Nan is both a quiet town and tranquil province in northern Thailand, approx 670 kms from Bangkok. Covering an area of 11,472 square kilometres, it is comprised of the following districts (with distance from Nan shown):
The people of Nan descend from the Lan Changs (Laotians). Their forebears moved to settle around present-day Pua district which is rich in rock salt deposits, about 700 years ago at the time when Sukhothai was becoming the kingdom of the Thais. They subsequently moved south to the fertile Nan River basin which is much more extensive.
Nan’s history is deeply involved with its neighbours, in particular Sukhothai which played an important role in both political and religious terms before Nan became a part of Lanna, Burma and Thailand in that order. Today Nan is still the home of numerous Thai Lue and other hilltribes who retain highly interesting customs and traditions.
Foreigners were barred from Nan province from the 1960s through the 1980s. This was a stronghold of the People’s Liberation Army of Thailand (PLAT) guerillas and their Laotian and Vietnamese sponsors. Insurgents passed back and forth across the border with Laos.
When the last communists surrendered in the late 1980s, the undeveloped province continued to be frequented by what the Thai army called “bandits” who often blew up road construction equipment. Until the early 1990s, much of the eastern border with Laos was “out of bounds” and firmly controlled by the Thai military and border rangers.