A quiet and tranquil province, Nan nestles in a verdant valley in northern Thailand. About 668 kilometres from Bangkok, it covers an area of 11,472 square kilometres. The people of Nan descend from the Lan Changs (Laotians). Their forebears moved to settle around present-day Pua district which is rich in rock salt deposits, about 700 years ago, at the time when Sukhothai was in the transition period of becoming the kingdom of the Thais.
They subsequently moved south to the fertile Nan River basin, which is much more extensive. Nan's history is deeply involved with its neighbours, in particular Sukhothai, which played an important role in both political and religious terms before Nan became a part of Lanna, Burma and Thailand in that order. Today Nan is still the home of numerous Thai Lue and other hilltribes who retain highly interesting customs and traditions.
The most important sight in town is Wat Phumin , one of the most beautiful temples in northern Thailand. Built in 1596, it was restored once in the mid-19th century and again in 1991. The temple is notable for its cross-shaped design, elaborate ceiling, carved doors and pillars, and the 4 identical gilded Sukhothai central Buddha images sitting back-to-back facing all 4 directions. But the highlights are the murals with 3 main themes: the life of Buddha, the jataka tale, and scenes depicting everyday life in Nan. Scenes depicting French troops indicate it dates back to mid-1890s.
North of the temple is the Nan National Museum , housed in an impressive former royal palace dating from 1903. The ground floor is dedicated to the ethnic groups (hilltribes) in Nan, and the second floor displays a collection of artifacts relating to the province's history and rare Lanna and Laotian Buddha images. Many of the exhibits have English labels posted.
Nearby, Wat Phra That Chang Kham contains a 14th century chedi resting on sculpted elephant heads. Attractive woodcarvings are featured on the facade of the bot and wiharn , which are protected by formidable mythical singhs (lions).
In the northwestern part of town, Wat Suan Tan features a 40-m chedi capped with a white prang (a rounded, Khmer-style tower), which is rarely seen in northern Thailand. Within the wiharn is the bronze Buddha image of Phra Chao Thong Thip, commissioned by the King of Chiang Mai after he conquered Nan in 1449.
Slightly outside of town is the square compound of the venerable Phra That Chae Haeng, built around 1355. It was moved to its present location 13 years later, though it was originally located at the center of the old town. Set on a hilltop overlooking the Nan Valley, the gilded, 55-m chedi and huge nagas (serpents) flanking the balustrade can be seen from far away. Though the chedi is Lanna-styled, the multi-layered roof of the wiharn is Laotian-style. The motif of naga, the great serpent, is repeated in the plaster designs over the chapel's doorways and on parts of the roof, and is considered to be the best artistic representative of its kind in local architectural styles.
To the north of Nan is Tham Pha Tup Forest Reserve , a limestone cave complex set in a forested area. The 17 plus caves have impressive stalactites and stalagmites, with half of them accessible by marked trails.
South of Nan is another natural Wonder, the Sao Din (Earth Pillars). Erosion created the sculpted clay columns protruding from depressions in the ground, creating an eerie appearance, whose shapes and forms can be interpreted as wildly as the imagination determines.
The picturesque village of Nong Bua is situated on a flat, fertile plain beside the Nan River. Characterized by traditional teak houses on stilts and neat vegetable gardens, it is one of a number of villages in Nan inhabited by the Thai Lue, an ethnic minority related to the Tai people of southern China, who began settlements in the area in 1836. The distinctive, multi-colored traditional Thai Lue fabrics are produced on hand-operated looms, present in nearly every household, for domestic use and for sale. The village is also the site of a two-day festival held every 3 years (1999, 2002, etc) to pay homage to their ancestors.
Built in 1862, Wat Nong Bua is a typical Thai Lue temple featuring a two-tiered Lanna-style roof and a carved wooden arcade. The murals are believed to be the work of the same artists who painted Wat Phumin, featuring an interesting depiction of 19th century life and scenes from the jataka tales.
Because Doi Phu Kha National Park is one of the most recently created parks in Thailand, it is still relatively free of development. Previously, the area was inhabited by hilltribes and suffered Communist infiltration. The park features beautiful scenery with caves and waterfalls, forest walking paths, opportunities for bird-watching, hilltribe villages, particularly those of the Mien and Hmongs, in the surrounding area
Wat Phra That Chae Hang , about 2 kilometres from town on Highway No. 1168, is an ancient religious site of the province. Once the cent re of the old town, it was moved to its present location in about 1368. It features a 55 m etre - high golden C hedi containing a Holy Relic from Sukhothai. Over the Vihan's doorframes and on parts of the roof, are plaster designs in the shape of Naga, the great serpent, which represent the artistic best in local architecture.
The building of the Nan National Museum was actually constructed in 1903 and was once the residence of a ruler of Nan. It displays exhibitions concerning the town's history and major structures, evolution of arts in different ages, and numerous ancient objects, the most eminent of which is the Black Ivory. It also provides anthropological information on the northern indigenous people including the several minorities residing in Nan. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from nine in the morning until four o'clock in the afternoon.
A uniquely designed, and the most interesting temple in Nan is Wat Phumin , which has a 4- portico, single building housing both the Ubos ot and Vihan. Four Buddha statue s with their backs against one another are installed in the main hall facing the four directions. The doors were delicately carved in splendid designs by local Lanna craftsmen.
Wat Phumin underwent a major restoration in 1867, after it was built some 127 years ago. It is believed that the wall murals were commissioned during this time. The wall paintings, in Thai Lu style are considered highly valuable a n d depict legends concerning the Lord Buddha as well as local legends and the local way of life, which include native attires, weaving and commerce with foreign countries.
Wat Phaya Wat is located just before the town on Highway No. 101. An ancient religious site, it has rectangular C hedi bases on which Buddha statues are placed around the Chedi structure. Combined artistic influences of Lanna, Lan Chang and native Nan can be detected.
Opposite the Nan National Museum is Wat Chang Kham Woravihan. Its main features are the sculpted upper halves of elephants adorning the C hedi, a Sukhothai influence. Here have been found stones with ancient Thai scripts, relating the alliance between the kings of Nan and Sukhothai, when Nan was still and independent state. An ancient golden Buddha is enshrined in the Vihan.
Wat Suan Tan , built in 1230, features an old beautifully shaped Chedi, and houses a huge bronze Buddha statue of Phra Chao Thong Thip, cast by a king of Chiang Mai in 1450.
Hom Chom is a natural geological occurrence located about 10 k ilometres from Na Noi district on Highway No. 1083. The site is characteri s ed by a large earthen mould eroded by the elements through the ages, leaving only hard eastern columns, whose exotic shapes and forms can be interpreted as differently as the imagination goes.
Pha Chu, or Pha Cheot Chu , is a cliff located within the Si Nan National Park, which covers extensive forested and mountainous areas. The cliff can be reached by taking the Nan-Wiang Sa - Na Noi route for 135 k ilometres, then taking a turn onto Highway No. 1083 and proceeding on for another 22 k ilometres. The cliff-stop offers an excellent viewing point to enjoy a panoramic vista of the mountains. A national flag-pole has a lanyard running all the way down to the foot of the hill, the longest in the country. There are camping areas for visitors in the park.
Tha Wang Pha
Wat Nong Bua in Nong Bua village of Tha Wang Pha district, was built by Thai Lu craftsmen who had earlier migrated from southern China. Apart from the Vihan, which is adorned with elaborate carvings, the r e are also wall murals painted by Thai Lu artists some one hundred years ago. Their artistic value and degree of perfection equal those at Wat Phumin.
The Thai Lu Village-Ban Nong Bua is about 40 k ilometres to the north of the town on Highway No. 1080, with an additional 3 k ilometres after the left turn into the village in Tha Wang Pha district. The Thai Lu people living at Ban Nong Bua are noted for producing the traditional tribal fabric, an art handed down from generation to generation. They have improved the designs, but still retain the original patterns. The native woven materials have now become a highly popular buy among tourist
To the north of Nan, along Highway No. 1080 in Nong Bua district and with a further distance of 25 k ilometres on the route to Bo Klu e a district, lies the Doi Phu Kha National Park. The terrain is mainly forested lands on limestone mountain ranges, the source of several streams which merge into the Nan River. The elevation is about 1, 900 met re s above sea level. Here are found several rare and near - extinct flora, particularly the Chomphu Phu K ha (bretschneidera ninesis hemsl.), whose pink flowers a re in full bloom during February. In the morning, a sea of mist can be seen drifting across the valley. The r e are also several scenic waterfalls. Permits to camp can be applied for. Alternatively, tourists may choose to utili s e the accommodation services in the park.
Ban Pak Nai , about 22 k ilometres along the road winding over the shoulder of the mountain, some 96 k ilometres from the provincial town, is a fishing village on the bank of the fresh - water lake above the Sirikit Dam in U t t a radit province. Local rafts are turned into restaurants and accommodations for visitors who prefer vacationing amid peaceful natural surrounding. The most famous food is the many kinds of fresh-water fish caught in the lake.
Rafting along the Wa B rook This exciting activity is for tourists who like to shoot many rapids. Rafting, can be followed by elephant-riding. The most suitable time for rafting is from September to February. Visitors can contact travel agencies in the town.
The Traditional Boat Race is held in October or November each year, when the Nan River flows swiftly past the province. It is incorporated in the celebrations of the Black Ivory and the local Kathin ceremony. Boats are dugouts made from large logs ad beautifully decorated. Manned by well-trained oarsmen, the racing boats are lustily cheered on by spectators lining both banks of the river.
Hotels and accommodation
- Amonsi : 97 Mahayot Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5471 0510] : 120-200 baht
- Chan Inn : 15/4 Mahayot Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5471 0757] : 140-300 baht
- Chomphu Phukha Corner Resort : 258 Mu 8 Nan - Thung Chang Road Amphoe Pua [Tel: 0 5479 1160] : 500-700 baht.
- City Park : 99 Mu 4 Yantrakitkoson Road, Tambon Du Tai Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5474 1343-52, Fax: 0 5477 3135] : 800-4,500 baht
- Dao Rueang : 7/1 Worawit Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5477 1899] : 31 rooms
- Fa Thanin : 303 Anantaworaritthidet Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5475 7321-4 Fax: 0 5475 7327] : 490-1,000 baht.
- Nan Fa : 436-438-440 Sumonthewarat Road, Tambon Nai Wiang Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5471 02847] : 390-490 baht.
- Nan Guesthouse : 57/16 Mahaphrom Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5477 1849, 0 1288 8484] : 70-200 baht.
- Nan Valley Resort : 229 Nan-Thung Chang Road, Tambon Pha Sing Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5477 3019] : 700-2,500 baht
- Pa Pua Phuka : 141 Mu 4, Pua - Nam Yao Road, Tambon Silalaeng Amphoe Pua [Tel: 0 5479 1156, 0 5479 1166] : 1,200-1,600 baht
- Suk Kasem : 119-121 Anantaworaritthidet Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5471 0141, 0 5477 1581] : 150-350 baht
- Thewearat : 446 Sumonthewarat Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5471 0094, 0 5471 0212, 0 5471 0803 Fax: 0 5477 1365] : 300-4,000 baht
- Wiang Kaeo : 379 Phuttabucha Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5475 0573, 0 5475 0987 Fax: 0 5477 4573] : 380 baht
- Amphoe Muang
- San ian : 136 Mu1, Nan-Phayao Road, Tambon San ian, Tel: 0 5478 5087 (Thai food, open 10 am - 10 pm)
- Suan I San : 2/1 Anantapracha Road, Tel: 0 54710761, 0 5477 2913 (Thai and Isan food, open 9 am - 9 pm)
- Ruean Kaeo : 1/1 Sumonthewarat Road, Tel: 0 5471 0631 (Thai, Chinese and local food, open 10 am - 10 pm)
- Ya Chai : 34/2 Sumonthewarat Road, Tel: 0 5477 1401 (European food, open 6 - 12 pm)
- Bo Nam : Suriyaphong Road, Tel: 0 5471 0860 (fish menu, open 10.30 am -- 11 pm)
- Da-dario : 37/4 Rat Amnuai Road, Tel: 0 5475 0258 (Thai & European foods, open 10 am - 2 pm and 5 -10 pm)
- Thanaya : 75/23 Anantaworaritthidet Road, Tel: 0 5471 0930 (Vegetarian, 7 am - 8.30 pm)
- Khaotom Pum : 115 Mu 3 Anantaworaritthidet Road,Tel: 0 5477 2100 (open 5 pm - 4 am)
- Suriya Gargen : 9 Sumonthewarat Road, Tel: 0 54 710687, 0 5477 2980 (Thai, Chinese and local food, open 11 am - 12 pm) King Amphoe Phu Phiang
- Rim Bueng : 259 Mo 4,Tambon Muang Tit, Tel: 0 5477 4883, 0 1784 2832 (Thai food, open 10 am - 12 pm) Amphoe Tha Wang Pha
- Wangsila : Tel: 0 5479 9245 (Thai food, open 11 am - 12 pm)
- Amphoe Chiang Klang
- Ruamrot : 52 Mu 5 Tambon Chiang Klang, Tel: 0 5479 7065 (Single Dishes) Amphoe Na Muen
- Songbua : Ban Pak Nai, Tambon Na Thanung, Tel: 0 5477 9652-3 (fish menu)
How to get there
* By car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan and use Highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok, Highway No. 11 to Amphoe Den Chai, then take Highway No. 101 to Nan via Phrae, a total distance of 668 kilometres
* By bus
Transport Co. Ltd. operates bus services from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal to Nan every day. Call 0 2936 2852-66 for more information. Other private companies are such as Phrae Tour Tel: 0 2245 2369, Sombat Tour Tel: 0 2936 2495-6 and Choetchai Tour Tel: 0 5471 0362 (Nan Office).
* By plane
Air Andaman provides daily flight services from Bangkok and 2 flights a week from Chiang Mai to Nan. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2996-9119 or view their website at www.airandaman.com.
Thai Airways flies from Bangkok to Nan every day. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2280-0060, 0-2628-2000 or view their website at www.thaiairways.com.