Known as ‘Lanna’ which translates to ‘A Million Rice Fields’, the Northern regions in the Kingdom of Thailand have always captured my fascination. From the beautiful dialect known as ‘kham mueang to the rich flavors of culinary dishes distinguishable from Central and North Eastern Thailand. The mountainous regions allows travelers to capture a glimpse of heaven on earth. This is my personal travels to escape the hustling city life while witnessing historical destinations of Thailand’s rural North and admiring its beautiful scenery.
Catching the Coach
We were 4 minutes passed our departure time when we had arrived at the bus terminal. The bus had nearly departed without us but luckily my friends, whom were already there, stalled the conductor.
The commute to Nan Province requires approximately 11 hours on the road with a 20 minute pit stop to eat. The bus departing in the evening had been the best selection as it allowed you to sleep the entire duration of the ride.
We used Nakornchai Air Coach Service (Gold Class) which offer comfortable seats that recline and vehicles from Mercedes-Benz. Round-trip ticket had cost approximately USD 42.
The Adventure Begins…
Day 1 – Traveling around Historical Nan
We began our journey to exploring Nan by renting motorbikes near the bus terminal for 250 baht (approx. USD 8) to rent per day. It enable parking at various historical sites with ease.
1.) Wat Sri Panton Temple
First stop, a completely golden temple, known as ‘Wat Sri Panton’ in which scented water is used to cleanse the Buddha status. This is normally done during the month of April before Thai New Year Celebrations, known as ‘Songkran’.
2.) Wat Phra That Khao Noi
Next, we had ventured up the hill to enjoy viewpoint of Nan city. With a golden buddha overlooking the city, the view has an incredibly breathtaking scenery.
3.) Huen Hom Restaurant (เฮือนฮอม)
After visiting a few temples our tummies began to grumble. We decided to go to Huen Horm Restaurant which provided a variety of Northern dishes.
The platter dish shown above is a perfect example of Northern Cuisine. It consist of famously known sausage known as ‘Sai Oua’ (ใส้อั่ว) that combines the distinguished ingredients of lemongrass, shallots, kaffir lime leaf, tumeric, and galangal.
The centerpiece to this platter is the ‘Nam Prik Noom’ which are green chilis roasted then mixed with chilis, garlic and onion. Its preferred method of eating is typically with deep fried pork skins and a fresh basket of steaming sticky rice.
A personal favorite of mine, the ‘Nam Ngiao’ noodle dish combines the savory flavors of spare ribs cooked for an extended period until the meat falls off the bone while packing flavor to the broth.
Nam Ngiao has a combination of ingredients which include tomatoes and dried chilis that give it that well-known red tint to it. Also coagulated cubes of pork blood are added to give the dish a bit of texture.
Thin strands of noodle, known as ‘kanom jeen’ are used as the starch of the dish. Made from rice, these delicate strings allow the savory broth to be soaked up as the diner slurps it up.
4.) Wat Phaya Wat
Out of the numerous temples visited, Wat Phaya Wat had some of the more intricate sculptures and pagodas. Walking through this temple allowed the opportunity to view the historical structures from the ancient world of Nan’s Kingdom.
5.) Nan National Museum
A historical site which enables visitors to view the history of rulers during the era of the Nan Kingdom. Numerous artifacts from weapons to portraits of kings from the past are showcased in this museum. The glamorous courtyard and with rows of plumeria flowers provides the perfect photo opportunity no to be missed.
6.) Wat Phumin
This temple is famously known for its mural paintings on the walls from the Nan Kingdom Era. With its beautiful Buddha figures, this location should not be omitted from destinations within Nan. Pictures can be taken with the famous mural painting however, as a precautionary measure to preserve the artwork, touching it is prohibited.
Outskirts of Nan City – Pua District
As the afternoon began to slowly shift into darkness, we made our commute towards the outskirts of Nan to the district of Pua. We had driven our rented motorcycles approximately 53 kilometers to enjoy lushes green scenery overlooking vast fields of farmland from our homestay resort in the fields.
7.) Mon Pua Home Stay Resort (ม่อนปัวโฮมสเตย์)
Off the tarmac road lies a dirt trail leading to a homestay resort situated on top of a hill. The surrounding area consist of corn and rice fields enabling visitors to get in touch with with nature. With wooden bungalows encompassing stairs to the rooftop, visitors can enjoy their leisure time stargazing or listen to the crickets orchestrating their symphony in unison.
The bungalow comes with an electric fan and air condition although the weather was just perfect and was not necessary to utilize any of them. Bathroom comes equipped with hot water heater and American toilet for those unable to execute on a squatting toilet.
Day 2 – Traveling the Outskirts and City
8.) Wat Phuket
A temple located within the district of Pua not far from our homestay resort. The beautiful view from the temple grounds show a contrast of colors from the farmlands to the mountains. Traditional northern skirts and shirts are available for purchase at the coffee shop at the base of the temple.
Returning Back to Nan City
By the time that we had returned back to the city we were all completely famished and required something to eat. Here we decided to try the traditional Northern style noodles
9.) Khao Soi Thon Nam (ข้าวซอยต้นน้ำ)
The warm broth of the made coconut milk and spices to create that curry flavor, this dish is the a representation of traditional noodles from Lanna. Known as ‘Khao Soi’ customers have the option to choose between chicken or beef, although I would recommend chicken as it has much a softer texture which can be easily consumed.
Khao Soi noodles give off that vibrant yellow color from eggs added onto the flower. The noodles give a silky texture which can be slurped up easily while enjoying the flavors of the broth.
Garnishing on the dish is fried khao soi noodles and green onions. Complimentary side dishes which may be added to the noodle dish to heighten the flavors are pickled greens, shallots, and a slice of lime.
9.) OTOP Center (ศูนย์โอทอป) – For shopping
A few meters from the Khao Soi Noodle shop lies the OTOP Center, which is an acronymn for ‘One Tambon, One Product.’ Tambon is defined as a sub-district, therefore this is a local entrepreneurship program utilized to stimulate the local market by offering products produced specifically from that area.
The OTOP Center has a variety of garments such as scarfs, dresses, and shirts which are traditional clothing from that area. With its beautiful colors and authenticity, products are ideal for souvenirs or presents.
10.) Wat Phrathat Chang Kham Warawihan
With its majestic structure, this temple dates back to the 15th century. Behind the temple is a golden pagoda structure known as ‘chedi’ which is used for worship, meditation, and rituals by the monks.
Before the Departure Back Home
As the sun began descending and time drew near departing Nan, we decided to visit the local market to buy food items to be taken back home. As I walked across one of the food vendors I noticed one of the tasty delicacies, red ant eggs. They were laid out on the table on banana leaves for customers to select.
From what I have seen, red ant eggs are consumed by either mixing it in a salad of lemon juice, fish sauce, shallots, green onions, and sugar or provide texture to a brothy soup. The consistency when biting into the eggs are the same as salmon eggs on sushi.
The entire trip including the resort, food, and bike rental sum up to be approximately USD 75 which is pretty reasonable considering the various activities and sites seen. So if your heart is ever searching for an adventure with historical sites and beautiful scenery, Northern Thailand is recommended to visit. Be sure to indulge yourselves in the local cuisine as you satisfy your cravings while exploring Nan.