In a nutshell
Dan Sai is a small and quiet town of less than ten thousand people located in the western part of Loei province, 85 km away from the province capital and 500 km north of Bangkok.
Why go to Dan Sai
For almost all the year Dan Sai has nothing or very little to offer to western tourists which in fact are almost completely unseen other than during three days in June or July when one of the most interesting, spectacular, colorful and entertaining festival takes place. Phi Ta Khon is when sacred and profane melt together, where the deep coexistence of animism and Buddhism in Thai culture is shown at his best, when spirits are invoked and invited to join us, where men wearing scary masks and frightening costumes representing ghosts walk in parade around town chanting and dancing, and at the end of everything when villagers gather together at the temple to meditate about Buddha’s teaching and to get a step closer to Nirvana. As any festival in Thailand you can expect a lot of food, dancing and fun.
During the rest of the year Dan Sai is a tranquil little village set in a beautiful natural scenery surrounded by farms, mountains and hills with a couple of beautiful temple to visit and an extraordinary museum focusing on Phi Ta Khon which will make you appreciate and understand the festival even if you’re not so lucky to visit Dan Sai in the right time of the year.
When to go to Dan Sai
There’s no way to know well in advance when the next Phi Ta Khon will happen since the exact date is not linked to any calendar but it is decided few months before by one of the most respected person in Dan Sai. In 2018 it will be held on June 16-18.
If you’re planning a visit at any other time, the best time is during the cold and dry season between November and March. Keep in mind that Loei is one of the coldest provinces in Thailand and especially if you’re going to visit one of the natural parks don’t forget to put some warm clothes in your bag.
Where to stay in Dan Sai
Even if the options in town and nearby are not a lot, Dan Sai offers enough solutions to suit every taste and budget if you’re not visiting during the festival. People coming for Phi Ta Khon instead should keep in mind that a lot of the rooms will be booked months in advance and it’s almost impossible to find a place to sleep if you show up without reservation. This is also true for many of the resorts and guesthouses located in the whole province and even if you’re planning to hit the festival as a day trip from Loei.
Where and what to eat in Dan Sai
All around town local restaurants offering traditional Thai and regional Isaan food are easy to find. Lab moo (minced pork salad), coconut chicken curry, grilled chicken are available everywhere; make sure to accompany them with one of the many variations of som tam (papaya salad) and a portion of sticky rice. A market opened all day in the north part of town is the best place to buy fresh fruit, vegetables and some snacks and desserts ready to eat. When the sun goes down street vendors will offer you the usual noodle soups, chicken skewers along with the more tasty Isaan sausages. Prices are cheap everywhere; expect to pay THB30/THB50 for the majority of the dishes. Unfortunately English is not commonly spoken and most of time you’ll have to use your imagination to communicate with the vendors.
If visiting during Phi Ta Khon, food will be the least of your problem and after three days you’ll be leaving having experienced the most traditional and delicious country food without any need of our recommendations.
Getting around in Dan Sai
Dan Sai is a small town and walking around is the best option that you have. The two main roads running parallel from South to North mark the limits of the town and they’re 500 mt apart. Everything you might want to visit is in the middle. Tuk tuk are available to take you back and forth to your hotel if it’s not at walking distance.
Getting to and from Dan Sai
Getting to Dan Sai is not straightforward since there are not direct connections to/from Bangkok. The only bus running through Dan Sai is the one travelling between Loei and Phitsanulok both of which are connected to the capital by bus and plane. A ticket will cost you THB50 for both directions and buses are frequent throughout the day. Dan Sai doesn’t have a bus station but just a small bus stop on route 2013 in the south part of town.
Some buses running up north to Chiang Mai and east to Udon Thani stop every day in town. If interested we would suggest you to ask detailed information to your guesthouse.
Near the market few minivans depart frequently every day to Loei. Tickets are THB70 and they’re quicker (but less comfortable) than a regular bus.
Many resorts will offer you a taxi service to any of the closest airports if you need it; be ready to show your bargain skills since the initial price will be way too expensive; for a taxi to Loei refuse to pay more than THB1500.
When leaving Dan Sai, transfer to Udon Thani or Phitsanulok to have connections to almost any part of Thailand you want to visit.
Safe travel in Dan Sai
Dan Sai is an extremely quiet village with no dangers for tourists other than not being understood and having trouble to order food. During Phi Ta Khon just use your common sense at any time (especially at night when alcohol will play a big role in the festival) and you’ll have no problem.