If you are the kind of traveler who enjoys cultural history with a splash of lush nature and mountainous ranges, minus the mass tourism, then the Nan province is spot for you.
Nan province is located in the far north of Thailand, about a 1-hour flight from Bangkok. Right up to the 20th century, Nan was its own independent kingdom. In fact, it was one of the last kingdoms to be officially incorporated into Siam. Today, Nan is a peaceful province that is free from mass tourism, and rich in cultural history and nature.
Nan is not only filled with historical temples, but the area is surrounded by beautiful nature – mountainous ranges, rivers and lush greenery surround the province.
The north of Thailand is a picturesque part of the country and is worth visiting. A visit to Nan also provides easy access into Laos if you plan to venture further. Laos is about a 150 km drive from the city centre of Nan province and it is a beautiful scenic drive.
To help you plan your trip, I have put together my recommended things to do in the Nan province.
Table of Contents
- 1. Visit the Wat Phra That Chae Hang
- 2. Say Hi to the Blessing Buddha
- 3. Admire the impressive murals at the Wat Phumin
- 4. Grab a bite at the Weekend Night Markets
- 5. Support the Local Art Community
- 6. See Auntie Nim (Pa Nim) for dessert
- 7. Visit the Wat Nong Bua
- 8. Grab a Coffee at Ban Tai Lue Café
- 9. Visit the Thai Lue House
- Bonus Tip
- Getting to Nan Province
- Staying in Nan Province
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1. Visit the Wat Phra That Chae Hang
The Wat Phra That Chae Hang is the oldest temple in Nan, having been built in 1353 B.C. The temple features an impressive 55-meter golden Chedi (also known as a Stupa) made of a combination of brass and copper, which is said to contain ancient holy relics.
The temple is located on the eastern side of the Nan province, approximately 4 kilometers from the city center. It is free to enter between 6am to 6pm daily.
2. Say Hi to the Blessing Buddha
This was one of my favourite spots here, because of the scenic 180-degree view of Nan. It is located at the Wat Phrathat Khao Noi. Overlooking Nan is a 9-meter tall Golden Buddha also known as the Blessing Buddha – sending good blessings to the people and town of Nan.
This temple is located 300 meters above sea level, and has 303 steps leading up to the temple (although it is possible to drive up the hill). The Blessing Buddha and its view is a sight to be seen and worth the visit. It is free to visit.
3. Admire the impressive murals at the Wat Phumin
The Wat Phumin is probably one of the more impressive and well-known temples in the Nan province. It is also home to historic murals, including the famous illustration of the artist and his missus.
On the inside of the temple, you’ll see 4 large Buddha, which are placed facing in four directions. Surrounding the Buddha are walls filled with murals, which is some of the best preserved in the area. It is said that Thai Lue artist Thit Buaphan painted the murals in the late 1800’s.
The Wat Phumin is located in downtown Nan and across is the Tourist Information Centre, as well as the weekend night markets. The temple is free to visit.
4. Grab a bite at the Weekend Night Markets
The night markets are located across the Wat Phumin temple and are only run on Saturdays and Sundays, starting from 5pm to late.
Here you’ll find a variety of great local eats from Northern Thailand. Our favorite – the Gai Ob Ong, which is a whole chicken roasted in a big clay jar. It is just so flavorsome and delicious. You’ll also find a range of local goods, including fabrics and body products.
5. Support the Local Art Community
The Nan Riverside Art Gallery is home to a wide range of art by local artists. If you love any of the artwork, they can be purchased during your visit. It’s really pleasant to wonder around the gallery – the gardens surrounding the gallery are beautiful and have great views of the Nan River. There is also a small coffee shop and souvenir shop.
Close to the souvenir shop, behind the main gallery, you’ll find the Nan Mural photo exhibition. It features 130 photos of the different murals found at 4 temples around the Nan province and provides more information about the murals.
The gallery is closed on Wednesdays.
6. See Auntie Nim (Pa Nim) for dessert
Auntie Nim (Pa Nim) is famed for her Bua Loy dessert. This dessert is made up of glutinous rice balls cooked in a sweet coconut milk. You can try the dessert with a side of ice cream. And if are still craving more dessert, try the mango with sticky rice – it is delicious!
Usually these desserts can be found on food stalls, but Auntie Nim has become so well known for her dessert, she’s set up a restaurant. Head there after dinner for a great Thai experience.
7. Visit the Wat Nong Bua
The Wat Nong Bua was built in 1862 and is located in Nong Bua village. The Thai Lue people, who migrated from southern China, built the temple. Similar to Wat Phumin, you’ll see beautiful murals displayed inside the temple.
The Wat Nong Bua is open daily from 7am – 6pm and is free to visit.
8. Grab a Coffee at Ban Tai Lue Café
The Ban Tai Lue Café is definitely worth a visit. It was another highlight of my visit to the Nan province.
Ban Tai Lue is such a quaint café serving up some fantastic local coffee – try the iced Latte. They have built little huts set amongst rice paddies and fields of cat whiskers. Each hut comes with a beautiful scenic view. It offers a great break from sightseeing and is just so peaceful.
9. Visit the Thai Lue House
The Thai Lue house is located just behind the Wat Nong Bua and is a replica of an old Thai Lue home. The house is setup to showcase to visitors how the people of the community used to live.
For instance, you’ll see that the stove is located in the main bedroom as it provides a source of heat to keep the bedroom warm in the winter.
If you like hiking and trekking, then the Nan province is a great spot for this. There are several national parks and waterfalls that surround the area and you can book tours to take you there.
Getting to Nan Province
Air Asia flies from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport to Nan 4 times daily making it easy to access this beautiful part of Thailand.
It is also possible to drive from Bangkok to Nan – it is approximately 668 kilometers, which will take you at least 6-7 hours. There are bus options you can also book in Bangkok if you are looking for a cheaper option. But to be honest, flying is the most convenient option.
Staying in Nan Province
There are several guesthouses throughout the Nan province, which offer accommodation to visitors. I have personally stayed at the Nantrungjai Boutique Hotel and can recommend it. The hotel is modern, clean, the rooms are spacious and the bed is very comfortable.
For more information or to book the Nantrungjai Boutique Hotel CLICK HERE.
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No compensation was received for this review. The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office along with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (Phrae/Nan Region) kindly sponsored my trip to Nan. All opinions remains my own
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