As the aeroplane descended I could see the river snaking its way along the valley floor. To either side there were ox bow lakes. Seven of them I counted, but there could have been more. The houses of the small town of Nan clustered either side of the river.

For centuries Nan was an independent kingdom, isolated by the mountain ranges which surround it. Short stretches of the brick walls built to defend it still stand. Its isolation still gives it its own special character. McDonald’s and Pizza Hut haven’t made it here yet. Around town there are posters announcing stag beetle fights. And a few households still put out jars of drinking water for passers-by.

Water jars in Nan

Nan lies about 670 km north of Bangkok, close to the border with Laos, and is small, with a population about 20,000.

At the bus station the woman selling tickets had a small plastic bag full of cicadas. A short bamboo tube, too small for the cicadas to crawl through, was secured to the neck of the bag by a rubber band. A small crowd had gathered to admire her tasty snack.

The town looks much like any other town: ugly rows of concrete buildings, a tangle of wires overhead. However, there are a few large teak houses in the centre of town, and a number of shady gardens with moss growing over the walls.

The major attraction of the town, however, is its charming temples. I didn’t see another Westerner in my three days in here. I doubt, however, Nan will remain off the tourist trail for much longer.


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