From Sukhothai I took the bus five hours North East to Nan, a small town in the center of Nan province. For most of its history Nan was its own kingdom before joining Thailand in 1931.
Nan isn't on the itinerary of many western backpackers which was clear within minutes of reaching the night market on the first evening. All menus were written in Thai script! In a country so well traveled as Thailand it's nice to find somewhere that caters mostly to locals, though it was a bit of a shock trying to order tea that first night.
By blind luck I arrived in time for the annual fair at Wat Koo Kam, held in January at full moon. I'm told that the fair is a source of donations to the temple and each temple will hold one throughout the year.
Other than the fireworks there were a number of street sellers and a stage setup for a performance, possibly Thai opera but I'm not sure.
One of the main reasons of coming here was for trekking; Nan has several hill tribes easily accessible including the Mabri tribe only found in Nan provence. Known as the Yellow Leaf People they move their village every couple of weeks (as soon as the leaves turn yellow) which I hoped would be less commercialised than other treks in Thailand.
Unfortunatlly treks can only be arranged in groups of 2-4 and after a failed attempt at convincing a Singaporean in my guesthouse that he wanted to spend the day trekking, I called it a day and focused on the other things to do in Nan.
The small town has plenty of temples but Wat Phumin stands out. Rather than a single mural on an outside wall as many temples have, all four internal walls are covered depicting stories and the teachings of Buddhism.
Most of the tourists that Nan does see are Thai who bring their own transport. This means visting the national park and points of interest just an hour away can be a real hassle for the tourists that come by bus; the public transport just isn't there. To see them I'd need to rent a scooter and go myself, but I'll leave that for another post.
More Nan photos on Flickr.