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Nan to Ban Huay Kon

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Route 1080 runs from Nan town north through Pua to Ban Huay Kon, passing a number of minor attractions that are worth a look, particularly if you have your own transport. Here's a blow by blow list of the attractions -- big and small.

First stop is the Tham Pua Tuub cave complex, which is located in a small forestry park around 10km north of Nan. The rambling area is more a pleasant walk in the woods than a real cave exploration as although a lot of caves are dotted throughout the park, they are badly signposted and the trails are very poorly kept. If you walk over the track that goes over the hill straight up from the office you'll reach an area that is packed with birds and butterflies -- that was about the highlight for us.

Next stop is the Nan Riverside Art Gallery -- which was just about the last thing we expected to see in upcountry Nan. The gallery was originally constructed as a residence for the famed Thai artist Winai Prabripoo. It was enlarged to play host to a large collection of work by bothe Winai and other Thai contemporary artists and is aimed to inspire young students in the area. It's open Wednesday to Sunday 10:00 - 17:00 and is signposted by the 20km marker.

Another 20km will bring you to Wat Nong Bua -- a temple famous for its intricate murals. The wat represents classic Thai Lue architecture and the murals are indeed exquisite. Painted by direct commision from the local authorities, it is thought that the murals here predate those in Wat Phumin in Nan, which could mean the Phumin murals were inspired by these ones. Though worn away in some places, they are still very interesting and breathtakingly detailed. Aside from the murals there is a small petanque area out front and the local players welcome all international challenges. Behind the wat to the right there is a small weaving centre and shop selling local fabrics at very competitive prices. Wat Nong Bua is well signposted off Route 1080 at around the 40km mark from Nan. From the main road it is around 3km to the temple. Follow the signs and when you reach a T-intersection with the sign Welcome to Nong Bua turn left and the temple is on your right.

On the topic of weaving, all along Route 1080 there are scatterings of weaving collectives where you can observe craftspeople at work and purchase their work. They are well signposted from the main road and generally consist of a few looms under someone's house. The quality and selection of material vary from village to village but prices are very competitive.

Some 60 kilometres north of Nan city lies Pua, resting at the foot of the Doi Phukha National Park. This small valley town is frequently travelled through by tourists, though it seems few ever bother to spend any real time here. However, for those that can fit it in to their schedule, the town can function as an excellent base from which to explore the beautiful scenery and rich culture of the northern reaches of Nan.

Pua marks the junction of several frequently travelled Highways: Route 1080 that turns north to Thung Chang and south to Nan, Route 1256 which runs up to Doi Phukha National Park headquarters, and Route 1081(1056 on some maps) which leads southwest around the National Park, and can get you to Bo Kluea , Santisuk, or eventually back down to Nan City via 1169.

Pua itself is not much more than a junction town, but accommodation, food, and petrol are all readily available. Foreigners should however be aware that, while Pua is quite tourist-friendly, most of those tourists tend to be Thai, and there is very little in the way of English around town.

Unfortunately, this can often make the town a bit inaccessible for some. However, if you are up to the adventure and willing to work through some language barriers, it makes for a very useful starting point for day trips to the nearby National Park, Ban Pa Klang -- a silver-making village -- Silaphet Waterfall, and even Wat Nong Bua.

Further north again, between Thung Chang and Chiang Klang you'll reach the Heroes of Pho To Thung Chang Monument -- a large monument dating from 1976. It took three years to complete and was opened by Their Majesties the King and Queen. It is dedicated to those who died fighting against the communist insurgency, the landmark lists the names of the fallen by whether they were soldiers, police or civilians.

Last stop before Ban Huay Kon is Ban Sataeng -- a small village is a border crossing to Laos for Thais and Laotians only and is also home to a small Thai-Lao market on the 15th and 30th of every month. The village is about 7km off Route 1080 and the market is around 1km past the border checkpoint.

North of Thung Chang, the road becomes increasingly mountainous and passes through some great scenery before Ban Huay Kon, a border crossing to Laos.

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Text and/or map last updated on 12th July, 2012.

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