Almost two months ago I was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to spend a week in the country learning about Thai culture, the Thai fashion industry and visiting some of the remote areas in Thailand which are desperately looking to increase their tourism. After spending a night in Bangkok I was flown to the Nan Province in the North of Thailand to spend time with the locals and discover first hand the importance of the Thai textile industry. We flew to Nan from Bangkok via Nok Air, a budget airline equivalent to the UK's Easyjet and Ryanair. Nok Air has to be one of the friendliest airlines I have ever flown with and the staff looked immaculate in their beautiful yellow outfits.
Nan is a small city bordering Laos and is almost 700km north of Bangkok. The town is spread along the Nan river bank, one of the four rivers which eventually joins the Chaopraya in central Bangkok. Much of Nan is devoted to the agricultural trades such as rice farming and fruit cultivation. Nan has a wealth of history dating back over 700 years ago and has six national parks, one of which is Doi Phukha with mountains nearly 2,000m high. Nan is a beautiful and relaxing place to visit with the warmest of welcomes given by the locals. With plenty of tourist attractions, top restaurants and a friendly atmosphere, it is perfect for those looking to go off the beaten in track in Thailand and really immerse themselves in Thai tradition and culture.
One of the best ways to learn about Nan is to hop on the Nan City Bus tour. The bus takes you on a small ride, stopping off at the main tourist attractions for 10 minutes at a time. Although Nan is relatively small and walking around is just as easy, the city bus enables you to sit back and enjoy the views, as well as learn more about Nan thanks to the experienced tour guide on board.The Nan city bus tour is a perfect way to discover all the wonderful temples Nan has to offer such as Wat Ming Muang and Wat Phra Kerd.
One of the most popular sports in Nan is longboat racing and each year they have the annual longboat race between the months of September and October. Longboat racing is considered a national sport in this area and the history of longboat racing in Nan can be dated back to the Ayutthaya period over 600 years ago, when longboat racing was seen as a form of military defense. These long, narrow boats are made from dugout tree trunks and can hold up to 60 oarsmen at a time. The annual longboat festival is popular with tourists and locals alike and is a joyful occasion where everyone can celebrate Thailands long boating tradition.
If you plan on staying overnight in Nan, make sure you check out the Nan evening market. The evening market is where the community often gets together to eat, drink and watch traditional Thai dancing under the evening sunset. The night market is a great place to purchase everything from traditional clothing to modern trinkets and charms as well as experience the national delicacies.