The 120-square-kilometre PHU REUA NATIONAL PARK, 50km west of Loei, gets the name “Boat Mountain” from its resemblance to an upturned sampan, with the sharp ridge of its hull running southeast to northwest. The highest point of the ridge, Yod Phu Reua (1365m), offers one of the most spectacular panoramas in Thailand: the land drops away sharply on the Laos side, allowing views over toy-town villages and the Heuang and Mekong rivers to countless green-ridged mountains spreading towards Louang Phabang. To the northwest rises Phu Soai Dao (2102m) on Laos’ western border; to the south are the Phetchabun mountains.
In the park itself, a day’s worth of well-marked trails fans out over the mountain’s meadows and pine and broad-leaved evergreen forests, taking in gardens of strange rock formations, orchids that flower year-round, the best sunrise viewpoint, Loan Noi, and, during and just after the rainy season, several waterfalls. The most spectacular viewpoint, Yod Phu Reua (Phu Reua Peak), is an easy 1km stroll from the top of the summit road. The park’s population of barking deer, wild pigs and pheasants has declined over recent years, but you may be lucky enough to spot one of 26 bird species, which include the crested serpent-eagle, green-billed malkoha, greater coucal, Asian fairy-bluebird, rufescent prinia and white-rumped munia, as well as several species of babbler, barbet, bulbul and drongo.
Warm clothes are essential on cool-season nights – the lowest temperature in Thailand (-4°C) was recorded here in 1981 – and even by day the mountain is usually cool and breezy.