the Uttaradit fault and to the south by the Mae Ping fault. Its total land area is approximately 6,000 square kilometers. The basin is composed of gravel, claystone, sandstone and siltstone. The Lan Krabu, Chum Saeng, Yom and Ping Formations are hydrocarbon reservoirs in the basin containing coal. Thai-Shell and PTT-EP have carried out exploration of this basin for purposes of locating oil reserves. The Phitsanulok Basin is a basin of the Indo-Chinese Plate, which is a geological division of the Eurasian Plate.


The lands situated in the present-day Phitsanulok Province were inhabited since the stone age, although the neolithic inhabitants of the region are not likely to have been the ancestors of the modern Thai people who reside there today. The earliest historical records relating to what is now Phitsanulok Province indicates that at a time prior to or during the 11th century, the present-day city of Phitsanulok was but a small strategic Khmer outpost known as Song Khwae. During the next century, in 1188, Nakhon Thai, located near the center of the present Phitsanulok Province, was established as the capital city of the Singhanavati Kingdom, an early city-state of Thailand. Later, during Thailand's Sukhothai Period, the city of Phitsanulok emerged as a major city in the east of the Sukhothai Kingdom, and the great temples of Wat Chula Manee, Wat Aranyik and Wat Chedi Yod Thong were constructed. In 1357, the renowned Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat was erected, and the Ayutthaya Period witnessed the construction of several of the province's other chief temples. Phitsanulok served for 25 years as the capital city of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. In 1555, King Naresuan the Great was born in the city of Phitsanulok. Naresuan played a significant role in the history of Thailand, as he expanded the kingdom (then called Siam) to its greatest territorial extent, by conquering sizable portions of modern day Burma and Cambodia. In recent times, Phitsanulok Province has become an important agricultural center, part of the Bread Basket of Thailand, providing rice and other crops to consumers in Thailand and throughout the world. Extensive agricultural development over the last hundred years or so has spawned a modern infrastructure in the urban areas of the province, bringing with it an array of modern roads, universities, hospitals and other conveniences. Over the years, the Nan River and its tributaries have played a substantial role in the history and development of the region by providing a route for transportation, fertile soil for agriculture, and water for irrigation. The river waters have also served as a route for enemy invaders, and have been the source of periodic widespread flooding throughout the province.

Public Administration


The chief executive office of the province is the governor. Sombun Siphatthanawat has held the position since October, 2007. Recent Phitsanulok governors prior to Mr. Siphatthanawat include Phiphat Wongsarot (Thai: พิพัฒน์ วงศาโรจน์, 2003-2007) and Wichan Chaiyanan before him.

Administrative divisions

The province is subdivided in 9 districts (Amphoe). These are further subdivided into 93 communes (tambon) and 993 muban, which are administrative divisions at the village level. (There are a greater number of muban than actual villages in the province, because larger villages often occupy more than one muban.)

  1. Mueang Phitsanulok
  2. Nakhon Thai
  3. Chat Trakan
  4. Bang Rakam
  5. Bang Krathum

  1. Phrom Phiram
  2. Wat Bot
  3. Wang Thong
  4. Noen Maprang

Official Provincial Symbols

The seal of the province shows the Buddha Chinnarat, which is considered one of the most beautiful Buddha figures in Thailand. It is located in Wat Mahathat temple in the city Phitsanulok. The provincial flower is the Yellow Flamboyant (Peltophorum pterocarpum), and the provincial tree is the Millingtonia hortensis.

The provincial motto roughly translates to English as follows: "The marvelous Buddha Chinnarat, the birthplace of King Naresuan the Great , houseboats on the two banks of the Nan, delicious dried bananas, enchanting caves and waterfalls" (พระพุทธชินราชงามเลิศ ถิ่นกำเนิดพระนเรศวร สองฝั่งน่านล้วนเรือนแพ หวานฉ่ำแท้กล้วยตาก ถ้ำและน้ำตกหลากตระการตา)

Channels of Public Communication

The main channels for public communication within the province are television and radio. Internet use is emerging in Phitsanulok, but most rural areas do not have access, other than via post office kiosks. The following public television and radio stations are received throughout the province:

  • Radio Thailand Phitsanulok (AM 1026/FM 94.25)
  • PRD-11 (television channel 7, owned and operated by the Government Public Relations Department)
  • ARMY-5 (television channel 11, owned and operated by the Royal Thai Army)


Ethnic Diversity

In addition to the vast majority Thai ethnicity, Phitsanulok has small populations of residents who are of Mon, Chinese, Lao Song, and other minority ethnicities. The contributions of these diverse ethnic groups have influenced the culture in the region.


The vast majority of residents of Phitsanulok Province speak Central Thai. Minority populations speak Sino-Tibetan and Lao. Some residents speak English as a second language.


The people of Phitsanulok are predominantly Theravada Buddhists (as are 95% of the Thai population as a whole), although some minority religions are practiced.



The economy of Phitsanulok Province is driven by agriculture, commercial fishery, mineral resources, industry and tourism. Rice production is the central component of the agricultural sector. The province's rich black soil, intricate canal systems and abundant rainfall provide an ideal environment for growing rice.

Educational Institutions

Naresuan University (abbreviated as Mor Nor for Mahawithayalai Naresuan) is an educational center of the Lower Northern region of Thailand. Located in Tambon Tha Pho, near the city of Phitsanulok, the university is named after King Naresuan the Great, and the campus contains a large statue of him. Other universities and colleges include Phitsanulok College (a private college), Sirindhorn College of Public Health, Rajabhat Pibulsongkram University and the Phitsanulok campus of the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna. There are also a number of kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools and vocational schools in the province.


There are at least seven hospitals in the province, including Naresuan University Hospital.


The largest urban area in the province is the city of Phitsanulok, situated on the Nan River. There are also approximately four hundred villages in the province.


Busses and trains provide public transportation within the province and connect the province with the rest of Thailand. There is also Phitsanulok Airport in the city of Phitsanulok. Other popular modes of transportation include motorcycle, bicycle and tuk tuk. In modern times, boats are primarily used for recreation, rather than transportation throughout the province, although much of the Nan River is navigable. Roads in Phitsanulok are generally not what westerners would consider highways, although roads between major commercial areas are reasonably well cared for and suitable for personal and commercial transportation. The majority of rural roads are dirt roads, some of which become impassible when flash flooding occurs. Major roads through the province include:

  • Highway No. 11 (Ta Khli - Phitsanulok - Lampang - Chiang Mai)
  • Highway No. 12 (Tak - Phitsanulok - Lom Sak - Khon Kaen)
  • Highway No. 117 (Phitsanulok - Nakhon Sawan).



City Pillar Shrine (เสาหลักเมืองพิษณุโลก) Designed by the Fine Arts Department, the Prang-shaped building houses the city pillar, which is made of different kinds of sacred wood in its various parts and has gone through a religious ceremony at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

King Naresuan the Great’s Shrine (ศาลสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช) The ancient-style three-portico pavilion designed by the Fine Arts Department houses a life-size statue of the king in a sitting posture, declaring independence from Burma.

Town Wall and Moat (กำแพงเมืองคูเมือง) It was built during the reign of King Borommatrailokkanat of Ayutthaya to prevent the attack of Lanna troops. Today's, remains of the old wall can be seen at Wat Phothiyan, Wat Noi, the Police Station, and the moat along the Phra Ruang Road.

ThaiBird Garden (สวนนกไทยศึกษา) It is a bird conservation centre that displays endangered as well as extinct birds of Thailand, and birds mentioned in Thai literature; namely, oriole, barbet, common koel, green magpie, blue magpie, etc.

Textile Museum and Life Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์ผ้า และพิพิธภัณฑ์ชีวิต) displays textiles and garments from different sources domestically and internationally. Nearby is a Life Museum that displays the Thai way of cotton weaving, from cotton growing to high-class techniques in weaving.

Wat Ratchakhiri Hiranyaram (วัดราชคีรีหิรัญยาราม) The hilltop temple houses two Buddha’s footprints, one is a replica and the other is on the face of a western cliff. The temple also houses a thousand-handed Guan Yin statue, three tons in weight, from Hangzhou, China, which was carved out of white jade and sent here in 1992.

Namtok Wang Nok Aen or Sakunothayan Arboretum (น้ำตกวังนกแอ่น หรือ สวนรุกขชาติสกุโณทยาน) Situated in the arboretum at Kilometre 33 of Highway 12 (Phitsanulok – Lom Sak Road), the small fall is surrounded with different kinds of plants.

Namtok Kaeng Sopha (น้ำตกแก่งโสภา) The large waterfall, 40 metres high, is situated in the embrace of shady vegetation. A stream runs over large rock terraces, through the three-tiered fall which always turns fierce during the rainy season.

Tham Duean Tham Dao (ถ้ำเดือน-ถ้ำดาว) Situated in the western territory of Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, the cave has a subterranean river running through it.

Tham Pha Tha Phon Non-hunting Area (เขตห้ามล่าสัตว์ป่าถ้ำผาท่าพล) The sanctuary features rugged and towering crescent-shape limestone mountains which comprise fossils of shells and corals from the Carboniferous Period of the Palaeocene Era some 360 – 286 million years ago. There are many caves; namely,

Tham Naresuan (ถ้ำนเรศวร) A stalactite that looks like a hat of King Naresuan the Great has earned the name of this cave.

Tham Ruea (ถ้ำเรือ) Many floods have eroded the cave walls, leaving the ceiling in the shape of an upside-down boat.

Tham Pha Daeng (ถ้ำผาแดง) The cave is named after the red cliff (Pha Daeng) over its entrance. Nowadays, the cave is home to insect-eating bats; namely, wrinkled-lipped bat and black-bearded tomb bat.

Tham Lot (ถ้ำลอด) The tunnel with a subterranean river running through it allows to access a Buddhist temple on the other side. There are various attractions situated in the area such as fossils of marine life from 360 million years ago such as coral, brachiopod including lamp shells, sea lilies, and seaweed.

Khao Noi - Khao Pradu Non-hunting Area (เขตห้ามล่าสัตว์ป่าเขาน้อย – เขาประดู่) It contains various ecosystems such as dry evergreen forest, mixed deciduous forest, deciduous dipterocarp forest and savanna. The forest is home to a species of endemic crab called “Pu Paeng or Pu Song Khwae” which is often found during the rainy season.

Phu Soi Dao National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติภูสอยดาว) Bordering Thailand and Lao PDR with rugged mountains, the park has Phu Soi Dao as the highest peak towering at 2,102 metres. Its attractions include coniferous forest, a flower field, viewpoint cliff, Namtok Sai Thip and Namtok Phu Soi Dao.

Other Major Attractions

National Parks Four national parks are located in the province:

Historic Temples

Other Attractions

Local Products

Bang Krathum Sun-dried Banana (กล้วยตากบางกระทุ่ม) The soft and sweet sun-dried banana is famed for its delicious taste.

Supatra Preserved Pork (แหนมและหมูยอสุพัตรา) The hygienic pork is a famous product by a local family business.

Mi Sua (หมี่ซั่ว) The white noodle from Phitsanulok is famed for its softness. Bang Rakam Fish Sauce (น้ำปลาบางระกำ) Amphoe Bang Rakam has long been famous for its fish sauce made from mud carp from the Yom River. Although it is not as tasty as fish sauce from sea fish, it is quite hygienic.

Na Chan Broom (ไม้กวาดนาจาน) People from the poor region in Amphoe Chat Trakan earn extra income from broom making.

Bang Kaeo Dog (สุนัขพันธุ์บางแก้ว) The unique breed has originated from Ban Bang Kaeo, Amphoe Bang Rakam. It is said that the abbot of Wat Bang Kaeo kept a number of dogs, which mated with a wolf. This breed is famous for its calmness, high royalty but quite fierce.

Naresuan Fighting Cock (ไก่ชนพระนเรศวร หรือ ไก่เจ้าเลี้ยง) The white-tailed fighting cock is famous for its endurance in fighting. It is believed that King Naresuan the Great used a white-tailed cock in a cock fighting game with King Ubaraja of Burma.


Much of the culture in the region centers around the Theravada Buddhist traditions of its residents and their agricultural, riparian lifestyle. Residents celebrate their culture and heritage in various festivals throughout the year.

Theravada Buddhism

Most residents are active followers of the Theravada Buddhist religion. Buddhism is practiced at the many temples or wat located throughout the province, and Buddhist monks attend weddings, funerals and other life events. It is customary for young men to become monks for a period of time as a religious rite of passage. The ceremony of ordination into monkshood is analogous to confirmation in Christianity or Bar Mitzvah in Judaism. Ancestor respect is a major component to the religious practices in the province. Many homes have shrines to deceased ancestors, at which food and drink are regularly left as offerings. Celebrations and commemorations of death anniversaries for family members are common practice.


Phitsanulok is home to a number of historic sculptures of the Buddha and other religious artwork including the Buddha Chinnarat, the Buddha Chin Sri, the Phra Sri Satsada and Rat Nom Ha Tat Maha Wihan.


Examples of important literary works of Phitsanulok include:

  • ลิลิตยวนพ่าย
  • ลิลิตพระลอ
  • โคลงทวาทศมาส
  • กำศรวลศรีปราชญ์

The predominant literary language of the region (as well as the predominant spoken language) is the Central Thai dialect of the Thai language, which is written in the Thai alphabet.


Traditional dance has been passed down from generation to generation in Phitsanulok, and remains an important part of modern Thai culture and the identity of the Thai people as a nation. Thai dance falls under two major categories, classical dance and folk dance. Thai classical dance tells a stories through its motions, along with musical narration. Local folk dance includes theatrical dance forms as well as regional and ritual elements.


Traditional Thai cuisine and local specialties are the standard in both homes and restaurants throughout the province. Much of the local cuisine has developed from the regional rice farming industry and the fish found in the rivers and canals. Some local dishes include recipes involving various insects. Popular local specialties include Bang Krathum sun-dried bananas, and papaya salad (som tam ,ส้มตำ) prepared with local soft-shell crabs which are found in large numbers in the seasonally flooded rice farms. Some meals are prepared with the local Bang Rakam fish sauce.


Dragon boat racing has historically been an important element of the local culture. In recent times, soccer has become increasingly popular. In 2005, Phitsanulok won the 2nd Northern Youth Football Championship (football referring to soccer) in the U12 and U15 age groups. Traditional Thai boxing is also a major sport in the province, and there are several boxing camps within the province.

Festivals and Annual Events

Phitsanulok Food and Souvenir Festival (งานมหกรรมอาหารและสินค้าของที่ระลึกจังหวัดพิษณุโลก) Held in every April and December by Phitsanulok Municipality and TAT at the park by the Nan River, the festivity features food and famous products from the province.

Traditional Long Boat Races (ประเพณีการแข่งเรือยาวชิงถ้วยพระราชทาน) Since ancient times, boat races have been a symbol of Phitsanulok. They are held every September along with various religious rites such as robe-offering ceremony, changing the robe of the famous Buddha image Phra Phutthachinnarat, boat decoration contest, and traditional boat races. The exciting festival is held on the Nan River, in front of Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Woramahawihan.

Nakhon Thai Flag Flying Festival (ประเพณีปักธงนครไทย) The local festival of Amphoe Nakhon Thai is held on the 14th day of the waxing moon of the 12th lunar month. The locals will place the flag on top of Khao Chang Luang to mark the victory of Phokhun Bangklanghao over the Khmer in the Sukhothai Period. Besides the religious ceremony, there is a beautiful flag parade, flag placing race, as well as beauty contest.

Cock Fighting

An interesting aspect of the regional culture is traditional cock fighting. The Bangkok Post describes the royal fighting cock breed as the pride of the northern province of Phitsanulok. Villagers of Ban Krang still practice the traditional game of cock fighting on festive occasions.

Western Influence

Recently, western culture has influenced the regional culture, introducing western style dress (although traditional dress is still worn at certain ceremonies and festivals), and western sports such as soccer. As methods of communication with the western world continue to improve, especially with growing community access to internet technology and mobile phones, the trend is likely to continue.


The architecture throughout the province is diverse. Structures include elaborate and ornate red-roofed temple vihara, rain-drop shaped chedi, houses on piles, house boats, modern multi-story apartment complexes, hotels and office buildings, and European style single-family homes. The most sophisticated and renowned architectural sites are Phitsanulok's historic temples.

Issues of Public Concern

Primary issues of public concern within the province are poverty, health care, access to clean running water, environmental degradation, flooding, education, prostitution, HIV, and substance abuse. The degree to which these issues affect the region vary greatly by district within the province. Measures have been taken to address many of these concerns including the establishment of national parks, heightened enforcement of crimes involving women trafficking and the implementation of the Strategy for Sustainable Development in Phitsanulok (SSDP) and Solid Waste Management Program for Phitsanulok


It is estimated that around 10% of the population in the city of Phitsanulok live below the poverty line, and poverty rates in the rural parts of the province are expected to be higher.

Health Care

Access to health care has declined recently in Phitsanulok, since the recent 2006 coup in Bangkok, after which the new administration repealed Thaksin's 30 baht health care program. Critics of Thaksin's health care program, however, suggest that prior to the coup, the program was diminishing the quality of health care in rural provinces such as Phitsanulok by bankrupting hospitals and causing doctors to resign from the public sector and relocate to Bangkok.


Deforestation and urban development along the river banks in the region, combined with seasonal downpours in the Phetchabun Mountains have led to severe flooding in recent years within the province. The 2007 Phitsanulok Flooding was described by the Bangkok post as the worst floods in 40 years.

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