Between puzzles and games, cyclists exploring the northern province find locales teeming with charm
Nan is a great province and lovely to cycle around, but you had to forgive the mixed feelings among the 50 riders on the recent International Bangkok Bike tour – they were just as exhausted as they were exhilarated.
Nan was the latest destination on a cycling trek covering five “secondary tourist cities” in the country’s five regions, put together by NCC Exhibition Organizer.
Nan perches at the far east of the far North, bordering Laos, and boasts the spectacular mist-draped mountains of Doi Phu Kha National Park.
There are lots of venerable temples and communities of indigenous hilltribes, and the town of Nan itself is peaceful, laid back and charming.
The cyclists’ starting point was the Phu Resort in Pua district. Sub Lieutenant Phanuwat Khatnak, director of the Tourism Authority’s local Office, gave a pep talk and then signalled the launch for a 40-kilometre jaunt. Ahead of us were four designated stops with their own interesting attractions and planned activities.
We reached the first one after just 7km – the Ban Tai Lue Café, which overlooks vast rice fields set against a mountainous background.
Thatched-roof pavilions on stilts, connected by an interlacing network of bamboo and wooden bridges, formed Ban Tai Lue. Rustic waterwheels and bolts of fabric gently fluttering in the breeze completed the amazing scene as the bikers paired off to solve four quizzes.
Another 12km on, we pulled up at Wat Si Mongkok, which was founded as Wat Kong. The cyclists were separated into five groups, each with its own colour, to play a pair of fun games.
One involved whispering a long sentence to one another and having a laugh at the end result, and the other required us to transfer spoonfuls of water from one container to another, separated by several metres.
In the midst of all this, we still had time to admire the temple buildings, including one with a beautiful, intricate mural depiction a long-ago flood that struck the province.
Nan is deservedly famous for its gorgeous natural environment – and for its hills. Yes, there were some steep climbs on the bikes and more than one wearied rider hopped off and turned into a walker.
Going slow was nice, too, since you could enjoy the fragrant yellow flowers blossoming on White Meranti trees (Shorea roxburghii, ton phayom in Thai). The scent reminded me of khanom kleep lamduan, the traditional baked cookies formed into the shape of lamduan flowers.
A further 13km on and we were at Wat Phuket, a long way from that famous resort island but just as welcoming with young students treating us to a traditional dance.
Once settled in, we pooled our talents to complete jigsaw puzzles depicting several tourist destinations.
It was only 6km more back to the resort, where another jigsaw puzzle awaited us to complete our mission. Backs were slapped, muscles massaged, and we hungrily headed off for a much-anticipated lunch.