Tired of the same old places in Thailand? Ever traveled wayyyy up North of the country (and no we’re not even talking about Mae Rim here!)?
What if we told you about a place filled with running fields of green, floating clouds and viewpoints for days, gorgeous cafes built in natural scenery, as well as some of the most beautiful stays we’ve seen around recently?! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Nan!
It actually borders Laos, and because of its geographical location the weather tends to be cooler up here all year round, making it the perfect holiday destination no matter the season.
It also happens to be a town where culture and art run wild – however more so favouring art in history. And if you’re a boffin or historian, you’ll be pleased to know there are a few sites around from thousands of years ago and artifacts and evidence that can be visited. Some may even be as old as from the Stone Age!
We LOVE it!
How to get there?
1. You can fly direct into Nan from Bangkok’s airport via AirAsia.
2. Hire a car and do the drive yourselves if you’re up for a road trip – we personally like to use Europcar Thailand (as they do tend to have good rates). The drive from Chiang Mai to Nan is 5 hours.
3. Alternatively you can take a bus or taxi. (the drive is 4h53mins)
4. If you’re licensed and comfortable/confident riding a motorbike/scooter, you can also rent a bike (my partner and I love to travel this way). But remember, safety first, always!
Places to stay – all with gorgeous bathtubs with views!
There seems to be some sort of magical agreement going on in Nan, because all the accommodation is just as beautiful as the next PLUS they have incredible locations. And the cherry on the cake… They all come with private (and gorgeous) tubs with views! It’s ridiculous, but we love it!
1. Sleep in the sky surrounded with sea of clouds and endless mountain view- Kew Muang Mountain High Camp
Want to surprise your bae for a special occasion? Go up north to Kew Muang Mountain High Camp in Nan, the ultimate dreamy stay above the clouds where both of you can soak in a foamy tub with the idyllic nature view in front of you.
Or for the brave-hearted ones, sit or even sleep on the hammock-in-the-sky (don’t worry, it’s very sturdy!).
You can also sleep in a tent on the porch if your indoor bedroom feels too cramped.
Hungry? Enjoy your afternoon tea at the outdoor cushioned space as you take in the calming vibes. There’s also a small dining area outside your bedroom, where you can enjoy heavier meals like International breakfast (with porridge, eggs, etc) or hotpot for dinner.
2. An absolutely gorgeous setup among the rice fields + a super romantic environment – Srinaman
This is where to stay if you’re looking for breath-taking photographs tbh (they’ve built in a boardwalk so you can wander through the paddies) and the nature around you is just surreal.
Everything has been decorated so prettily and elegantly, and you’ll find they’ve combined some of our favourite design elements into each villa here:
– Stone bathtubs with a view
– Beautiful rooms topped with fairy lights
– Views of just green from every angle
The communal spaces here are also exceptionally pretty, with a swimming pool, hanging swing chairs over the fields as well as table and chairs set up in the grass.
They offer traditional Tea Sets which can be enjoyed from any of these spaces.
3. Relax with a bubble bath and enjoy the mountain views right from there – Boklua River Hills
Another beautiful place to be, it feels very serene here, with a totally relaxed atmosphere set among the green hillsides.
So the individual units have actually been beautifully designed, mixing the right amount of rawness with comfort; they’ve actually set it up under a canvas roof, which is covered by a bamboo structure, however the one half of the wall is cemented leading to your bathroom – so it has an actual bedroom-feel to it.
And can we just talk about the tubs here for a second? Some of the suites, such as the Oasis Suite, come with a beautiful outdoors rounded spa bath, perfect for enjoying some bubbles.
4. This riverside stay has it all, including location and a hot tub! – Nan De Panna
Oh wow, with a place to call home for the next few days as dreamy as this, you’ll soon realise why we’ve all fallen in love with Nan.
Built along and up in the trees of a river bank, spend your days lazing in a hammock or chilling out in your private hot-tub built into the wooden structure of each individual unit, lit up by fairy lights come nightfall.
Spend the afternoon enjoying their traditional Thai Afternoon Tea sets from the comfort of a soft duvet laid out on a netted surface, or simply indulge in the views from here.
5. From a time wayyy before us all, no, for reals! – Sao Din Na Noi
This looks seriously out of this world, like some other planet even if you like! But alas we’re still in Thailand although these natural rock formations (that look like stalactites in a cave) are super crazy looking!
SO what’s the deal? This is actually the result of the earth’s crust eroding (geologists assume from about 10,000-30,000 years back) and it actually used to be a seabed!!
There’s also evidence that points to this being an actual habitat from the Stone Age!!!
6. The perfect spot for wandering and rice fields, snapping some gorgeous pics and grabbing tea / coffee and a slice of cake – Ban Tai Lue
What could be just an ordinary cafe turns out to be so much more, built in a gorgeous rice paddy with a bamboo bridge walkway.
So it is a cafe however, because of its gorgeous natural surroundings, there’s so much to explore, loads of pretty spots for some scenic photography as well as a small local shop selling traditional clothing from Nan province (made with locally woven fabric from Lamduan Textile).
They’ve also set up different spots around the field for you to chill at – a part of the bridge has been decorated with colourful fabrics, and there’s also a super cute little windmill too!
7. Looking for a coffee experience like no other around? – 29 Base
Now we know that Northern Thailand is famed for two things, in particular a) coffee b) breathtaking view spots, we’re delighted to share this next one with you.
Built on the side of a mountain way up high, where the clouds float below you, enjoy a delicious cup of freshly brewed hand poured Drip Coffee, cacao, or Gold Green Tea – all served in gorgeous china, vintage teapots and old-school drip coffee pourers.
Surrounded by such beautiful nature and tons of flowers, we could spend an easy hour or two enjoying the sunshine, views and relaxed atmosphere at this spot.
8. Calling all you history enthusiasts (and in general a great eye-opener for all) – Wat Phumin (Phurin)
Arguably one of the most famous landmarks in Nan, this temple is actually known as an archeological site, being constructed in 1596, and is absolutely covered with ancient illustrations!
(Look out for one in particular they call ‘Grandfather Grandma Curtain The legend whispered in the love of the world.’)
It’s also the only temple in Thailand that houses a four-tiered Buddha, so you can see Buddha’s face from whichever angle.
Temples with exquisite design
Fun fact: Nan is actually littered with temples, many of them dating back decades ago. However in terms of design, architecture, history and just general awe, these are our must-sees!
9. A grand white stucco temple that definitely stands out in the crowd – Wat Ming Muang
If you’ve ever traveled to Chiang Rai, you might notice a striking resemblance to its white temple, famed for its white stucco pattern and design.
Although not as grand as this one, there’s no denying the beauty of the one in Nan – the intricate details and design here is simply a work of art.
It also displays a few ancient illustrations, done in a similar style to the ones in Wat Phumin, however this temple was built at a later stage. An amazing opportunity to marvel at some seriously incredible design!
10. Not only is the outside amazing, but so are the ancient artworks inside! – Wat Sri Phanton Temple
Brilliantly gold and bold, here’s another stunning temple that’s a must see whilst in Nan.
A gigantic seven-headed Naga guards the temple doors, and the sheer size of the statue alone is awe-inspiring.
Inside the walls are painted to represent and illustrate the history of Nan city, as well as Buddha (there is one mural on the wall behind the Buddha shrine that’s absolutely breath-taking with 24 Buddhas painted flying in the sky, as if surrounding and protecting the actual Buddha statue).
11. Traditional, unique and full of so many interesting street foods!! – Kuang Mueng Nan Walking Street
Okay foodies, this one’s for you! We love a good walking street, however the variety and different types of cuisine and street eats you’ll be exposed to here is next level cool – a lot of foods we’ve never seen in Bangkok!
You’ll also find a street full of souvenirs and clothing, with lots of traditional and ethnic influences from this part of the country, making some of the finds here really unique!
P.s. It runs on weekends and is located right next to Wat Phumin.
12. A modern and vibrant gallery built next to the riverside – Nan Riverside Art Space
We just love how rich this city is in art and how culture and history remain a prominent expression among the people.
So not only is this trendy little gallery amazing, but the actual setup and location of it among trees and on the bank of a river, is just as fabulous, making it more than just an ordinary gallery space.
It’s definitely got a modern / trendy feel to it, with works on display supporting local artists from the region.
13. Incredible sticky rice in a multitude of colours – Khao Lam Pa Phen (ข้าวหลามป้าเพ็ญ)
Who doesn’t love sticky rice – whether you prefer it sweet (personally I do) or savoury, or even both?
So, what makes the sticky rice here so special? Firstly, the rice is cooked perfectly soft and is actually filled into a bamboo shoot. This is then put briefly above a hot flame, giving it that extra melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Secondly, there’s 14 different flavoured shoots to choose from (young coconut or taro, chilli paste filling or grilled fish, shrimp or black sesame, just to name a few)
They also use a few different types of rice in each such as Butterfly Pea sticky rice and Pandan sticky rice.
14. Something unique and interesting to do, as well as educational! – Bo Kluea’s Rock Salt Ponds (บ่อเกลือสินเธาว์)
Although it is a two hours drive from Nan, this is something you’ll not often get to experience and is a super interesting half day adventure in our opinion.
Bo Klua is actually famous for its ancient salt ponds located in the high mountain range, and they’ve opened it up to tourists, where you can witness how salt is extracted and processed. There’s a small cafe and souvenir shop at the salt ponds too.
Get this, the people in this village have been using these salt ponds for over 800 years – in fact, people still buy their salt for use from the ponds!
P.s. They actually make a variety of products that you can purchase from around here from bath salts to salt rock natural toothpaste!
Places to spot a sea of floating clouds and gorgeous views
15. Here’s where you can reach for the stars – Doi Samer Dao, Nan (ดอยเสมอดาว จังหวัดน่าน)
Because it’s so close to the Laos border, the air up here is naturally fresher and a lot cooler, making it the perfect destination to go view-hunting.
Luckily for us, the province is absolutely scattered with mountains and rolling hillside as well as a sea of low hanging clouds.
Located 888 metres above sea level, people say they feel close to the stars up here and it’s actually one of the few places where you’ll see low hanging clouds all year round, even in the summer months (although it’s not as thick)!
November to February is when the mist is at its most and it absolutely engulfs the entire mountain!
PS: There is also an official camping ground here with basic tents provided (reserve beforehand!) or you can also bring your own.
16. Camp on the Moon – Doi Pha Phueng (ดอยผาผึ้ง บ้านมณีพฤกษ์ อ.ทุ่งช้าง จ.น่าน)
Doi Pha Phueng is a limestone mountain that sits 1,600 meters above sea level. The hike to the top of the mountain is only 20 minutes from the parking lot through plentiful fields.
Along the walk you’ll see not a tree in sight and the photographs you’ll snap will be amazing!
The best time of day for the views is either sunrise or sunset and many actually camp overnight.
Hike to the top in the late afternoon and set up your tent. Then watch the sun sink below the surrounding hills before enjoying a nice campfire and perhaps a beer or two. Don’t drink too much, though. You’ll want to be awake nice and early – in time to see the gorgeous sunrise.
17. Brush up on your history and witness artifacts from the beginning of man-kind! – Nan National Museum
A museum? Average? NOT THIS ONE! It hosts and homes tons of ancient artifacts and findings – some even from the Stone Age!!! (It’s seriously amazing!!!)
Those that enjoy history again will go nuts, and I absolutely love that this city is so historically rich and interesting.
But it’s not just the artifacts that are great to look at. If you head out the back of the building towards the garden you’ll spot the Plumeria Arch, a pathway lined with epic twisty forest-like trees growing to create a natural arch and it makes for a super cool photo!
18. Wanna experience what Nan was like 200 years ago? – Hong Chao Fong Kham aka The Noble House Museum (โฮงเจ้าฟองคำ)
This reminds us of the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok and this house here in Nan is actually 200 years old, made from old teak wood, available for tourists to explore a world before our time!
Originally owned by Chao Fong Kham, the descendant of Chao Anandhawararittidetch, the 62nd ruler of the town, it consists of four minor houses all still housing the original remains in every room!
There are so many beautiful things to look at inside, all from before our time, from silverware to jewels and all the glorious antiques you could imagine.
Around the home there are tall trees covering the buildings as well as a pond in front, it’s all mesmerizing really!
P.s. You can also rent and dress up in traditional clothing from back then and take photos around the building! Fun!
19. For all the chocolate lovers out there! – Cocoa Valley Cafe
Chocolate affectionados and consider-us-chocolate-lovers-over-here-at-TripCanvas there!
As avid cocoa appreciators, enjoy an afternoon set up among a garden, with a cacao plantation surrounding you and enjoy some scrumptious and chocolate-y delight!
So the owner a few years back (who maybe even loves cacao more than we do) decided to start growing his own trees, which has now merged into the plantation! And naturally he just had to open a cafe.
Try their Chocolate Lava cakes or Brownies – they look mouth-wateringly delicious and are all made with chocolate from the grounds!
20. Explore Nan and its surrounding areas! – Pua
Head one hour out of town and you’ll reach Pua, a village made up of green rice fields, beautiful viewpoints and local traditions.
Because such a large area of the town consists of rice fields, there are a few activities to enjoy around here related to the fields. You can also visit the Ban Lue Thai Lue Weaving group and witness how to make traditional fabrics and textiles.
Check out Phuket temple, which also happens to be one of the most beautiful viewpoint spots here, with endless views of the grassy fields. (There’s also a small coffee shop at the bottom of the temple, Tup Na Thai Lue.)
So forget your usual parts of the North and head up into the mountains to savour in an abundance of rich culture, history and natural beauty. You’ll fall in love, we promise.
Let us know if you love Nan as much as we do and your thoughts and experiences on the town. Leave us your comments below! <3
The post Things to do, places to eat and stay in Nan province, 5 hours from Chiang Mai, Thailand appeared first on TripCanvas Thailand.