Nan and Saithong 2008
Saithong is a remote village about a 40 minute drive into the hills from Nan. It is occupied by a Mien village tribe who still live a very traditional way of life. It is surrounded by lush green mountainous fields with a jungle like atmosphere. The houses line the stream and are built in a variety of styles. With a population of about 200 it is a very tight nit community where everyone knows each other and works together. The school consists of four different age groups from 3 to 12 years old and is run by 4 teachers and a caretaker. It has more facilities than one may imagine with a few computers, a volleyball court and even a karaoke machine! We are staying in the village hall, just a 30 second walk from the school, which is used for meetings and special occasions. Laoloa is the Head man of the village and one of the nicest men you could hope to meet. He was elected 5 years ago and appears to be respected by everyone in the village. There is a village shop which sells the basics such as eggs and noodles as well as what we found out to be dried beetles! Most of the citizens work in the fields (rice, corn etc.) from as early as 5am. Women used to weave traditional textiles to sell but they no longer can make a living from it.
Nan - the hardest word to pronounce and not understood by anyone when we try to say it! It is the capital of the Nan province which is the 14th largest in the country. It features in the guide books for some of its fantastic temples and murals but is completely unspoiled by tourism and we can go days without seeing another white person. It is a sprawling town with many food markets and handicraft shops. The friendliness of the people is particularly notable but we are not sure whether this is to do with Dr Chatree's announcement about us on morning radio, so everyone is keen to meet us, or if they are genuinely the nicest people in the world!
On the outskirts there is Chulalongkorn University which is a distance learning centre form Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Speaking to the students they find Nan a rather quiet place to study with little for them to do compared with Bangkok, however, enjoy the time away from the capital. While the town is built on fairly flat ground, with the wide river running through it, you do not have to venture very far out before experiencing the beautifully lush rolling hills. The Riverside Art Gallery is about 20km out of town and shows the divergent scenery well, along with the viewpoint just above the centre. In terms of food and drink, Nan is not short of interesting places to eat, serving classic Thai dishes, to Chinese influenced food and a couple of delicious Western institutions which are our personal favourites. Bars are harder to find, but a bottle of beer over dinner is a refreshing treat.