We found our way out of Phrae via mini bus early morning on Thursday and made our way to the town of Nan in Nan Province.
Now, those of you that are related to me on the Nielsen side will see that word and your heart may warm and bubble slightly. It’s pronounced like Nahn or the India bread Naan, not how you’re hearing it in your head. That may have been the draw, at least looking at a map, for me to research the area in Thailand and find a reason to go there. Call me weird, I believe in signs.
This area of Thailand is one of the more off the beaten path spaces yet not so far from civilization that it’s awkward to travel to….at least not for the seasoned backpacker. You can get here by minibus from the larger city hub of Phrae but we noticed motorbike rentals in the city of Nan. Seeing as how we’re versed in Honda waves, we thought, why not? You can see so much more and travel at your own pace on two wheels and your own agenda.
We checked out several rental spots and settled on a Honda dealership in the downtown area of Nan that had nice looking and well maintained bikes. The lady we spoke with knew fairly good English and when we asked for two bikes she exclaimed “Madaam can ride?!” And I chuckled and replied back, “Yes, Madaam can ride.” So she set us up with two newer and nice looking 125cc semi automatic hondas, helmets and mine even had a basket…score.
For a mere $6/day per bike we’d have the freedom of our own wheels to do a 3 day loop through Nan Province. After paying $15/day in Vietnam two years ago we’d say we made out well. We left around 9am the next day after tying our bags to the back of our bikes and maneuvering our way out of town. The countryside was picturesque. Farmland and rice paddies framed by green lush hills and the hills just got bigger the further we rode.
We made it to the town of Bo Kluea by mid day after riding about 45 miles. We found a guesthouse that was clean with a private bath and balcony at a bit more than we usually spend. It seemed like an out of the way spot and we were well under budget for the day so we went for it. Grabbed some espresso and a green tea iced latte(which is like candy by the way) while we checked out the salt wells and the process of extracting the salt from water. There was also a little market selling various salt products procured by the townsfolk.
We watched and photographed a large group of monks crossing the river and caught a few good shots with some stellar sunbeams. Matt loves those majestic sunbeam photos… hahaha. As the sun got lower in the sky we decided it was time for happy hour and the reward was a cold Leo Beer from the minimart. We popped a seat on our balcony and watched the chickens chase each other around the side yard listening to an NPR broadcast as the sun disappeared behind the green scape of the hills.
The time got away from us and suddenly we realized we had better go track down some dinner as the town we are in is very small. A long meander later we finally found an area that had a few places that looked like they were still serving. One jazzed up bowl of ramen later and we walked back to the hotel.
Later that night, our first case of food/water borne illness hit poor Matt. It was like something out of the exorcist or that episode of family guy where they have the epicack drinking contest to win a slice of pie. Not pretty. I luckily never vomited but had pretty bad stomach cramps the whole next day and we both were very lethargic. We unfortunately couldn’t just lay there and lick our wounds, nor did this town have much to save you from a food or water bug so we pushed on to get to Pua (without hopefully having to Pua before we got there…lol).
After arriving to Pua and only on hydration and no food (trust me you don’t feel much like eating for a day or so after an episode like that), we settled into the Green Hill hotel. Local food was not striking a chord with us but we knew we should eat something so we hit up the 7-11 for some wheat bread and cheese slices. Matt found some cold cut ham too so we made some sandwiches back in our room and laid low the rest of the evening.
We hit the road early the next morning to head back to Nan city. It was unfortunate we didn’t get to camp or hike Doi Phu Kha National Park as that was half the reason for motor biking that particular loop but we were in no shape the day we had set aside to do so. We spent one night in Nan after dropping the bikes off and we were glad it happened to be a weekend day as their weekend night market is so much better than the daily one. A capsule of activated charcoal and a few plates of Sôm Tam (spicy green papaya and tomato salad) and we were right as rain again.
We head next to Chiang Mai, the backpacker hub of the north. We hope to do some more motor biking there and have better luck with the food along the way. All I can say is thank goodness for activated charcoal pills being sold at the 7-11 or we would’ve been hurting for more days than necessary.