Nan Province is now predominantly agricultural and has, relative to other northern provinces, little that would denote it as a tourist destination. In fact, the Lonely Planet points out that as recently as the 1980s, Nan was home to so many militant factions and bandits that the Thai government had designated it a "remote province". A Thai motorcyclist that we met at Yut's shop though said that if you wanted to know the Thai people you had to visit the northeast. The ethnic groups that call Nan Province home include Thai Lu from Yunnan province in China, a small number of Htin a Khmer tribe that range into Laos, and Hmong a mostly Laotian group who, perhaps more than any other group, continue to live with the legacy of the Viet Nam war.

In the city of Nan, the area's diversity is evident in this distinctly Chinese Wat on the city's north side.

An old blessing says "In Thailand there are fish in the river and rice in the fields." Nan's city market reflects the area's long tradition of dependence on a riverine culture. The rivers are not only a source of fish, but they serve as a vital artery for other trade goods and travel. The market also sells these terrifying puppies.

Nan was the first place we saw one of these "banana fan palms." Oh oh, is that another wat behind it?

Wat Phra That Chang Kham is not regarded as the finest or most important wat in Nan, but I found its interior more impressive. In a small room in an adjacent structure is the standing Buddha image shown at right. The story goes that an art historian had agreed to purchase a plaster Buddha from a former abbot here, but in moving it the statue was dropped and the plaster broke to reveal this solid gold Buddha more than three feet tall. It is now kept inside a thick class case.

If, however, you feel the urgent need to actually touch a Buddha, or to have your SUV blessed, you can still be accommodated.

At the very informative and well stocked Nan National Museum across the street photos are prohibited. We were able to manage a surreptitious shot of one of its most famous pieces, a rare three hundred year old black (actually more reddish) elephant tusk.