Sleepy Nan Province is situated 300 kilometres east of Chiang Mai. It is bordered to the north and to the east by Laos, to the west by Phayao Province and to the south by Phrae Province. In the past year Nan City has seen a major influx of investment due partly to the Tourist Authority of Thailand's (TAT) drive to promote the province especially directed towards Thai tourism. As a result a few new hotels and restaurants and shopping areas have been built up providing much better facilities for tourists coming to the city.
Nan Province is mostly mountainous, with many river valleys cutting their way through the peaks. The highest, most rugged mountains can be found on the Laos border. Apart from the rivers, there are many waterfalls to see and there are even some whitewater rapids you can raft or kayak down. Large portions of this province have been turned into national parks, which all have unique sights and activities. The two main rivers in this province are the Nan River and the Wa River.
The largest city in Nan Province is Nan City which is located in Nan Province's biggest river valley. Nan City is still quite small and can be driven across in about twenty minutes. About 100 kilometres to the north of Nan City is Pua, Nan's second largest city. Pua is really just a small town but is a good spot to base yourself when checking out the nearby Doi Phuka National Park or Silaphet Waterfall. Other towns in Nan Province are Wiang Sa, about 50 kilometres south of Nan City, Mae Charim, 100 kilometres east of Nan City, and Ban Luang, which is about 100 kilometres west.
Doi Phuka National Park is located a couple of hours drive east of Pua on the road to Bo Kluea. The entry fee to the park is 400 Baht for foreigners and tents can be hired for 50 Baht a night from the kiosks in the camp grounds within the park. The main activities in the park are trekking and camping. There are several lookouts inside the area and anyone with a car or motorbike can easily get to these spots for some fantastic views. Another main attraction which draws a lot of Thai tourists is the flowering of the Chom Poo Doi Phuka flower which blooms in December to early January. This flower is found only in Nan Province.
Silaphet Waterfall is found close to Pua and anyone driving to Pua from Nan City will spot the signs pointing towards it quite easily. One can only access the waterfall in the cold and hot seasons as the path is flooded in the rainy season. The path to the waterfall is a few kilometres long. At the base of the path there are some riverside restaurants which serve some good local cuisine.
Mae Charim National Park is found 250 kilometres east of Nan, about 100 kilometres from the Laos border. The main activity of this park is whitewater rafting. The Wa River runs through the park and several tour agencies in the area run rafting trips to and from the park. During the rainy season the water is high and muddy. The water level drops during the cold and hot seasons which make up the peak times for rafting in this area. Mae Charim National Park also has camping facilities and restaurants which are open during peak seasons. There is a 200 Baht entrance fee for foreigners to this park.
The road from Nan City goes north past Pua all the way to the Laos border. The road condition worsens as you get further from Nan City so anyone taking this trip will have to be careful. Early on Saturday mornings there is a border market where the local Thai's trade with the Loatian's from the other side of the border. You can pick up some very cheap, high quality local goods here such as Thai silk, traditional clothing, and handicrafts. Markets like these are basically where the goods come from that you'll find in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, but they're all at a fraction of the price. You can hire tents here for 50 Baht a night.
Nan Province has three seasons: the hot season, the rainy season and the cold season. The hot season lasts from about March until May and is characterised by sweltering temperatures, dry weather and high humidity. The rainy season lasts from June until October and is similar to the hot season except that it rains a lot. The rain does give everything a chance to cool off though so it is definitely a welcome change. After the rainy season, temperatures start dropping in the cold season, which lasts from November until February. Temperatures in the cold season drop down low at night. If you're camping then you'll need to bring warm clothing, and if you're staying in a hotel or guesthouse then don't bother getting an air-conditioned room. You won't need it! There is no rain in the cold season so this is by far the best time to visit. Unfortunately the tourism industry has caught on to this as well and prices are higher in this season. If you're a budget traveller then the hot season would be the best bet for you. To see the best scenery it's best to come to Nan Province in November or December. Everything is still lush and green after the rainy season and the weather is cool enough so you won't break a sweat.
There is a small airport in Nan City that has flights to Bangkok. PB Air has two flights a week going from Bangkok to Nan City and from Nan City to Bangkok. A one way flight will cost you around 3,000 Baht.
There are no train stations in Nan Province.
There are roads to all surrounding provinces, but the major highway comes through Phrae Province to the south. There's a smaller highway west to Phayao Province, but it's slower by car as the terrain is more mountainous. The views are definitely more spectacular along this route though. Any foreigners wanting to drive into Laos from Nan Province will have to wait until sometime in the future as the border is currently only open to Thais.
From Bangkok, the buses to Nan Province leave Mo Chit Bus Station. There are many bus companies that do this route. Sombat Tours and Viriya Tours are two companies you can use. Sombat Tours often has more comfortable seating. From Bangkok, tickets will cost you around 500 Baht and most have to be bought at the bus station.
From Chiang Mai:
If you're in Chiang Mai you'll have to go to the Arcade Bus Station to hop on board. Green Bus Thailand is one of the most comfortable companies to travel to Nan Province with and the tickets normally cost around 300 Baht. You have to book a ticket at the bus station with most other companies.
There are currently no boat services between Nan Province and any other area.
Nan Province is small and only has one airport. It has no internal flights.
There are no train stations in Nan Province.
The main roads in Nan Province are all in decent condition and any driver should be able to handle them. To the north of the province around Bo Kluea and the Huay Kon Border Market near the Laos border the roads are sometimes dangerous. That area is very mountainous and the roads can be windy with frequent potholes. South of Nan City, the roads are better maintained and can contribute to a very smooth ride. The road from Nan City to Pua is also in good condition.
Local buses go between the smaller cities in Nan Province. These small buses are very old, have no air-con and are sometimes crammed with Thais. If you want an authentic Thai experience, just go to the Nan Bus Station in Nan City and buy your tickets there.
There are no boat services between cities in Nan Province
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