It’s difficult to believe our trip is coming to an end. But after all the temples, fried fish, and clothing shops, it is time to fly back to Bangkok for our last shopping and eating adventures before returning home. We will miss the North’s cooler weather, but we can have all the cool weather we want in the Bay Area, so perhaps a little Bangkok Winter heat is just what we need?
Today we leave Nan province and cross Phayao province to Chiang Rai, which was previously part of Phayao province. This region, best known as part of the “Golden Triangle” has a troubled history with production and trafficking of opium. However, over the course of several decades communities have been rehabilitated and put on a solid economic footing due in no small part to the efforts of one woman, Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother, the mother of Thailand’s beloved and recently passed King Rama IX. Through visits to Doi Tung and Mae Salong, we will experience her work, and we also will visit a Cultural Center that occupies the site of a school she founded for hill tribe women.
Today we’ll head to Pua to continue our exploration of Tai Lue temples and crafts, and enjoy a bit more time off the beaten track. There’s no highway between Bo Kluea and Pua, so we’ll wind through Doi Phu Kha National Park and take in viewpoints along the way. Get your candied ginger, we’re ready to roll.
Before Nan town became important, the center of power in the province was further North n Pua, based on the production of salt. While sea salt and manufactured salts are more popular and abundant these days, salts from land-based deposits have played an important role in history. We’ll take a brief detour to learn more about this maligned but essential mineral while enjoying a mountain resort.
With beautiful scenery, an abundance of historic temples, and lesser known ethnic groups, Nan Province has begun to draw a substantial number of Thai tourists, although many may roar through on giant tour buses just for a weekend. We’ll take our time with four nights in the city of Nan, a night in Bo Kluea, and three nights in Pua, the former center of power in the province. It appears that Chinese tourists also have discovered Nan; when will more Westerners divert from Chiang Mai and the Pai-Mae Hong Son loop? It’s only a matter of time.
Thailand’s current boundaries are the results of numerous wars and treaties dating back more than half a century. Today we are heading to the heartland of the first Thai kingdom, Sukhothai. Unlike Kasma’s original Northern trip, we’ll pass to the East of the famous sites along the road less traveled (at least by Westerners).
Incredibly, this is the twelfth trip I’ve taken in Thailand with my Thai cooking teacher Kasma Loha-Unchit, and somehow it doesn’t get old. Bangkok and the other places we visit are constantly changing, each group has its own dynamics, and through some miracle, we find new things to eat each time. Let the exploration begin!
In the Winter of 2016, I joined my Thai cooking teacher Kasma Loha-Unchit as part of the first group to experience the “Northern Frontiers” itinerary. We found beautiful temples, unusual parks, plenty of tasty regional cuisine, new shopping opportunities, and even a tea plantation. Only four years later, Kasma has scheduled her last Northern Frontiers trip, so I couldn’t resist checking in on these spots one last time.