Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I heart Nan

(Motorbike with cage)

I decided to join Chrys to Nan- a small town in the North, East of Chiang Mai. I was planning on heading straight to Chiang Mai, but I was told that Nan is beautiful and not many tourists go there. So we caught the 5 hour bus. After two bus changes and long windy roads, I was hoping I didn’t make a wrong decision. I was going two days out of the way and hoped it would be worth it. As soon as we climbed into the mountains and the jungle got thicker, I knew it would be. We arrived at the bus station just before dark and figured we could walk to our guesthouse. We got lost. The street we were on wasn’t on our map. Tourists aren’t common here so everyone stared (and smiled). We tried asking for direction but couldn’t communicate. Chrys speaks a little Thai but the dialect was different. Eventually we called the guesthouse and asked them to help us find them. The woman said she would come get us on her motorbike. I wasn’t sure how the two of us and our bags could fit. We tried to ask for directions again and this time they at least knew which direction. We were headed down the road when a motorbike honked and pulled in front of us. Chrys got on first and I continued to walk since I had a roller bag (by the way I loath my bag choice! A bag with wheels is no good when the streets aren't smooth and you’re getting on and off of ferries, tuk-tuks and motorbikes). Anyway, she came back for me and managed to get the bag on my back for the quick ride. I’m really starting to like the Thai people. They are very friendly and welcoming. A woman helped me carry by bag off a ferry, this woman came to get us and many people have offered help when I look lost. I also love Nan. It’s a very clean city with sidewalks, street lights, street signs and the best part… the dogs are pets! No strays around and they all look healthy. Petting the guesthouse’s new puppy fed my soul.
That night Chrys and I headed to the Night Market. There wasn’t very much for a vegetarian to eat, but I found fried rice, corn and coconut balls for dessert. The corn was incredible! It looked like he put two spoons of salt in, but when I tasted it I realized he’d put sugar and salt. Most of you know how much I like salty-sweet. It melted in my mouth and I can’t wait to get more. The coconut balls weren’t what I expected, but yummy. Toasted, crunchy sweet coconut was wrapped in dough and dipped in shredded coconut. I tried Chrys’ jelly in coconut milk, which was disgusting.

Yesterday we visited the Nan National Museum and learned about the history of Nan Province. The mountains hold many villages of Hmong, Tsin, Lu and Mlabri tribes. It was a good museum and I learned a lot. There were also many different Buddhas from different periods and areas. We could have taken a guided trek through the jungle to a village and stayed the night, but I decided to wait and possibly do it further north. I still haven’t decided whether I want to contribute to possible negative impacts on the tribes either. So we went for an elephant ride! The travel agency drove us 20 km East into the forest. We drove into the mountains through teak planted forest, which they harvest every 30-40 years. At the side of the road were two elephants waiting for us. We were told that these elephants are work elephants- they haul timber down steep hills where trucks can’t get to. There aren’t enough tourists in this area to have purely tour elephants so they call the timber workers to see if the elephants are available. I mounted the elephant from a platform onto a cushioned seat. The guide sat on the elephant’s neck and lightly kicked his ears and yelled commands. We went for a 1.5 hour walk through the jungle. It was amazing! The forest was beautiful and we climbed up to a ridge line with a great view. When we went down a hill the seatbelt kept me from falling off. The guide cut branches out of the way and the elephants ate the whole time. It was magical. I had pangs of guilt when I focused on the chains, but hoped that it was better for them than hauling timber.

I was sad to leave Nan, but am excited to explore Chiang Mai.


  1. I love following your blog! Keep enjoying yourself and keep these awesome stories/photos coming. Much love!

  2. cousin! what a wonderful adventure you're on! i'm enjoying reading your blog so much... not to mention the photos are beautiful! keep the posts coming. they are my escape from my beautiful, beautiful... office... ;)

    thinking about you!