Thailand's North


Global Mark : 14.79    Top Ten : No4

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


3 4 2 3 4 3 4 2 4 12.89

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
10 100% (10) 80% (8) 100% (10) 12 to 20 16.70

Description : 
A small town with an original past (as demonstrated in the good museum), few travelers, trekking opportunities and a great guesthouse.

Comments : The town itself has got a few attractions on its own but Nan is above all a place from where to explore the outside.

What to do ? Get a bike or a motorbike (150 per day) as some sights are a bit remote / Learn about the surroundings tribes & traditional houses at the good museum, together with plenty of Buddha's and a - not that impressive - 97cm long black Elephant tusk (B30, daily 9 to 16) / Climb three hundreds and three steps (yes, the last three are important !) to reach a kitsch temple (Wat Prathit Khao Noi) with fine view (but do not expect to experience a great sunset as trees obstruct the west) / Once you are done with the city, you could seriously deal with the surroundings attractions, in particular Doi Phuka National Park / See lots of looms in Tai Lue Tribe Village (40km away) / Trek on non touristy paths (about B450 a day) to Tribes villages (Miens, H'tin, Khmu or if at the right time nomadic Mlabri) / Raft grade 4 river for the day (B1500 per person if 4 people) / Simply, enjoy the guesthouse !

What you may not like ? Finding the guesthouse full / The state of your bottom after a day on a bike / 

How long ? One day for the town. After, it depends on how serious you are in the exploration business.

Where to stay ? 

  • Doi Phukha Guesthouse (771422), 94/5 Sumonthewarat Rd, on a Soi off the main road, 20mn walk or B20 from old Bus Station, turn left and follow Mahawong Rd down to find the street then turn left and walk more / Room 70, 120 or 150 for 1, 2 or 3 people / Free bike / Free use of kitchen / Free cold water / Free tips & info / Not free map (B10) / Go there because this is simply one of the best guesthouse of Thailand, set up in a superb traditional teak house (check out the water houses at the entrance) / What you may not like : the walk from the bus station, the empty rooms except for the floor mattress and the fan (never mind, the nice furniture are outside)
  • Nan Guesthouse (771849), 57/16 Mahaphrom Rd, between the Museum and THAI Office, 10mn walk or B10 from old bus station, turn left, then first right on Pha Kong Rd, then second right before the Museum / Sgl 70, Dbl 100 / The far-away second best, also in a teak house, but closer to the town center
  • If both are full, Wingtai House, 21/1 Soi Wat Hua Wiang Tai, off Sumonthewarat Rd after Nara Store offers ugly rooms for 120 Sgl or 150 Dbl.

Internet ? A friendly place opposite the technical college on Rob Muang Rd charges B20 per hour. It was slow and impossible to access yahoo but, with internet, things can only improve can't they ? Open daily 8:30-22

Nan's Wat ? Original Wat Phumin or classic Wat Chang Kham are central but the two other worth visiting are too far away on foot. Wat Phra That Chae Haeng with its nice Vihara & golden Stupa is south of the Nan River, at a good 10mn pleasant ride. The hilly & kitschy Wat Phra That Khao Noi is on the north west, a 15mn ride away (take the road to Phrae and turn on road 1025 after the small bridge, the road goes up at the end, up to the starting stairs) 

Doi Phuka National Park ? The place to go for natural beauty and tribes (Thai Lu, Htin, Khamu, Mien). If you have no motorbike, start by taking a bus to Pua (old bus station, hourly, 1 hour). From there, board a songthaew to the park headquarters (8 to 12, B20). There are no transport within the park but it is possible to hitch his way. Basic accommodations are found at the headquarters : government houses against donation (but available only when no government workers have booked them), bungalows 200, tents 100 plus blanket 20. As for the food & water, you should bring your own as it is either expensive (breakfast 60, lunch 80, dinner 120, need to reserve in advance) or in limited supply. Best time to visit are from November to May, except of course if you are found of leaches and mosquitoes... For info or to reserve, ask someone speaking Thai to call (01) 602 9844.

Festival ? The Nan Provincial Boat Racing takes place yearly at the end of Oct or beginning of Nov

Backpacker's Tips : Beebah, Thailand, living in Nan (Fev 05)
Doi Phukha Guesthouse. I don't think free bike is still available. (saw only an old one there and it's gone already late morning) Room rates still same as
before. (70, 120, 150) One bahtroom has hot shower. Most of rooms have beds already (no longer empty room). Still clean and nice. Prepare your mosquito spray :-)
Bicycle rent: good place to rent good mountain bike is "Por Bike" (or Paul Bike) 50 Baht a day for very good mountain bike. Shop is opposite Wat Hua Wiang Tai (on SumonThewaraj Road).
Activities : don't miss Kayaking or Rafting. But better if you travel with some mates. As price for one of two persons is a little high (just rafting one day it's about 1200 Baht / person. Rate for 2 people) For 2 days and 1night sometimes it's not available. 3 days/2 nights rafting it could be as high as 4500-5000 Baht/person (price for 3 people)
Places to see : Don't miss Wat Ming Muang. It's located in the same area of City Pillar Shrine on Suriyaphong Road. Very impressive temple. Small but very nice designed with cement reliefs depicting the life of Buddha.

Places to eat: There're a few places in Nan town are good for eating out:
1. Night Market: A night market available on AnataWoraritdej road (ask around, not hard to find) but don't expect 100 foodstalls there. There're about
10-12 stalls there but quite busy as it's only place you can find something to eat very late at night. 20-25 Baht/ dish
2. Vietnamese Restuarant: On Sumonthewaraj Road. From DoiPhukha GH. Turn left from the GH and turn right at the Soi. In front of resto there's a sign "Healthy Food" they have several yummy dishes. Delicious vietnamese food there and inexpensive. Also freshly brewed coffee too (comes in huge mug) 30-60 Baht/dish
3. Breakfast: Medium size restaurant right opposite Thewaraj Hotel. They also have food for you to offer to the monks (ask them to make a set for you, and for youself too ofcourse) Thai food are precooked, ready to eat. Farang breakfast is also available. Toast+ Egg+Ham or Becon avaible for 40 Baht/ set. Coffee/Tea 10-15 Baht. Open very early.

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
 It takes a little time to appreciate this town. There are couple of Sa paper factory near the river that you can visit (ask before you go in, most are family businesses).
The area have Htin, Miao and Hmong minorities. If you want to visit the Mabri, you would better join the trekking tour. They know how to find them, as the Mabri never stay long in one place. Their house (tent) are build with banana leaf, and they believe that when the leaf turn yellow, they have to move on !  That's how they get their name. The Mabri have no clothes, only a small piece of clothes cover their lower body. They speak in a strange language like singing in a high tone. But they are real friendly.
Look closely at night in the town center : there are more than thousand birds resting on the electric wire. Just look up and you will see.
Get a motor bike. 2 ways you can go : 1/ South---through Wieng Sa, Na Noi to Sao Din is a natural sand forest, with different shape of sand dune and sand hill. Further on another 22km is Na Muen, a small village all lay with red brick road. 22km further is a fishing village Pak Nai, is part of the Sirikit reservoir, popular with Thai holiday maker on weekend, there are many floating GH where you can stay for the night, B100. A very peaceful place. 2/ North --- to the Doi Phukha area, through Tha Wang Pha and Pua, then you start to go uphill, the Htin village of Ban Nam Yok that you can visit before you get to the National park HQ. Accommodation possible there. 18km away is Ban Bor Kleua, a village famous for its salt : nearly every family have its own salt well, you can see how they produce salt and buy some if you want. Then, you are on your way back to Nan and finish the loop trip. Still have time for the beautiful sun set by the river in Nan. 
Nan is another good place for water splashing festival. I heard that they celebrate it in a very traditional way during 5 days.

Bus Schedules :

(1) from new bus station, south of Sumonthewarat Rd on Kha Luang Rd (2) from agency opposite old bus station

To Price Class Duration Time Nb Freq.
Chiang Rai 90 fan 7 '9:00 1 na
Pua 20 fan 1 6 to 18 a few hour
Phrae 39/55 fan/ac 2 5:30 to 17 a few hour
Chiang Mai (2) 100/140 fan/ac 7 9:30,11:30/7:15,14:30,22 5 na
Phitsanulok 91/127 fan/ac 5 7:45,9:45,11:45,19:45 5 na
Sukhothai (1) 91/127 fan/ac 5 17:30/7 2 na
Bangkok (1) 195/273 fan/ac 10 19:30/19,19:20 3 na

Notes : To Chiang Rai, also possible via Phayao (but only 13:30 bus, 3 hrs, 60B) then Phayao to Chiang Rai (2.5 hrs) = more direct route / To Chiang Mai, also 1st class 180B, via Phrae (39/55, 2 hrs) and Lampang (71/100, 5 hrs)

The trip to Chiang Rai : SSSSS then SS / L / B90 / 5.5 hrs / fan
The first time the bus left at the previously announced time. As there is only one bus a day, this attention is appreciated. Really a two parts trip, before and after the lunch break at Chiang Kham. The first three hours offers a superb sceneries but are hard on the stomach as the road fights its way around mountains and tribal villages (plastic bags were pending from the rooftop of the bus and quite a few local girls used them). The second part was of the nothing-to-write-home-about but more easy-to-relax type.

See also the trip from Phrae