Northern Thailand is a region of green mountains, misty jungles, fertile valleys, spectacular ruins, colorful hill tribes, and temperatures that are cooler than the rest of country. The people that live here call themselves the “khon muang” . Their customs, language and clothing differ from those of southern Thailand. They are regarded as more easy-going than southerners ad their dialect is slower than the other three mani dialects. Some of the people that live in northern Thailand belong to ethnic minorities—often called hill tribes because they have traditionally lived in the hills and mountains of the region—such as the Karens, Akha, Lisu, Lao, Meo, Yao and Lahu. The Lua and Lawa are believed to be have originated from this area. The others are originally from Myanmar, Laos and China, where many members of their tribes still live. Roughly eight percent of Thailand’s population is made of hill tribes. The Karen are the largest group.

The northern part of Northern Thailand occupies a section of the Golden Triangle, once one of the world's major opium growing areas. In recent years, the ethnic minorities tribes that have traditionally grown opium as a cash crop here have been convinced to switch to crops like coffee in return for schools and electricity. For those that want to see the Golden Triangle in all its opium-blooming glory will have to look for it in Myanmar and Laos.

Seasons period: 1) Summer – March to April; 2) Rainy – May to October; 3) Winter – November to February; During the winter months, in the mountainous North the temperature is cool enough for the cultivation of fruits such as lychees and strawberries.

Geography of Northern Thailand

The North is mostly mountainous, making the region the origin of streams and rivers in Thailand, including the Chao Phraya River, formed at the convergence of four rivers: the Ping, Wang, Yom, and Nan. With its natural features of high mountains, steep river valleys, and upland areas, summer storms occur quite often. Thes north’s mountains are incised by steep river valleys and upland areas that border the central plain.

Traditionally, these natural features made possible several different types of agriculture, including wet-rice farming in the valleys and shifting cultivation in the uplands. The forested mountains also promoted a spirit of regional independence. Forests, including stands of teak and other economically useful hardwoods that once dominated the North and parts of the Northeast, had diminished by the 1980s to 13 million hectares. In 1961 they covered 56 percent of the country, but by the mid-1980s forestland had been reduced to less than 30 percent of Thailand's total area.

The North commands an area covering 169,600 sq km, comprising 17 provinces: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Tak, Uthai Thani, and Uttaradit. The Upper North, from Nakhon Sawan up to the boundaries shared with the Union of Myanmar and the Lao PDR, has Chiang Mai as the center, while the Lower North, from Nakhon Sawan down to Sukhothai, has Phitsanulok as the center.

Culture and History of Northern Thailand

Once known as the Lanna Kingdom, northern Thailand was unified into federation of small Thai principalities by King Mengari in the middle of the 13th century. The first Lanna capital was established in Chiang Rai, the second was in Chiang Mai. The kingdom endured until the 16th century. Around the same time Lanna was established, another kingdom was established in Sukhothai in the southern part of northern Thailand when two Thai chief united to overthrow a Khmer overlord, establishing the first truly independent Thai kingdom. Though it lasted less than two centuries, Sukhotai produced extraordinary Buddhist art and architecture, and is credited with creating a unique Thai culture. Lanna means “one million rice fields,” a reference to to the kingdom’s wealth. The Thai government likes to push the idea that Lanna and Sukhothai—the precursor of all Thai civilizations—were closely related but recent historical research suggests that Lanna was linked to Sukhothai about as much as Sweden was to France in the Middle Ages in Mongolia Europe. Other early Thai cultures such as Nan and Chiang Saen—also originate in northern Thailand.

Northerners express their identity by placing distinctive clay water jars in front of their homes, using hill-tribe-style shoulder bags and displaying carved wooden X motifs on the gables of their buildings. Peter Jon Lindberg wrote in Travel and Leisure magazine: “Northern Thailand has long defined itself against the dominant culture of Bangkok and the south. During the 20th century, as Thailand modernized, northern customs, dress, language, and art fell by the wayside. But over the past decade, Chiang Mai has witnessed a resurgence of state-endorsed regional pride. The northern dialect has made a pronounced return. Men, women, and children often dress in traditional clothes on Fridays (Culture Day). Classical dances and folk songs are performed in schools. Architects and interior designers are using northern motifs in new buildings. [Source: Peter Jon Lindberg, Travel and Leisure, April 2005]

So energized is this reclamation of northern culture that observers now speak of a "Lanna revival." The reference is to the Lanna kingdom, which in its heyday...encompassed all of northern Thailand and parts of present-day Laos and Burma (Myanmar). Lanna was really an amalgam of disparate cultures, its ethnic base ranging from Chinese to Indian to tribal Burmese, with spiritual roots in Theravada Buddhism, animism, and Islam. The Lanna alphabet differs from that of modern Thai, just as Lanna cuisine, with its sticky rice and pork sausages, remains distinct from southern Thai cooking. The Chiang Mai staple khao sawy, a blend of Indian-style curry broth and crisp Chinese noodles, testifies to Lanna's hybrid origins.

The finest and most famous festival of the North is the Yi Peng Festival, a celebration of Loy Krathong in Lan Na style, during which large lanterns, like hot-air balloons, are sent tranquilly soaring into the clear full-moon sky, with the belief that the released lanterns take away all troubles in life. The lanterns themselves also display the artistic skills of the residents.

North Thai Art and Architecture: “Yet it was in art and architecture—particularly temple design—that Lanna made its greatest mark,” Lindberg wrote. “Temples in the north are more modest than those in Bangkok, though many boast intricately carved fretwork, mirror-glass mosaics, and gold leaf. Wood is the dominant material; gold is less common here than in the wealthier south. A hallmark of Lanna construction is the cho fa, the V-shaped finial that crowns the apex of a temple's pitched roof. Builders often left ceiling beams exposed to highlight the temple's "honest architecture." Many of the buildings at Dhara Dheviare representative of Lanna style, as are incidental details such as the terra-cotta pots of "drinking water" placed as an offering outside villa gates.

Northern Thai Food and Eating Customs

Food in Northern Thailand includes both dishes handed down over the generations from the Lanna kingdom and those influenced by its neighbors, especially Myanmar (Burma), and various minority groups that have been living in the area for many years: Tai Yai, Haw Chinese and Tai Lue. The ingredients are found primarily in the local areas, and the varieties depend on the season. One popular meat is pork, because it is easy to find and inexpensive; others are beef, chicken, and duck. Seafood is not popular because of its high price, since the area is far from the sea.

Northerners serve their meals on a raised vessel called "tok." Parties and functions are called "khan tok,” where several small dishes of food are placed on a round, low tray with legs, surrounded by diners who share the food while conversing among themselves. There are various kinds of food on a tok, which come in three different sizes: "khan tok luang" (large tok) is used in northern royal palaces and principal temples; "khan tok ham" (medium-sized tok) is used by large families, and "khan tok noi" (small tok) by small families. Lannastyle khan tok parties have become a very popular tour program that educates tourists about one of the most enjoyable cultural features of the North. A khan tok dinner is a distinctive way to offer a warm welcome to guests, and it is popular at functions to preserve local culture, with participants dressed in local style, as well as demonstrations of local food cooking, and folk entertainment for guests.

Most dishes are eaten with glutinous rice. The flavors are neutral, so none is strongly distinctive but they have a hint of salty, spicy hot, tangy, and sweet notes. They do not use coconut cream or sugar. The dishes are cooked until well done, and fresh vegetables are boiled until tender. Fried dishes are saturated with cooking oil and the most popular condiment used for adding flavor is field crab juice. The spicy curries of Lan Na are made without coconut milk, similar to those in India and Myanmar. If coconut milk is added they call it kaeng kathi (coconut milk soup), which is different from the curry from the central region. The one without coconut milk is called kaeng phet (spicy hot soup).

Food in the northern region is also under the influence of the weather. On chilly days, people warm up with oily dishes like kaeng ong, kaeng hang-le, and fried spicy sausage, sai ua. Ingredients are mostly herbal plants from the valleys and the forests, making up famous dishes like kaeng khae or kaeng yuak, utilizing the inner part of a banana trunk as the main ingredient, or khanom chin nam ngiao, with dried flowers of Bombax ceiba L., or the red silk cotton tree, as the main ingredient. Also famous among northern food is naem, sour preserved pork, a forerunner of food preservation techniques developed from local wisdom.

Northern Thai Dishes

Chiang Mai specialties include spicy sausage and khan toke, an entire dinner comprised of several small dishes, such as curries, crispy fried pork skin, and northern style chili sauces, served with sticky rice on a small round table. Northern Thai dishes often feature “nam phrik” (a pungent paste with a strong smell made from fermented shrimp paste). Among the some of the popular northern dishes are “khao soy” (noodles with milky curry sauce, turmeric and nam phrik), “khanom jeen” (fresh vegetables minced with spices and chilies) and curries such as “namya Kati”, “namya pa”, and “nam ngiao” .

Khao soy resembles fettuccine alfredo. It is made of milky curry sauce, turmeric, and egg noodles, and nam phrik, a pungent mix of fermented shrimp paste and vegetables, was consumed by spreading it onto boiled vegetables. Some visitors detest the dish, which emits a strong, fishy odor. Khan khanoon (spicy jackfruit curry) is served with sticky rice and sai ooa (spicy pork sausages).

Dishes arranged on a tok usually include glutinous rice, spicy dips, like green pepper dip, red pepper dip, and spicy tomato and minced pork dip, and curries, such as Burmese-style bacon curry, mixed vegetable curry, and curry made from kasalong or peep. Other local dishes include fermented pork, northern-style sausages, steamed beef, deep-fried pork rinds, and sauteed pork and vegetables. The cool northern weather is the rationale behind fatty dishes, for they provide plenty of energy to keep people warm; some favorites are spicy tomato and minced pork dip, Burmese-style bacon curry, and northern-style sausages. Vitamins and minerals are obtained from pork sauteed with many types of vegetables.

The Northerners consume sticky rice with various kinds of dips and fresh vegetables. Their spicy soups – not as spicy as those of the Northeast and the South – are made up primarily of local herbs, easily found in the mountainous terrain of the North. A well-known one-dish meal of the North is khao soi, made of yellow noodles, in spicy coconut milk soup, with preserved lettuce and red onion as condiments, yielding a piquant but harmonious taste. [Source: Tourist Authority of Thailand]

Desserts of the North are normally made of sticky rice, both white and red. In festivals, they make khao taen, a delicacy composed of sticky rice mixed with watermelon juice and then fried, laced with cane syrup. Other desserts include khao tom hua ngok, made of sticky rice steamed with banana and seasoned with shredded coconut cake and sugar, and khanom pat, from rice flour mixed with cane syrup over a fire, and laced with shredded and salted coconut cake. Dried banana is also a famous dessert of the region, due to the abundance of banana plants.

Doi Ang Khang

Doi Ang Khang (45 kilometers from Chiang Mai, off Highway No. 107, the Chiang Mai-Fang Road) features a number of attractions, including the Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station, a demonstration site for planting and researching flowering plants, temperate fruit trees, vegetables and other crop under the patronage King Bhumibol. A bonsai garden is located in front of the station. The garden comprises temperate and winter plants of Thailand and overseas, all of which are decorated, cut and planted in bonsai style. Nearby are herbal gardens. The best time to visit is from November to January. Mu Ban Khum is a village located near the Royal Agricultural Station. It is a small community with members of the Burmese, Hwa, and Thai Yai ethnic groups. They and run souvenir shops and restaurants.

Among the activities offered at Doi Ang Khang and Ang Khang Natural Resort are natural study treks to small but beautiful waterfalls and rhododendron forests, mountain biking, birdwatching, mule riding (best done by sitting side saddle because the wide saddle will not allow a horseback-riding style). Booking must be done at least one day in advance with the resort as mules are normally used to carry agricultural produces. The area has a cool climate all year round, particularly from December to January, when much of the area is frosty. During that period, visitors should be prepared to cope with cold weather.

Hours Open: Open everyday from 8:00am -5:00pm.
Contact: Contact: Ang Khang Royal Project, Amphoe Fang, Chiang Mai, Tel. 0 5345 0107-9.
Accommodation: Accommodation is available. Getting There: Turn left at an intersection around km. 137 (at Mae Kha Market) and proceed to Doi Ang Khang for a further distance of 25 kilometers. It is a steep zigzagging asphalt road. Therefore, only vehicles in good condition and experienced drivers can make the trip. The local truck (Songthaew) from Mae Kha Market offers chartered service to the splendid mountain. Website: Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /

Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon National Park (100 kilometers from Chaing Mai) is the home of Thailand's highest mountain. A steep, windy road leads to the summit where there is a temple and garden with wonderful views of the Chiang Mai area in the dry season (in the rainy season it is often shrouded in clouds). Three scenic waterfalls—Mae Klamg, Wachirathan and Siriphum—are near the road that leads to the summit. Also along the road are hill tribe villages, beautiful rice terraces and rain forests trees covered by mosses and epiphytes. Among the animals found in the park are gibbons, covets, giant flying squirrel and rare Asaese macaques and Phayre’s leaf monkey.

Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain. It is 2,599 meters (8,514 feet ) above sea level. Some Thais say is marks the end of the Himalayas, a claim many take issue with. In an any case the mountain receives a lot of rain and has dense summit forest. Visiting Doi Inthanon is possible throughout the year. The best period for viewing waterfalls is May through November. The best period for viewing wild flowers is December through February. The best period for birdwatchers is November through March.

Doi Inthanon Peak has a cool climate all year round. The An Force Radar Station and King Inthawichayanon’s stupa is located on the mountaintop. King Inthawichayanon, the last king of Chiang Mai, was concerned about the importance of forests and wanted to preserve the forests for future generations. He loved Doi Inthanon so much some of his ashes be kept there. The Tourist Information Centre, near the top of Doi Inthanon, has exhibits on geography, biology, forests, and animals.

The Tourist Centre at km. 9 has exhibits on nature and animals that inhabit the area. Doi Inthanon Royal Project is in Khun Klang village close to the park headquarters. The project was initiated in 1979 to help the hill tribes to cultivate cash crops other than opium and train them on modern agricultural practices. The center embraces flower plantations, a plant breeding research lab and flower plantations of hill tribes (Hmong) are open to visitors.

Hours Open: Open everyday from 6.00am to 6:00pm. Contact: Doi Inthanon National Park, Amphoe Chom Thong, Chiang Mai. . Tel: 0 5335 5728, 0 5326 8550 Bangkok Tel: 0 2562 0760 or . Accommodation and Food: Accommodation, restaurants, and camping sites are available at the park headquarters at kilometer 31. Tel: 0 5335 5728, 0 5326 8550 Bangkok Tel: 0 2562 0760 or . Getting There: Travel 58 kilometers west of Chiang Mai via Highway No. 107 to Chom Thong, then turn right into Highway No. 1009 and continue a further distance of 48 kilometers along Highway No. 1009 to the summit. A good asphalt road takes visitors up but is rather steep, thus the vehicle must be in a good condition. Visitors could pay for the entrance fee at kilometer 8. Doi Inthanon can be reached by a local truck (Songthaew) from Phra That Chom Thong or Mae Klang Waterfall. The Songthaew runs to Doi Inthanon National Park Office ( kilometer 31) and neighbouring villages. The fare costs 20 baht each. A chartered Songthaew costing around 800 baht can make stops at other attractions around the area. Website: Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /

Attractions in Doi Inthanon National Park

Attractions in Doi Inthanon National Park: 1) Namtok Mae Ya is one of the most beautiful cascades in the Chiang Mai area. Water flows from a 280-meter steep cliff onto rock outcrops and into pools below. The well-managed waterfall is one kilometer from Highway No. 1009 junction. Turn left for 14 kilometers and then take a 200-meter walk. 2) Namtok Mae Klang is a 100-meter one-level waterfall located eight kilometers from Highway No. 1009. 3) Tham Bori Chinda is a large cave located near Namtok Mae Klang at km. 8.5 of Highway No. 1009. The road sign to Tham Bori Chinda will be seen at the junction on the right. The deep cave has stalactite and stalagmite formations, Buddha images and a rocky stream. Sunlight in the cave allows visitors to see the entire cave.

4) Namtok Wachirathan is a large waterfall which plummets over the edge of a high cliff into a deep pool below that is a good swimming spot. A slippery bridge that leads to the waterfall. To get there, turn right off Highway No.1009 at km. 21, then follow the signpost to the waterfall a further 350 meters on foot. At km.20 a new road has been built to reduce the walk to the waterfall. 5) Namtok Siriphum is a splendid waterfall that falls from a steep cliff in two lines and can be seen en route to Doi Inthanon. The attractive waterfall is located at km. 31 of Highway No. 1009, take a right turn a go for two kilometers. The base of the waterfall is reached bya foot trail.

6) Namtok Mae Pan is the longest waterfall in Chiang Mai, It flowss from a 100-meter cliff. From km. 38 of Highway No. 1009, drive along the Doi Inthanon-Mae Chaem road (Highway No. 1192) for 6 kilometers and a sign to the waterfall will be seen, then drive on an unpaved road for 9 kilometers. The lovely waterfall can be reached by a ten-minute walk from a parking lot. In the rainy season, the road to Namtok Mae Phan is in a poor condition; only a four-wheel vehicle could make the journey. 7) Namtok Huai Sai Lueang is beyond Namtok Mae Pan, about 21 kilometers from Doi Inthanon-Mae Chaem Road. Turn left to an unpaved road where only a four-wheel vehicle could make a trip in the rainy season. The medium-size cascade has water all year round and flows from a cliff to each level.

Natural Study trek on Doi Inthanon Kiu Mae Pan starts from km. 42. This short trail, which winds through pristine forest for about 2.5 kilometers, takers trekkers to a patch of Rhododendrons, commonly found in the Himalayas, that are in full bloom during December-February. Trekkers on this route should seek permission from the park headquarters at km. 31 for safety reasons. A group of not more than 15 people is recommended. Food consumption is not allowed while trekking. This nature trail is closed for reforestation from June 1 to October 30 annually.

Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail was surveyed and designed by Mr. Michael MacMillan Walls, a Canadian volunteer biologist who died from a heart attack on this mountain. This trail is 360 meters long, passing through wet and cold areas in a lush valley. Forest above 2,000 meters have lichens and wild orchids. Indigenous plants that needs a high level of nutrition, organic deposits, and rare species of birds are seen along the trail. There are more nature trails on Doi Inthanon, each providing different views of the diversity of plants, reforestation, the importance of tributaries. Walking trails range from 1 to 8 kilometers. Each trip needs approval from the Chief of the National Park and a trekking leader is needed. The service is obtained at the Park Office at km. 31.

Inthanon Bird Watching Information Centre (Uncle Daeng’s Shop) is located at km. 31. This is a bird information exchange centre among bird watchers, nature students and the general public. The information details the habitat and food of birds and animals living on Doi Inthanon. The aim is to pass on this knowledge to the next generation. It also provides the Doi Inthanon Bird watching Diary, bird sketches by various bird watching experts, bird watching trails, bird pictures, and slides. Winter is the best time for bird watching when indigenous and migrant birds are found including Eurasian woodcock, white wagtail, grey wagtail, yellow wagtail, citrine wagtail, forest wagtail, chestnut thrush, scarlet finch, little bunting, and crested bunting.


Lampang (70 kilometers, 1½ hours by car from Chiang Mai) is the home of Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao, a temple that housed the Emerald Buddha in the 15th century. Nearby is a 170-foot white-and-gold chedi with an interesting, ornately-decorated, Burmese-style prasat. Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao is located on Phra Kaeo Road. It once housed the Emerald Buddha, is now enshrined in Bangkok.. Interesting structures include the large Chedi containing the hair of the Lord Buddha, a Burmese-style Mondop, an ancient Vihan housing a reclining Buddha and a museum exhibiting ancient relics of the Lanna era. Hours Open: The wat is open everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm

The capital of its province, Lampang is on the left bank of the Wang River and near a railroad and linked by a highway with Chiang Rai. Lampang has traditionally been commercial center with sugar-refining facilities.Many tourist tour Lampang in horse carriages. The symbol of the city is a white chicken. A short distance from Lampang, set amid farms and rice fields, is Wat Chedi Sao. The name literally means "the Temple of Twenty Chedis" and one look at the 20 stupas in the temple courtyard makes it easy to understand the orgin of the name. The origin of the temple itself is less clear. A legend recounted at the temple says that two monks from India came to the area about 2,000 years ago to spread the teachings of Buddha. A local prince was much impressed and asked each of the monks for ten hairs. He then built the temple, placing one hair in each chedi. Hours Open: The way is open everyday from 8:00am -4:30pm.

Tourist Office and Website: 105/1 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road,Tambon Wat Ket, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai 50000, 0 5324 8604, 0 5324 8607. Accommodation: Lampang has a variety of accommodation options, including a number of charming guesthouses and small boutique hotels. Getting to Lampang: Lampang is best reached via private car or public bus; it is located at the intersection of Highways No. 1 and 11, both major thoroughfares leading to northern Thailand. By Train: Regular trains depart from Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Railway Station to Lampang daily. Call 1690 or visit for more information.From Chiang Mai, all trains heading south stop in Lampang, a 2 to 2 ½ hour ride depending on the class of train. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 and Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan via Sing Buri and Chai Nat, and then turn into Highway No. 1 again to go to Lampang via Kamphaeng Phet and Tak, a total distance of 599 kilometers. From Chiang Mai, Lampang is a short drive, about 1 ½ hours southeast along Highway No. 11. By Bus: The Transport Co. Ltd. operates both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses to Lampang. Buses leave Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) daily.Several private buses also provide bus service, including Wiriya Tour, Tel: 0 2936 2827 and New Wiriya Tour Tel: 0 2936 2205-6. By Air: Bangkok Airway has flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Lampang. For schedule or bookings contact 0 2270 6699 - Solar Air contact 02-535-2455-6 .

Sights in the Lampang Area

Wat Lampang Luang (12 miles outside of Lampang) is famous for its classic Lanna-style decorations, European-castle-style walls and a massive copper-covered chedi with Buddhist relics inside. It is regarded by some as the most interesting piece of architecture in northern Thailand. According to Asian Historical Architecture: Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is a remarkable example of a fortress monastery, or wiang. When approaching the site, the first impression the visitor has are of the tall, imposing walls that surround the site. Apart from the chedi and the main viharn, there are a half dozen other principal structures of note. Among these is Viharn Nam Tam, which is thought to be the oldest surviving wooden religious building in Thailand. The fame of the site, and its preservation throughout the centuries, is largely due to the belief that the historical Buddha visited here about 2,500 years ago and donated a lock of his hair, which is now enshrined in the chedi.

The wat actually saw battle in the early 18th century as a result of an incident between Burmese troops and a local Man of Merit who was killed near here. After the incident, the Burmese troops took up residence in the fortified monastery. A local fighter named Thippachak rose in arms against the Burmese here with 300 men, gaining access to the monastery via a water channel in the rear. The site where he killed the Burmese commander, Tao Maha Yot, can still be seen as the bullet holes remain in the railings.

Thung Kwian Forest Market (a few kilometers down the Chiang Mai - Lampang Highway from the Elephant Conservation Centre) market sells a huge variety of forest products (both flora and fauna) including live water beetles, field rats, snakes, crispy larvae, eviscerated lizards, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, an extensive fungi selection, and cow placentas. Endangered animals such pangolins sued be sold but authorities cracked down on that. Apart from the weird foot section the market is considered fairly touristy. Normal eats grilled chicken, sticky rice and curry are also available.

Chae Son National Park (75 kilometers from Lampang) is situated in a lush forested and mountainous region with a 73-Celsius hot spring and misty mountains that are particularly picturesque in the morning. There are bathing facilities. One kilometer from the entrance is a clear, cool brook where tourists can take a dip in water fed by six -level Chae Son waterfall, Hours Open: The park is open everyday from 8:00am - 6:00pm. Accommodation: There are accommodations and camping areas for visitors. Admission: Admission Fee: Adult 200 Baht Child 100 Baht. Getting There: By Car: From the provincial stadium in Lampang, follow the Lampang-Hang Chat Road (old route) and turn right at the Ban Nam Thong T-junction to go along Highway 1147 (Lampang-Huai Peng-Mueang Pan route) for around 55 kilometer. Then, turn right to Highway 1287 (Mueang Pan-Chae Hom route) and go for around two kilometers and turn left to Highway 1252 (Khuang Kom-Pang Faen) and go for another 11 kilometers. Finally, turn left at Ro Pho Cho Road and go for another three kilometer before reaching the park’s headquarters. By Bus: The bus service on the Lampang-Chae Son Line is available on Talat Kao Road, during from 8.00am-6.00pm A charter bus service is available.

Website: Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /


Phrae (23 kilometers from Den Chai Station on the Chiang Mai train line) is a former center of the teak trade. Some old teak houses still remain and teak carving remains a local craft. Phrae is also home to Wat Phra That Cho Hae, a magnificent temple with a 100-foot-high, stepped-pyramid-style chedi covered with gold leaf. Located on top of a hill, the wat gets its name from a kind of material that is wrapped around the chedi during an annual fair held at the temple compound. Phare itself its surrounded by rice fields, canals and wetlands. Kwan Phayao is a large natural lake within the city. Many of the people that live here are Thai Lue, a few of whom still live in traditional stilted houses.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Phrae office, Areas of Responsibility: Phrae,Nan,Uttaradit, 34/130-131, Mueang Hid Road, Tambon Nai Mueang, Amphoe Mueang, Phrae., Tel. +66 5452 1118-9, +66 5452 1127, Fax. +66 5452 1119. E-mail Address:, Accommodation: Phrae has a variety of accommodation options, including guesthouses, modern hotels, and both lodging and camping facilities in the national parks. Website: ;

Getting to Phrae: Phrae is somewhat off the beaten track and is best reached via private car or bus. From Bangkok’s Samsen station take a train to Denchai station. Leaving Bangkok around 9 pm, the train arrives at Denchai around 6 or 7 the following morning. From the train station in Denchai a blue songtaew goes to Phrae. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 and Highway No. 11 to Phrae via Nakhon Sawan, Phichit, Phitsanulok and Uttaradit. By Bus: The Transport Co. Ltd. operates regular buses to Phrae at 10am and 10.30pm The buses leave Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) everyday. For more information, call 0 2936 2852-66 or visit Private bus companies also servicing Phrae include Choet Chai Tour (Tel: 0 2936 0199), Phrae Tour (Tel: 0 2936 3720), and Sombat Tour (Tel: 0 2936 2496). By Air: Nok Air International operate seasonal flight between Bangkok and Phrae. The trip takes 40-45 minutes. For more information, contact Call Center 1318 International Call +662-900-9955 or visit

Mae Yom National Park ( 48 kilometers from Phrae) embraces mountains with deciduous and rich teak forests, probably the densest in the country. Along the Yom River in front of the camping area of the park are the Kaeng Sua Ten rapids, a two-kilometer-long stretch of rock formations and best visited during November-February when the weather is cool and the scenery at its loveliest. Hours Open: Open everyday from 6.00am - 6:00pm. Contact: P.O. Box 4, Amphoe Song, Phrae, Tel. 0 5455 6537 (VoIP), 0 5462 6770 Accommodation: Visitors may camp along the river banks. Website: Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /


Nan (2½ hours from Phrae by bus, 668 kilometers from Bangkok) is a nice town that is a bit difficult to get to so it and doesn’t attract many tourists. Located in the banks of the Nan river, it was once the site of a small kingdom. Up until the 1980s it was s full of bandits and insurgents. Even Thais dared not go there and efforts to build roads were routinely sabotaged. By the early 1990s the Thai army had to gained control of the region and now Nan is promoted officially as one of Thailand’s “remote provinces.”

Wat Phumin, built in 1496 and restored in 1867, houses four large Sukhothai-style seated Buddhas, superbly-carved wooden doors, and a series of interesting murals that show scenes of everyday life in the ancient north. The Nan National Museum contains some artifacts, picture and photographs dealing with Nan history. To east are densely forested hills that reach to the Laos border. Doi Phu Kha National park has several peaks over 2,000 meters. heritage in peace and tranquility. Canned fresh air from Mt. Doi Phu Kha is sold for about $1 a can. The air is captured and sealed at an elevation of 1,200 meters.

Nan province is largely rural and sparsely populated. Many of the people that live there belong to hill tribes such as the Lua, N'tin, and Khamu. Much of Nan is devoted to agriculture, particularly rice and fruit cultivation. Nan features six national parks, including the stunning Doi Phukha National Park, which contains mountains nearly 2,000 meters high. The rich natural beauty of Nan makes it an ideal destination for trekking as the remote province sees far fewer visitors than neighboring Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. If you plan to visit in October, the city comes alive for the annual Nan boat races; try to book your room early!

History of Nan: A quiet and tranquil province, Nan is nestled in a verdant valley in northern Thailand along the border with Laos. Because of its relative proximity to Luang Prabang, the historical capital of the Laotian Lan Xang kingdom, the earliest settlers in the area were Lan Xang’s Laotians, ethnic Tai who are distantly related to the Tai people who settled in central Thailand. These early settlers established themselves around present-day Pua district, which is rich in rock salt deposits, about 700 years ago. The earliest Nan rulers allied themselves with neighboring principalities to establish the kingdom of Lan Na.

The center of power in Nan eventually moved south to the fertile Nan River basin, where the capital of Nan exists to this day. Nan's history, development, and architecture were greatly influenced by various neighboring kingdoms, in particular Sukhothai, which played important political and religious roles in shaping the development of Nan. Over the centuries however, Nan alternated between being an independent principality under the control of Lan Na, Sukhothai, Burma and Siam in that order. In 1558, the town was conquered and depopulated by the Burmese. By the late 18th century Nan forged an alliance with the new Bangkok centered Rattakosin Kingdom and existed as a semi-autonomous kingdom with a line of monarchs that ruled from 1786 until 1931. Today, Nan is still the home of numerous Thai Lue and other hill tribes who retain many of their fascinating customs and traditions.

Nan Traveler Information

Tourist Office and Website: 34/130-131, Mueang Hid Road, Tambon Nai Mueang, Amphoe Mueang, Phrae. Tel. 0 5452 1118-9, 0 5452 1127, 0 5452 1119. Accommodation: Nan has a variety of accommodation options, including resorts, guesthouses, hotels, and lodging in the national parks.

Getting to Nan: Nan is a relatively remote province and thus is best reached via private car or public bus. However, it is possible to take a train or plane to nearby Phrae or Chiang Rai and then a bus to Nan. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan, Highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok, Highway No. 11 to Amphoe Den Chai, and then Highway No. 101 to Nan via Phrae, a total distance of 668 kilometers. If you have rented a car in Chiang Mai the faster is from Phrae, though the more scenic route goes towards Phayao and then descends into Nan. As roads in the far north are hilly and many are unsealed (off the main roads) it may be preferable to rent a 4x4 if you plan to do any serious exploring on your own.

By Bus: Transport Co. Ltd. operates bus services from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) to Nan every day. Overnight VIP buses are very comfortable with much leg room and the trip takes about 10 hours to complete. There are also regular buses from Chiang Rai to Nan. Call 0 2936 2852-66 or visit for more information. Other private companies include Phrae Tour (Tel: 0 2245 2369), Sombat Tour (Tel: 0 2936 2495-6), and Choetchai Tour (Tel: 0 5471 0362 (Nan Office)). By Air: Nok Mini (nokairlines) offers flight from Bangkok (Don Muang Airport) to Nan 3 flights a day and sevens day a week , more information please visit .

Whitewater Rafting on the Nam Wa River Near Nan

Whitewater Rafting on the Nam Wa River is an exciting activity for tourists who like to shoot many rapids. Rafting can be accompanied by elephant riding. The suitable time for rafting is from September to February. Visitors can contact travel agencies in the town. The routes of rafting are as follows: 1) White-water Rafting along the Middle Part of the Wa River The rapids are of level 3 to 5 difficulty with a length of 100 kilometers. It takes 3 days and 2 nights passing the Doi Phu Kha National Park and the Mae Charim National Park. 2) The Lower Part of the Wa River was originally a transporting route for teakwood, which was illegally cut from the forests in Mae Charim and Wiang Sa districts. The Wa River runs through valley sided by high undulating mountains, There are more than 22 major rapids. The level of difficulty is at level 3 - 5 (level 3 is medium, level 4 is difficult, and level 5 is very difficult). The biggest and the most difficult one is Kaeng Luang. Along some parts of the river are sandy beach where a raft can be stopped and people can swim. Some parts are located near elephant camps where visitors can take an elephant to Ban Hat Rai. The period when the water is the highest is during August. The water is lowest in April. The most suitable time for white-water rafting is from November to January.

Short rafting trips start in Ban Nam Pu, Nam Phang sub-district, Mae Charim district, and end at Ban Hat Rai, San Na Nong sub-district, Wiang Sa district, covering a total distance of 19.2 kilometers and takes 4 hours. If you start in front of the Office of the National Park , the total distance is only 15 kilometers. The mellow bamboo rafting route starts in Ban Nam Wa and ends in Ban Nam Pu, covering a distance of four kilometers in approximately four hours. Contact the Nan Pang Chang Company (Tel. 0 5478 1316), the River Raft Company (Tel. 0 5471 0940, 08 9835 1506) or the Inter Tour (Tel. 0 5471 0195) for information on Wa River rafting and elephant riding.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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