Nan is a lovely province in Northern Thailand – directly east of Chiang Mai, running along the southwestern border of Laos. It’s well known for its numerous national parks and wildlife, alongside with their famous traditional story and widespread imagery of the “Whispering Lovers: Puu Maan Yaa Maan (ปู่ม่านย่าม่าน: กระซิบรักบันลือโลก)” . This immense mural located in Wat Phumin (วัดภูมินทร์) perpetrates many aspects of local culture and design, and can be seen replicated on apparel and hanging tapestries all over town.
The former capital city is bustling with activity, but would still hardly be considered a tourist hub. The architecture is heavily impacted by it’s history, with strains of Lanna and Chinese influence. The Nan National Museum were palatial quarters for the last two feudal lords of Nan, and has many exhibition rooms and displays of ancient royal artifacts. Wat Phra That Chae Haeng (วัดพระธาตุแช่แห้ง), which dates back to the thirteenth century, is considered the most sacred temple in Nan.
The massive, muddy, and beautifully undisturbed Nan River runs through the city. Scenic biking/walking trails skirt alongside it. A massive reservoir with a jogging ring around it is tucked away on one of these trails; if you can find this spot, it is serenity by definition. There are also a handful of riverside restaurants who boast some of the most magnificently scenery and atmosphere at night. If you’re lucky, you may see some of the local longboat racing teams loudly practicing on the river at dusk. It’s considered a traditional rite which honors the end of the Buddhist Lent day in order to make merit at the temples. People in the community also meet to spend good time together.
There are almost exclusively Thai restaurants, alongside with extensive food markets and a food-oriented night bazaar. Many restaurants will have hours that don’t match up with what you’ll find online. However, the generosity and easy going nature of this community will never leave you hungry.
On my visit, we were offered food from an obviously closed restaurant we’d found. We were kindly shuffled in and asked to help cook and prepare our own meal, then ate and chatted with the owner. It was one of the most special and humbling moments I’ve had on my visits in Thailand, and truly was compatible with the overarching impression of Nan as a whole.
Written by: Grace Van Kirk
Photos Credit: Grace and Review Chiang Mai