This is the story of our second day travelling the backroads from Isaan to the small northern city of Nan. You can read about the first long day HERE.

We started the day from our overnight stop at the Hobby Hotel in Uttaradit on a downer with a useless Thai breakfast. This was available from 6.30 am and comprised of a few Thai dishes, which would have been hot at that time but seeing they were just sitting on the table with no heating by 8:00 am needless to say they were stone cold. The farang bit was instant coffee with powdered milk and bread with jam but no butter. I guess Uttaradit isn’t a hub of passing westerners so there’s no need to cater to us but at least they could do something decent for their own people. Otherwise this was a good hotel, comfortable, clean and modern. As a general comment unless you are travelling 5 star be prepared for poor quality breakfasts here in my experience. Thais in general have no idea what farang eat and this is reflected in the way they cook and prepare breakfast, even if such an option is available.

Our trip to Nan at this stage could have taken an easy three hours heading up highway 11 and 101, which is mostly dual carriageway past the city of Phrae (on the ring road) and arriving in Nan in time for lunch. However this wasn’t the theme of this trip. We instead turned off the 11 almost immediately leaving Uttaradit and onto the 1047 marked below.

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We followed the 1047 (marked in red) until we arrived at the small town of Nam Pat and then turned left onto the 1339 heading north to Nan.

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The 1339 becomes the 1026, which winds its way through some lovely hilly country before joining the 101 for the final run into Nan.

The landscape on the 1047 is very flat to start, with the hills you will eventually climb into in the far distance. A lot of rice being grown here, which considering the land makes sense.

You can just see the hills as a backdrop.

You can just see the hills as a backdrop. You can understand what I mean about the scenic benefits of travelling this time of year. This rice will be turning brown in October and it will be harvested in November. After that from Nov – May/June this will be a dry, brown and boring landscape.

Our first stop for the day was to get some much needed real coffee for the driver. I had spotted a cafe/winery marked on Google maps called Vineyard Canaan. This is an almost mystery on the farang internet having little available information but I did find one brief review that promised coffee and the photos looked weird in a Thai context so it was a definite stop.

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On rural road 1047 maybe 30 minutes from Uttaradit. You can’t miss it or if you think you might try these coordinates in your GPS 17°33’50.20″N 100°15’40.51″E

A typical Thai Tuscan villa.

Your typical Thai Tuscan villa!

Not just an impressive building but for once care and money has gone into the gardens, much to Gaun's delight.

Not just an impressive building but for once care and money has gone into the gardens, much to Gaun’s delight.

Vines undercover.

Vines undercover.

They had some workers trimming the vines with sheep underneath to do the clean up work.

They had some workers trimming the vines with sheep underneath to do the clean up work. Saves sweeping up.

The cafe. I am not sure where the wine was. Maybe out of season.

The cafe. I am not sure where the wine was. Maybe out of season.

Just in case you thought that even if there had been wine available it would be the type we normally associate as wine – wrong. It is more like straight bottled grape juice with no complex processing or aging. The ones I have tried have either been sour and undrinkable or sickly sweet and undrinkable 🙂 Thailand does do “real” wine but I haven’t come across a decent bottle yet. As their wine starts at around 600 – 700 baht or A$24 – $28 it is a much safer option to pick up a bottle of Australian or South African for the same or less money.

As is so often the case here I do wonder what sort of business plan was worked through to support making such a significant investment. Uttaradit is a small town and there’s not much else around. The vineyard is well off the main road and we were the only people there. The place looked semi closed although everything was still being maintained. Where did the owner think the people would come from to provide a return on capital? No worries for me though as the coffee was reasonable and the milk originated from a cow so all good.

Waiting for that essential morning coffee.

Waiting for that essential morning coffee. What a change to find a place that had the sort of outside sitting areas you actually wanted just to enjoy. Good quality furniture and lovely trees and surroundings.

Coffee and a cleansing tea for me (the two come together) and an iced tea for Gaun.

Coffee and a cleansing tea for me (the two came together) and an iced tea for Gaun.

Just because they could I guess.

Just because they could I guess.

Shops (closed) and a playground for the kids were part of this complex.

Shops (closed) and a playground for the kids were part of this extensive complex.

Maybe they get busloads of people sometimes that keep Vineyard Canaan going. I hope so because it is a pleasant and relaxing change from the usual offerings of plain concrete, tin roofs and plastic chairs that make up the majority of Thailand’s “cafes” and eating places.

Back on the road, which at this stage looked like this:

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You can once again see that the quality of the back roads in Thailand are pretty good on the whole. We are making progress as the hills are getting closer.

We stopped again shortly after Canaan this time to take some agricultural photos for the family. This was a large irrigated farm growing spring onions. It is an integral part of our trips to record what’s growing elsewhere to report back the the farming part of the family. Yuan and Lud water their crops by hand because the produce fields rotate so quickly that the effort of setting up irrigation that will only have to be moved again isn’t worth the expense or work.

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Irrigation on this scale or any scale in fact is an unusual sight in my (limited) travelling.

Come harvesting time workers were being paid 500 baht a day, which is a great wage for unskilled labour.

Come harvesting time we (Gaun) was told that the workers were being paid 500 baht a day, which is a great wage for unskilled labour.

The next stop was also unplanned in the way I had hoped this journey would end up. A sign to the Biggest Teak Tree of the World required our attention and so we pulled off the 1047 and into a beautiful forest.

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Not something you expect to see on a Thai back road. GPS 17°39’22.62″N 100°34’8.02″E

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The royal family pop up everywhere. If you search for Ton Sak Yai forest park you will find more information.

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The turn from the 1047. An inviting road.

The road as it winds through the teak trees to a camping ground and exhibition centre.

This is the road as it winds through the trees to a camping ground and exhibition centre a short distance from the main highway.

The display area.

The display area. This is well worth a visit if you are into parks and nature. It was immaculately maintained and we were the only ones there.

The current queen.

An old photo in the small display area of the current queen with staff and THE tree.

A historical photo of the days when elephants provided the power to move harvested teak trees.

Another historical photo showing elephant power moving harvested teak trees.

The following is copied from the Tourism Thailand website HERE, which is an excellent resource and one you should add to your Thai research list if coming or living here:

The largest teak tree in the world stands in Ton Sak Yai Forest Park. The tree, estimated to be more than 1,500 years old, is 37 meters high and has a circumference of 9.58 meters at its base. Although the upper part of the tree was broken off in a storm, the trunk is still alive and well-cared for. Found in 1927, the giant teak tree is part of the 35 square kilometre park of mixed deciduous forest. A two-kilometre trekking route allows visitors to explore the forest first-hand.

And the biggest teak tree itself.

And the biggest teak tree itself or what remains of it.

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I could have spent more time exploring this park but we were still a long way from our destination and with a resort booked we needed to get there this day. The 1047 ends in the town of Nam Pat and here we turned left (thanks to the GPS) onto the 1339 for the next stage of the journey. This is a small road servicing local communities, and there aren’t too many of them, rather than providing access to a larger destination.

If you go back to the first map at the beginning of this post you you will see that the 1339 ends on the shores of Queen Sirikit (the current Queen) lake and then starts again on the other side! Now that had to worth exploring.

The road to nowhere.

The road to nowhere.

I have to admit that I wasn’t being as adventurous as you might think because I did know there was a ferry involved but how that all worked was a mystery as once again there is very little information available on the farang internet for this region.

The 1339 was a more basic route than the 1047 but still sealed and in reasonable condition and no problem even for a small Mazda 2.

The sort of country we were driving through.

The sort of country we were driving through.

Road block.

A road block that had no intention of moving. We didn’t want the tether rope to get caught under the car so action was needed.

Gaun trying to move the cow.

Gaun trying to pull the cow off the road! She can’t drive so I had to stay in the air con and watch progress from inside and take pictures 🙂

The lake. Very brown because of the heavy rain the north of Thailand has been experiencing.

Success on the cow front so we continued until the lake made an appearance. It was very brown because of the heavy rain the north of Thailand had been experiencing.

Now in my western thinking mind I had a vision of the sealed road ending up at a formal ferry embarkation point. Maybe some shops and eating places with a quick and easy trip across the water to re-join the 1339 on the other side. Oh dear – not so! I should have known better after three years here. The 1339 just finished at this dirt track, which I don’t think the Mazda would cope with in the wet. It got a lot steeper and more degraded around the corner. This “road” then ends at…………………..nothing – just water! No shops, no ferry, no telephone number.

And this is what happens to the 1339.

And this is what happens to the 1339.

Thank God for Gaun. I have no idea how I would cope otherwise. Learn Thai I guess 🙂 There was a small house on the hillside, the only habitation around, and on walking up there we found a couple of Thai men having a nap in hammocks . Waking them up they pointed us to another small walking track that disappeared over the hill. At the bottom of the path was this sight:

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This floating restaurant would normally be closer to where the 1339 formally ends but because of all the rain they had moved it around the corner into a bay completely out of sight of the ferry “departure” point.

A shouted conversation between Gun and the guy you can see on the platform had a ferry organised from the other side of the lake and the offer of a drink or meal. We should have accepted because it took over an hour for the ferry to arrive.

Our transport in the distance.

Our transport in the distance. Can you spot it?

Our ferry on it's way.

This is a telephoto view.

The embarkation point. Not quite as I had imagined.

Our water chariot arrives – finally. The embarkation point is not quite as I had imagined.

You can see why it took a while for the barge to get to us. It was a fair distance and it was being pulled by a small longtail boat. I thought it would be self-powered (stop thinking Tony). You could hear it coming about 30 minutes before it actually arrived!

Driven by this small Thai lady.

The longtail was being driven by this small Thai lady.

She gave the engine a burst as the shore approached and got out of the way as platform ran aground in the shallows.

The ramp was winched down and the car driven onboard.

The ramp was winched down and I drove the car onboard.

The longtail was hooked up at the other end and she pulled us into the lake.

The lady then hooked up the longtail at the other end and pulled us off the shore into the lake.

Success.

Success. On the (slow) move again.

This was a far more rewarding outcome than if it had all been totally organised and easy (saying that after the event of course) like it would most likely be in a western context. All credit to Gaun for making it happen.

The bridge.

The captain’s bridge. Not too complex.

Our arrival at the "harbour" at the other end.

Our arrival at the “harbour” at the other end, which incidentally isn’t where it is shown to be on Google maps. Nothing new in that. Maybe there are two operators working different exit points.

I had to take the following photo. The bane of my life in our village is the community speaker system, which fires up at 5:30 am for the “mayor” to make village announcements about whatever is going on. It is one of the main reasons I designed and built a very insulated and soundproof house complete with double walls and double glazed windows in the bedrooms! 5:30 am is not my preferred time to be awake especially when retired and increasingly ancient!

The harbour's announcement system.

The harbour’s announcement system in that tree.

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Amplified by the water no one will miss what the head of the moo ban will have to say in the morning.

The exit point coming up.

The unloading point coming up in the distance.

Our arrival was the same process as before. The lady gunned the longtail and then got out of the way, which was a good thing because the ferry promptly rammed this floating house next to the "jetty".

Our arrival was the same process as before with one exception. The lady gunned the long tail and then got out of the way, which was a good thing because the ferry then swung and promptly rammed into this floating house next to the “jetty”.

Laughter all round in true Thai style. That little area in the corner of the “house” in the photo above in front of the yai (grandmother) was full of baby piglets (puppy pigs as Gaun calls them). A quick repair was under way as we left to stop them escaping through that hole you can see as a result of the plank being dislodged by our arrival.

Our captain reacting to this Titanic moment.

Our captain reacting to this Titanic moment.

Safely back on the 1339 I took this photo of the lake and the harbour moo ban.

Safely back on the 1339 I took this photo of the lake and Pak Nai fishing village.

Leaving the lake behind.

Leaving the lake behind. This gives you a good idea of the type of low hilly country in this part of Thailand.

Yes I was there and here's the proof. The hills on the north side of the lake were spectacular and I was able to capture views like this. Corn being grown here.

Yes I was there and here’s the proof. The hills on the north side of the lake were spectacular and I was able to capture views like this. Corn being grown here. You might be able to see the road following the ridgeline in the far distance on the right.

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One of my new favourite photos of Thailand. It was later afternoon and we were running into heavy storm clouds, which gave this slightly misty and soft light.

A variation on the views we were driving through.

A variation on the views we were driving through. Corn being grown on the hills and rice in the valley.

The final surprise for the day happened when we came across an amazing wat hidden away in a small moo ban called Namum or Na Muen on rural road 1026, which had taken over from the 1339.

Wat Bo Kaeo 18°12'27.04"N 100°39'59.36"E

Wat Bo Kaeo 18°12’27.04″N 100°39’59.36″E.

How these wats come to be built in places of no significance is another mystery of Thai life. This one was spectacular in a small way and has now been included on my favourite wats of Thailand list:

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Beautifully done. Wait until you see the detail.

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Naga guarding the entrance.

Terrific detail.

Terrific work. It is rare to see this sort of intricate detail in Thai wats. First class.

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How did this come about in the middle of a small rural village and where did the money come from? Not cheap even by Thai standards.

The monk opened the place up for us and turned the lights on. Just as stunning on the inside.

The monk opened the Viharn or Wihan up for us (the main public building) and turned the lights on. It was just as stunning as the outside.

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A revolving light show behind Buddha’s head. Something you don’t see every day! The contrast between the gold Buddhas and the silver backdrop is wonderful.

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A full ceiling decoration as well as the walls.

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Stories told in relief on the walls.

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Once again outstanding detail.

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Well what do you know – it’s my friend Ruesi who has kept an eye on us this journey. See the last post where I explain all about Ruesi HERE

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If you are ever in Nan this wat is worth making a special trip just to see in my opinion. I think that my photos show you why.

The remainder of our journey was pretty uneventful. About 40 plus km north after the wat we turned right onto the 101, a dual carriageway that took us into the city of Nan. We also ran into a large thunderstorm that prevented the taking of any more photos even if there had been things to share.

We ended up at the Nan Seasons Boutique Resort, which is correctly located by its GPS coordinates on the outskirts of Nan at about 6:00 pm, nine hours after leaving Uttaradit that morning.

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Toasting another hugely rewarding day exploring the backroads of northern Thailand.

My next post will take you to the major temples of Nan, the Nan Riverside Art Gallery, the lovely Noble House museum and a few other surprises. The final post in this series will put you in the passenger’s seat as we head home with more diversions along the way.

Thanks for reading.