Working in a Thai school as an English Teacher and volleyball coach has its perks. One of these perks just happens to be opportunities to explore the neighboring provinces during school events. This past year, I was blessed with the chance to go on adventures in Nan, Thailand. My volleyball team was heading there for a week long tournament and my school asked me to join. I didn’t hesitate, even though I knew it was going to be volleyball 24-7, but it wasn’t all volleyball. There were several unique experiences and adventures in Nan; none of which I knew anything about.
Nan is the capital city in its namesake province, located to the east of Lampang along the Laos border. I can honestly say that Nan was a city I’ve never even heard of prior to moving to Lampang. I was excited for even the small possibility of exploring and seeing what it has to offer.
For us to get to Nan, we had to take the “school bus” as this was a school sanctioned trip. Now, let me set the record straight. Our “school bus” isn’t really a bus. I don’t even know what to call this automobile. I guess you could call it a truck bus. It’s a massive songthaew type of vehicle large enough to fit like 30 people and luggage.
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the most comfortable mode of transportation, as the seats are benches along the sides. This means that we faced outwards along the road. I don’t get carsick normally, but not facing the same direction as the moving vehicle and the windiness of the roads, did cause a little sickness.
The drive from Lampang to Nan took us just over 6 hours with stops included. It is a pretty decent drive and since we went in September, it was very luscious and green. I spent many hours just staring at the windows.
Accommodation in Nan
Kru B is one of the most generous humans I have ever met. She truly treats her players and coaches like her children. She made sure that we had a great accommodation for our week long tournament.
We stayed at this beautiful resort on the outskirts of town called Nan Fahsai Resort. Nan Fahsai Resort is located right past the military fort, to the northeast of the city center. In addition to being an accommodation, Nan Fahsai Resort is also connected to a local farm with lots of animals. Thankfully, our rooms were located in the back of the resort away from the animals so they didn’t wake us up. They also have a pool, but we didn’t have any time to utilize it.
The resort appeared to have several types of room options, but I don’t know too many details. Everything was spoken/written in Thai and Kru B did the booking.
However, I was blessed with my own room, even though I told I’d need to share. The girls each shared rooms with two twin beds, and the boys had a large dorm style room with mattresses on the floor. This might sound awkward, but it’s very common in Thailand for mattresses to be on the floor.
My Time In Nan
Unfortunately, the majority of my week in Nan was spent at one of the local high schools. You could summarize it as “Eat. Sleep. Breathe volleyball.”
I honestly didn’t mind that I spent most of my days surrounded by a bunch of high schoolers playing volleyball. The girls I coach and the boys truly are some of my favorite humans. I always feel so respected and well-taken care of when I’m around them and they really make sure I have my coffee. They even asked me to join them for dinner a few nights, too.
Majority of our breakfasts and lunches were eaten at the host school’s canteen. We did, however, get the chance to venture to a morning market and at least one nicer cafe, but only to get a coffee to-go.
We spent dinners at one of two places; a local walking street market or restaurant road. The restaurant road was my favorite because it was sit-down style but had a variety of options. It was nice not having to try and fit 19 of us in one restaurant.
We did get to have one group team dinner when Kru B returned to Nan and it was delicious. One of the best parts of this experience is I couldn’t even tell you what I ate. I never actually ordered my own food. I would either eat with the girls, who would get the food, or with the other coach, who would order for me.
For several of the nights, I rewarded myself with Roti for dessert. Plus, I spoiled the girls with roti to one night. I can’t lie when I tell you I LOVE ROTI, especially with bananas and chocolate.
Adventures in Nan
One of the best parts about this week long tournament actually came at the end of the week, when the head coach, who I call Queen B, joined us. She wasn’t able to leave the school for the whole week, which is why I got to go. I also think she wanted to show me off a little as the “farang coach.” She’s very proud that I joined the coaching staff during my time teaching at Bunyawat. One of the men’s coaches, who was a volunteer, wasn’t a teacher at the school so he was with me the whole week too.
By the time Kru B arrived back in Nan, the girl’s had already been eliminated from the tournament. We didn’t make it as far as we were hoping too, but the girls still played their hardest. The boys ended up losing the next day, but it didn’t matter to us. Kru B spoiled us either way by taking us on adventures.
Pua, a Hillside Village
We started out driving north from Nan through the rolling green hills and mountains. I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing, but the journey was stunning. Thailand’s landscape during rainy season is quite beautiful from the trees and plants to the random rice fields.
Our first destination in Pua was one of the big temples called Wat Phuket. This temple is located on the top of a hill with extraordinary views of the country side. Located within the temple is a small coffee shop called Hugna Coffee, where they also offer small snacks for sale.
Wat Phuket It is home to Phuketsonthaya Templestay, where you can live in the housing below the temple. The temple stay also appears to have a small bamboo village at the bottom with fish pond. If standing at the top near the temple, you can actually send fish food down to the pond through a pipe.
Our next destination was another temple with countryside views. Wat Sri Mongkol is a beautiful and large Buddhist Temple, north of the Nan city. It has a large back area with several opportunities for photographs. At he back of the temple grounds, there appears to be bamboo walking bridge, but I’m not totally sure about access. We only stopped here for a few photos and some snacks before making the drive back to the resort.
The next morning was another adventure. Kru B didn’t give us much clue expect “be ready at 8:30am,” at which time we loaded up the truck bus and began driving.
During our nearly 3 hour drive to the final destination, we only took a few quick pitstops for photos. One was at this beetle, which I guess is a symbol for Nan and the other was at the entrance into Doi Phu Kha National Park.
Our final destination ended up being a small hillside village called Ban Bo Kluea. Ban Bo Kluea is located within the national park and is roughly 800 years old. In the broken Thai-English conversation I had, I managed to learn that the river running alongside the village has a salty take and is a great source of salt.
Because of this, Ban Bo Kluea has become a popular destination, known for its salt, salt pits and salt wells. This is quite unique considering it is located in the middle of the mountains. Not near the oceans, which is where most salt is produced. Throughout the small village small shops were packed with various salt products including salt scrubs and salt soaps. Someone mentioned to me there is a specific place tourists can go to watch the villages ancient art of salt production, however I was unable to go to this location.
Aside from the beautiful mountainscape surrounding the village, Ban Bo Kluea was also surrounded by beautiful rice fields. Between the shopping, the cute cafes, the mountains, and the rice paddy fields, Ban Bo Kluea felt, to me, to be one of the most authentic Thai villages I’d been to. It truly was a unique experience filled with many photo opportunities, that I wouldn’t have experienced had I not started coaching volleyball.
Once we left Ban Bo Kluea, we continued our drive through Doi Phu Kha National Park. We stopped at a few more view points before finally making our way home to Nan.
Our day didn’t end upon our return hometo Nan. Apparently there was some large carnival/festival going on, and of course Kru B said we’re going. After a quick shower, I changed and got back onto the truck bus.
The carnival was full of fun games, shopping, and so much food. I got to try a few new items, including this sugary, coconut-sesame fluffy pancake type pastry and this squid string like jerky. I don’t know.
One thing I’m pretty open too is food. I will try anything at least once and when I’m with my Thai students and fellow teachers/coach, I tend to just eat whatever they hand me. It’s a great attitude, I have found, to get to learn the local cuisine.
The Drive Home
My week in Nan had come to an end, but the adventures were far from over. Little did I know, but Kru B had other plans for our 4 hour drive home.
Between Lampang and Nan, lay several national parks. None of them were completely “on the way,” but they also weren’t too far out of the way. Kru B decided we should visit one of them because she said it was beautiful.
Srinan National Park
We ended up at two different view point areas within Srinan National Park. The first stop was Doi Samer Dao, a small hill with beautiful rock formations called Pha Huo Sing. The top of the hill was very simple with a 360 view of Srinan National Park. Facing southeast you can see Mae Nam Nan, or Nan River, running through the mountains. If you turn to face northwest, you look down a beautiful valley with rock formations and trees. Both views were vastly different, but their differences is what made this view point so beautiful.
The second stop was at was Doi Pha Chu, a mountain peak designed for camping. I could tell this was a more popular location for overnight visits because of the number of amenities offered. There was a large seating area with several options for food, snacks and drinks including a small cafe.
The view point of also offered a never ending view of the mountain range and Mae Nam Nan. My Thai volleyball family told that this was a common place to come for sunrise to see the Sea of Clouds. Fun fact, it is also home to Thailand’s Longest National Flag.
Wat Phra That San Don and the Bamboo Bridge
Once we left Srinan National Park, I thought we were going to head straight home. But, as usual, Kru B had other plans. This time, we went to visit a temple called Wat Phra That San Don, which is about 25 kilometers outside of Lampang.
I had absolutely ZERO clue this place even existed and it was way more than just another temple. Wat Phra That San Don itself, was just another Buddhist temple, but getting there was incredible. We had to walk along this huge bamboo bridge, directly over rice fields from the main high way to the actual temple.
For me, this bamboo bridge experience felt very authentic. It was so unexpected, that I honestly felt like I could cry. I don’t think I would have gotten a chance to visit this place without Kru B and her randomness. In all honestly, I probably still wouldn’t know the Lampang Bamboo Bridge existed.
My week away from school was filled with so many adventures in Nan, that it’s truly hard to put into words. To say I’ve been blessed by Kru B and the volleyball teams would be an understatement. I honestly could have never imagined that I’d become an expat living in Thailand coaching volleyball. None of this would have been possible if I didn’t take the leap to teach in Thailand.