Apart from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Mae Hong Son, Nan is another tourist destination in the north of Thailand that draws many tourists to come to this charming place. The peaceful and relaxing province is nestled in a lush valley along the border between Thai and Laos providing many natural attractions here.
And for its cultural resources which are very unique resulting in there being many diverse groups living in the area such as the local Thai Yuan, Thai Lue, Thai Puan, Thai Khoen, and Thai Yai. This is why there are so many languages in Nan. In addition, this lovely town has been maintaining its natural and local way of life very well until it becomes one of pleasing spots for anyone who seek some hideaway from busy in the city.
Get to Know some about Nan
Nan’s history, development, and architecture were greatly influenced by various neighboring kingdoms, in particular Sukhothai, which played important political and religious roles in shaping the development of Nan. Over the centuries however, Nan rotated between being an independent principality to under the control of Lan Na, Sukhothai, Burma and Siam in that order.
In 1558, the town was conquered and depopulated by the Burmese. By the late 18th century Nan forged an alliance with the new Bangkok centered Rattakosin Kingdom and existed as a semi-autonomous kingdom with a line of monarchs that ruled from 1786 until 1931. Today, Nan is still the home of numerous Thai Lue and other hill tribes who retain many of their fascinating customs and traditions.
Highlights of Nan
This tranquil and pleasant province of northern Thailand is home of six national parks including the magnificent Doi Phu Kha National Park, which contains mountains nearly 2,000 meters high. The rich natural beauty of Nan makes it an ideal destination for trekking, mountain biking, and river rafting.
For the city town of Nan has a relaxed charm, an interesting history, some impressive temples, and a good museum. There are also a number of good restaurants and bars along the town’s riverfront to plan your adventures into the countryside or relax after sightseeing in the town.
Actually, there are such a lot of things to do in Nan but here are some highlight attractions you should not miss;
1. Doi Phu Kha National Park
Doi Phu Kha National Park spills across the Luang Prabang Range, Nan Province, and northern Thailand. The National Park is a great place to go hiking and exploring in the caves. Doi Phu Kha National Park is home to three rare plant species and natural rock formations. Climb Doi Phu Wae for breathtaking views of the mist rolling in the mountains below.
2. Doi Samer Dao, Si Nan National Park
Many may say ‘the trip to Nan will not be complete without visit Doi Samer Dao’. This stunning mountain is nestled in Si Nan National Park where the perfect place to watch the sunrise and sunset including a panoramic fascinating view of misty sea in the morning or lie down on the grassy bed to see the starry night. So-called best time to visit this natural charming place is during rainy and winter season from September to February.
3. Sao din Na Noi
Not far from Doi Sa Mer Dao and located within Si Nan National Park as well are the location of a bizarre-form natural object called ‘Soi Din Na Noi”. Sao Din Na Noi or locally called “Hom Jom” was created by erosion of wind and rain. It is similar to Phae Muang Phee in Prae. It is assumed that Sao Din Na Noi was made between 10,000-30,000 years ago and it is an interesting place to see. And it is available to visit for all through the year.
4. Khun Sathan National Park
Another national park where scenes are no less beautiful than the previous one and also situated in Na Noi district is Khun Sathan National Park. The place features a stunning landscape of the range of mountains with the sea of fog rolling around along both side of the road to reach there. The time to visit there is during September – February in particular in rainy season when the most perfect scenery to die for.
5. Phra That Chae Haeng
To visit Nan, it is good thing to make time for temple and sacred places in this province. And one of the renowned sacred place in this city is Phra That Chae Haeng where one of the religio-political places of the town are located. The place is settled on the hilly east side of the Nan river where the former center of old city of Nan is located.
The temple houses many flawless and graceful pieces of art and architectures of Nan craftsmen. Furthermore, this is a stupa for one who was born in the rabbit year according to the zodiac system. Lan Na people believes that to pay respect for the Buddha relic enshrined within the stupa will give them life virtue and prosperity.
6. Wat Phumin (Phumin Temple)
One of the signatures of the province of Nan is Wat Phumin. The aesthetic temple located in Nai Wieng sub-district next to Wat Khuang Muaeng Nan. The significant characteristic of this temple is this is the only temple in Thailand that is built in cruciform shape so it looks like it is located upon the 2 giant nagas. The building is as both Ubosot (communing hall) and Vihara (sanctuary) where it houses four Buddha images facing to 4 directions of the gates. And the most famous spot of this temple is mural painting of Grandpa Man and Grandma man or the Whispering of the lover.
7. Bo Kluea or Salt Rock Village
A small village within 80 kilometers distance from Nan city, where is a place of traditional manufacturing of salt rock. The road to reach this village features nice and charming view of lush forest, running streams and tranquil ambience. The place has its reputation as a salt rock plant on the mountain that is very significant. This salt pit has been here since ancient time where manufactured and distributed to Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Tung, Luang Phra Bang included Xishuangbanna in southern of China.
The visitors can enjoy to see the manufacturing process of salt rock here and also can shop an array of product from salt rock, including salt rock boiled egg, table salt rock, spa salt and flower of rock. However, the visitors should avoid to visit this place during Buddhist Lent Period because the salt pit is closed according to their tradition.
8. The House of Chao Fongkham
Another traditional architectural attraction to sight in Nan is the House of Chao Fongkham or known as ‘the Noble House’ for foreigner. This is a large, rambling teak house in classic northern Thai style set in a beautiful garden. Chao Fongkham was a descendant of Chao Anantaworarithidej, the 62nd Lord of Nan and the father of the last two lords. Besides its valuable in architectural purpose this is also a learning center of traditional local weaving and textile, too.
9. Wat Ming Mueang
Among many beautiful temples in Nan, Wat Ming Muaeng is one of the most famous and very unique. In addition, this is a place to enshrine the city pillar of Nan that anybody who visit this province must not miss to pay respect here for luck. The pillar is enshrined inside the cruciform attire in front of the Ubosot and allowed to access for worship from all 4 directions. And then enter to the ubosot to pay respect to the Buddha image and witness the mural painting. Further, there is also white fresco that is very aesthetic and delicate.
10. Wat Phra That Khao Noi
The temple is situated on the top of Khao Noi mountain in west of Nan. The pagoda is a brick mortar structure in blended design of Lanna and Burmese. There is the Buddha relic enshrined inside the stupa. At the playground, there is a big free-standing Buddha names “Phra Buddha Maha Uttama Mongkol Nanta Buri Si Muaeng Nan”. From this spot, you can overlook 360 degrees scene of Nan with the mountain range as the background.
11. Nan Riverside Art Gallery
Touch the air of slow life by experiencing the pieces of work by Lan Na artists at this rustic gallery. Nan Riverside Art Gallery is located on the bank of the Nan River. The gallery was founded by Winai Prabripoo, a famous Thai artist and functions as an important hub for art and culture for Nan province. Spend a few hours marveling at the exhibitions or relax and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
12. Nan Walking Street
The Walking Street of Nan is located on Pha Kong Road near to Wat Phu Min and Khang Muaeng Nan. It is opened every Saturday and Sunday from 5.00pm upwards. The walking street here is not quite long, however there is a numerous of interesting shops all along both sides of the street which mostly are northern traditional gifts and souvenirs shop, handicrafts, and food vendors.
13. Nan National Museum
The Nan National Museum is established on the opposite of Wat Phu Min. It was a residence of the feudal lord of Nan in the past called “Hor Kham” or the gild house. The hall displays many historical and archeological finds including ethnological exhibits dealing with the various ethnic groups round in the province, including the northern Thais, Thai Lue, Htin, Khamu, Mabri, Hmong, and Mien.
And the most notable thing housed here is a ‘Black Tusk’, a rare black (in fact reddish-brown) elephant tusk that is a religio-political of this city. Held aloft by a wooden Garuda (mythical bird) sculpture, the tusk measures 97 cm long and 47 cm in circumference. Apart from that, Frangipani Arch is another popular spot of the museum that any visitors must not miss to capture some pictures there.
This is an ideal place for one who seek for slow life. “Pua” is a quiet and tranquil countryside out of the city town of Nan. It features a rustic and rural atmosphere with a charming abundant rice farming lands surrounded by the mountain range in particular in rainy season when abloom and verdant rice field bedding for the sprinkle of rain. It is very relaxing and refreshing to chill out and absorb the moment for the whole day.
The district of Pua is highly natural characteristic, beautiful landscape, fresh air, friendly people, plentiful of attractions. Nonetheless, many may think the best period to visit Pua is winter but, in fact it is rainy season when rice planting during September to October. At that time, we can see the endless rice farm with some rain drop and fresh cool breeze.
In addition, Pua is also the topmost spot for homestay in Thailand. The tourists can linger and chill with the atmosphere while staying with the local people to learn about their lifestyle day by day. The place to stay in Pua is plentiful and the most popular ones are Homestay Ta Nong, Tub Na Homestay, Ban Hua Nam Homestay, Ton Lang Homestay, etc.
Sapan or Ban Sapan is located in Bo Kluer district, about 9 kilometers from the Rock Salt. This is a small village nestled in the natural mountain range with running stream. And a lovely view of rice farming during the rainy season is a plus for this place. Lots of visitors who make a trip to the Rock Salt will stay a night at Sapan village especially ‘Oun I mang’ where is the favorite accommodation in the charming community. For any interested to visit here can come all year round, however the most beautiful time is from September to end of October.
16. Pid Thong Lang Phra, the Royal Initiated Project.
A staircase-farming of Pid Thong Lang Phra by the Royal Initaied Project is located in Chalearm Phrakiat district, Nan. It is the project followed to the HM king Rama 9 initiation in order to decrease farming by invading the forest to stepped farming with a new technology and selected rice breed. Besides, the place has also become a tourist attraction that cover the area of many villages from Ban Sa Juk, Sa Kiang, Ban Buak Oom and Ban Piang So.
Along the way up to the project site, we will witness the nice landscape of rice stepped farming ordering on the hill of mountains together with some crop plants – maize surrounded by towering mountain range and lush forest. The season to travel here is same as other spots of rural Nan which is rainy season between September to October when features the green farming scene whereas to travel during end of October to November the rice farm will turn to be golden yellow all around the mountains.
Taste of Nan
A trip to Nan will not be completed if you miss to try the local food here that there are an array of food and dessert for any traveler to taste.
1. Heun Hom Restaurant
A good place for one who look for the traditional northern style food with good taste, homeliness atmosphere and not too expensive. The restaurant is situated in the center of Nan city town, in front of the Wat Ming Muaeng. its recommended menus are Northern Style Rice noodle set served with various side dishes vegetables and dressings, Nam Prik Noom (Northern Chili Dipping) served with pork crackling, northern sausage and steamed vegetables, Kare curry (mixed vegetables and meat curry with Northern Spices), Hunglei curry (Northern spicy stew), Khao Soi (northern curried noodles) for instance.
2. Kanom Wan Pa Nim or Aunt Nim Thai dessert
If one misses this shop it seems like you haven’t arrived Nan, yet. A specialty menu here is ‘Dumpling in Coconut milk with sweet egg’ or Bua Loi kai Wan that is a very popular one and limited time to sell since it is available only at 6.00pm until sold out! And in regularly, there are a vast number of dessert menus served to the customers are Black sticky rice porridge with coconut cream, Mung bean porridge with coconut cream, Lot Chong or pandan rice pudding in coconut milk, etc.
And a must-not-miss item is ‘Frozen egg ice-cream’ that is served together with other Thai dessert – Sa Rim or chilled sweet vermicelli in coconut milk, Preserved pumpkin in syrup, Black sticky rice porridge that are good to refreshing in the hot weather.
The shop is located at Ban Mong Kol Nimitr near the gangway to Nan Stadium. The opening time is 11.00am – 10.30pm and closed every Wednesday.
3. Cafe’ Soodgongdee
It is located in Nan city town. This unique café nestled in the balcony upon the tree with a verdant of trees and plants. The place provides coffee, bakery, bar & bistro style restaurant. In the day time, it serves drinks and various of delicious bakeries until dusk. In the evening, it turns to be bar & bistro for anyone can come to hang out or dine.
Besides what we mentioned above there are still lots more places and restaurants for the visitors to experience in Nan. So, this is another attractive destination for your next trip.