Heading east out of Lampang on your way to the small city of PHRAE, you’ll pass through the tobacco-rich Yom valley, dotted with distinctive brick curing-houses. Phrae province is famous for woodcarving and the quality of its seua maw hawm, the deep-blue, collarless working shirt seen all over Thailand (produced in the village of Ban Thung Hong, 4km north of Phrae on Highway 101). The main reason to stop here, however, is to explore Phrae’s old town, with its peaceful lanes filled with temples and traditional teak houses – as in Lampang, the former logging industry attracted Burmese workers and the influence is evident – and to enjoy the old-fashioned and friendly nature of a place still virtually untouched by tourism.
Sited on the southeast bank of the Yom River, Phrae is clearly divided into old and new towns; an earthen wall surrounds the roughly oval-shaped old town, with a moat on its southeastern side and the new town centre beyond that. At the centre of the old town, a large roundabout is the main orientation point; running northwest–southeast through the roundabout, through Pratuchai (the main gate on the southeastern side of the old town), and into the new town is Thanon Charoen Muang, where several shops sell the trademark deep-indigo shirts. The main street in the new town, Thanon Yantarakitkoson, intersects Thanon Charoen Muang about 300m southeast of the old town.