A visit to Nakorn Sawan and Phichit
The drive to Bangkok can be tedious if done in a day. But if you take your time, there are wonderful attractions along the way which could easily turn a one day drive to a full on road trip. You can visit exquisite waterfalls in southern Lampang, UNESCO-stamped ancient ruins in Kamphaeng Phet, Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai or Ayutthaya, the wild and wacky monkey-mad Lopburi, and hundreds of natural and man-made wonders along the way.
Two provinces, technically still in the north of Thailand, which have long been ignored by tourists are Nakorn Sawan and Phichit, and since Chiang Mai’s recently departed director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been relocated there, we thought we would give him a visit and see what his new domain had to offer.
I slept most of the way there, but woke up five hours after leaving Chiang Mai to find myself in Nakorn Sawan where I did the first thing most Thais do when travelling, visit a temple. Wat Siutumporn is where I paid my respects to an eerily lifelike mummified body of a late abbot before heading up a hill to Wat Kiriwong to take in the panoramic views of the city below. Nakorn Sawan itself is a typical Thai town; bustling streets, glittering temples and bypassed by the big Asian Highway. I settled into a city hotel and spent my evening chilling on a raft slowly meandering down the Nan River watching the daily lives of barge dwellers as they wound down the day. We finally cruised down to Chao Phraya River which is born in this province from the confluence of rivers Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan, quite an exciting sight to see because this is our nation’s lifeblood.
The next day I headed to the most famous attraction of the province, which was the 224 square kilometre Bung Borapet swamp and lake, taking a long tail boat out for hours of bird watching as well as enjoying the views of the local fishermen and hunters and gatherers fishing and harvesting of the vast wet expanse. There were massive swathes of beautiful lotuses smiling up at the sun and my guide pointed out a bewildering number of edible vegetables, which we later discovered were collected and served to us for a delicious lunch. For the bird watchers out there, you will find this an utter paradise with hundreds of species of birds to feast your eyes on and tick off your list. I was told there were some famous corocdiles in the water around us, but they were too shy to say hello that day.
A short drive from the lake took me to where our Ping met the Nan river; a startling sight with Ping’s green liquid mass merging with Nan’s Thai-tea coloured waters.
An hour’s drive later I found myself in Phichit Province, visiting Wat Pho Prathap Chang, a lesser-known Ayutthaya period temple ruin which rivals many of its more famous ruins in the region. That evening we took a lovely stroll down the old Wangkrod Old Market in a suburb of Phichit, a charming little alley flanked by rickety old wooden houses lined with street vendors selling all sorts of local treats and sweets.
Leaving Phichit behind at the end of the long day, I eventually woke up on the Superhighway sometime before midnight. It was a short trip, and one I would never have thought to have taken, but during my brief time in these two provinces I discovered them to be rich with cultural as well as natural attractions. The cuisine was central Thai, but with fresh local ingredients, making it distinctive and giving it its own identity. Easily done in a weekend, anyone looking to get out of Chiang Mai and tired of the same old destinations, I highly recommend a visit to these underrated provinces.
Thank you Director Wisut Buachum for introducing me to your new home. I will be back.