An hour and a half flight by Nok Air from Bangkok has sent me to a totally separate world from Bangkok. The flight landed at a very unique and small airport, where I could see people hanging around the other side of the fence bordering the runway.
Text: Elina Heng Photos: Kim Teoh & Elina Heng
An hour and a half flight by Nok Air from Bangkok has sent me to a totally separate world from Bangkok. The flight landed at a very unique and small airport, where I could see people hanging around the other side of the fence bordering the runway. They were there waiting for the arrival of friends and loved ones. There are even cars passing by and houses propped just across the road.
Nan is a land of love and romance, people here are soft spoken and there is always friendly smile on their face. Nan could be new and relatively unknown to the Malaysian tourists but it is famous among local Thai people. I was here during the winter in last December, it was cool and comfortable. The temperature of Nan city is about 22- 27oC at day time and 16oC at night.
Right after we checked-in to a nice hotel Pukha Nanfa in Nan City, we rejuvenate ourselves at the one and only spa in Nan city – the Risalinee Thai Spa. Although the masseurs could only speak a little English, their deft massage skills were good enough for a great 2 hours of treatment with steam bath, lavender body scrub and oil massage
to the relief of my tensed body. Thai massage is something absolutely not to be missed when visiting to Thailand. After the massage we have dinner at an open air
restaurant by the Nan River.
It was a surprise to me when I found there is a Chinese temple “ben tou gong” 本头公庙 next to the Thai temple located at the start of the walking street where it is a night
market on every Saturday. There is a mini stage and many small round tables set on the floor in front of the temple. There were some children and adults who dressed up
nicely taking turns to perform on the stage. They sang so well that I thought they were artists entertaining the people, but then I found out they are just the local Nan people
who enjoyed singing and they pay to sing on the stage, with the guitarist playing acoustic guitar for them, it is something like karaoke by the road side.
Walking along the night market, I found there are many different kinds of merchandise in many stalls that are printed with drawing of a man whispering to the lady’s ear like t-shirt, bag, cup, fridge magnet, keychain, etc. Even the hawkers are wearing t-shirts with the drawing printed on it. That triggered my curiosity to find out about the couple and what is it about?
The next morning we woke up very early to have a cycling tour to the market, we experienced the daily life of the local people, tried some local snacks at the street and also offered alms to the monks. It was different from the others places that I have been in Thailand. These monks did not come in groups at the same time. They are either alone or in small groups of 2 to 3 and they came from different temples. There are 500 temples in Nan, all these monks will only came out around 6.00-6.30am and they will have to be back in the temple by 7.30am. The local people and tourists prepared food, flowers or groceries and waited by the road side to offer to the monks. Breakfast at the hotel roof top was already waited for us when we cycled back to the hotel. The best food at the buffet is the traditional rice with soup that was so delicious and special when we
added the chili powder, fish sauce, sugar, pepper just as what the local people did.
The main attraction of Nan is the royal temple Wat Phumin a historical temple which is located near the Museum Nan. The walls of the temple are filled with mural paintings, it was believed that they were painted around 1876. It depicts a love story and also the legend of Buddha. There is one famous mural that has left me wondering about it for the whole night. The painting of the “Whispering Love” has been honoured as the most beautiful one amongst the paintings in Wat Phumin. It has a few paintings to depict the lifestyle of the Nan people in town during that period,whispering love is about a man telling a girl that he loves her and how much he cared about her. In the temple grounds, there were some university students who volunteered as guides to narrate the story to visitors. With a very romantic and gentle voice one student told us that, the man Pu-man whispered in the girl Ya-man’s ear: “If I keep your love in the river, I am afraid it will get cold, If I keep your love in the sky, I am afraid the cloud will cover it, If I keep your love in the earth, I am afraid someone will take it away, I will keep your love in my heart, no matter I am awake or asleep it will always be with me.”
From the painting we learn that Nan people are very romantic and it was interesting to note that during that period the ladies wore only sarung without a top when they were out of their house and at home they wore only a wrap-around the chest with a cloth. We also learn a lot of interesting traditional Thai Loi people lifestyles in the painting. After that, we visited Wat Changkham that is next to Wat Phumin, this temple reflects the influence of the Sukhothai arts, the main Buddha image is very large and beautiful.
Nan is a very organized city, they even provide a tram to take tourist on a city tour for one and a half hour. While we were in the tram when we greet or wave to the local people, they will reciprocate with a wave and friendly smiles.
The tram took us to Wat Suan Tan and when we reached the temple, there were two little girls dressed up nicely waiting to welcome visitors. With a sweet voice they told us the story of the temple, even though we didn’t understand the Thai language, we were all captivated by the way they talk.
Next we went to Wat Maha Pho, there were a group of four young dancers dancing for the visitors, and when guests gave tips to them, they put the money on the floor, the dancer behind them wound bend backwards in an arch shape to collect the money with their mouth. When we ended our tour of the temple, all the elderly temple volunteers and the dancers bade us good-bye with dance and music, it was such a heartwarming farewell.
A visit to Nong Bua Thai Lue Village that is 43 km away from Mueang Nan town area gave us a chance to see the process of making seaweed slice. And we also got to learn the way of weaving the beautiful local cotton at the Temple. The temple also has mural painting of Buddha’s legend that was believed to be done by the same artist as in Wat Phumin.
It was really an eye opener when we were lead to Hor Silp Rim Nan Art Gallery, it was a gallery located at the Nan river bank. Founded by the well-known Thai artist Winai Prabripoo, not only his work are exhibited in the gallery, there were also work(painting, sculpture, etc) of some other famous artists exhibited and there is a permanent photo exhibition of all the murals painted in Nan. The Princess of Thailand Maha Chakkri Sirindhorn did a sketching of “Whispering“ and another called ”Shout” when she was in Nan and they were kept it in this gallery. The Princess likes Nan so much and has called Nan as “Home”.
The last destination that we visited to was the 9 meter standing Buddha in Wat Phratat Khao Noi at the hill side. The panoramic view of Nan city from here was amazing and make sure you go in the evening as the sunset time is the most beautiful moment.
After a scrumptious dinner at a restaurant on the other side of the river, we ended our tour of Nan with the most popular dessert in Town Auntie Nim, reflecting the journey as sweet as the dessert and I am sure most Malaysians will like the quiet, peaceful, romantic, lovely and relaxing Nan as I do.