This quiet provincial capital, spectacularly sited beside a large lake, was possibly first settled in the Bronze Age. Later abandoned, it was resettled in the 12th century, when it became an independent city state. Today, Phayao is divided into two parts. The older district is confined to the promontory jutting into the lake. With its narrow streets and teak houses, it is more pleasant than the newer part
Wat Si Komkam, situated just north of town by the lake, dates from the 12th century. Its modern wihan houses a 16th-century, 52-ft (16-m) Buddha image, which is thought to be the largest in the whole of Northern Thailand. The wihan is surrounded by 38 heads of the Buddha in the Phayao style – distinguished by their rounded heads and pointed noses – dating from the 14th century.