Off the Beaten Path: Nan, Thailand
The little-known town of Nan stands on the western side of the Nan River. Rooted deep in the history of Thailand, for centuries Nan was a separate, autonomous kingdom with very few relationships with the rest of the world.
At the end of the 14th century Nan was one of the nine northern Thai-Lao principalities that comprised Lan Na Thai (modern day Lanna) Nan flourished throughout the 15th century under the name Chiang Klang (meaning Middle City), a reference to its position roughly midway between Chiang Mai (New City) and Chiang Thong (Golden City) which today is called Luang Prabang.
At one point in its history, the city was completely deserted after the Burmese took control of the kingdom in 1558 and deported its people to Burma as slaves. The local dynasty in Nan regained sovereignty after western Thailand was retaken from the Burmese in 1786. Nan then remained semiautonomous until 1931 when they finally agreed to full Bangkok dominion.
Today in Nan, visitors can see parts of the old city wall and several early temples dating from the Lanna period. Some temple structures show Lanna influence, while others belong to the Tai Lüe culture, which originated in China.
Available by short domestic flight, Nan is approximately 400 miles from Bangkok. Although the city spreads out for about 2.5 miles between the airport to the north and the bus station to the south, its historical and commercial center, containing the city’s main monuments and shops, is more compact.
In the town, three bridges connect the right bank to the left bank of the river Nan: the southernmost, the Sriboonruang Bridge; the middle one, the Pattana Paknue Bridge, under which you may often find boat racing competitions; and the northernmost, the Nakorn Nan Pattana Bridge which was seriously damaged during the 2006 floods.
Numerous cultures flourish in this quiet ancient town surrounded by majestic mountains. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Nan’s old town, villages, rice paddies and the unique local culture of Tai Lue. And after taking all this in, you should definitely venture into nature and the local villages.
Activities to Consider
Just soak in the quiet charm and authentic culture of this village. In Nan Old Town you’ll find a stunning white temple, and a glorious golden temple. A visit to the Wat Phumin which houses Nan’s signature’s painting called “The Whisper of Love” is a fantastic window into Nan culture.
A little further from the old town area are Nan’s most revered temple and its golden pagoda, Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, and the hilltop temple with the Blessing Buddha overlooking the city, Wat Phra That Khao Noi. If you find that you’ve been overindulging in the exceptional Thai cuisine, you may want to climb the 303 steps to the top to burn a few calories and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the area.
The plumeria trees that comprise the Frangipani tunnel make a breathtaking entrance to the Nan National Museum which houses artifacts related to the city and various collections of ethnic groups from the Northern Thailand area including tribal costumes and silverworks.
Visit the beautiful green mountains in Doi Phu Kha National Park or marvel at the gorgeous pink flower trees called Chomphu Phu Kha if you visit in February. Hike and explore the park to find rare plant species, caves and natural rock formations. Brave a climb to the top of Doi Phu Wae where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the mist rolling in the mountains below.
Visit Bo Kluea the tiny village that is home to the world’s only mountain salt wells. Here you can watch the locals extract rock salt much the same way they did in centuries past.
The Pua District is one of the most tranquil areas of Nan. Experience authentic rural life amid rice fields and simple homes, and experience the Tai Lue culture. Visit the local temple, Wat Phuket. Chill in the middle of rice fields at Ban Tai Lue Café and buy Tai Lue traditional textile products.
While this quaint town is off the beaten path, it is certainly worth the detour.
Contact your Enlighten Excursions Travel Consultant to start planning your adventure today!