The citizens of the small town of Nan in North Thailand were delighted recently to learn that they had been awarded the honour of being chosen as ASEAN’s No. 1 Clean Tourist City. The award was announced at the ASEAN Tourist Forum held in Chiang Mai in January 2018. His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn Bobindradebayavarangkun personally complimented the people of Nan for their achievement and urged them to continue setting a good example for other cities in the country.
Located in a remote area of Thailand’s north and bordering Laos, Nan constituted an independent kingdom until 1932, when it became a part of Siam. It has always been a crossroads of cultures, with influences from Burma, Laos and China evident in temple architecture, and it is home to a large contingent of Tai Lue, a sub-group of the Tai people from China.
The mountains and valleys of Nan Province are ideally suited to adventure tourism activities, such as trekking in Doi Pukha National Park and white-water rafting on the Wa River. The town of Nan also boasts some of Thailand’s most beautiful temples, such as Wat Phumin, famed for its murals, and Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, with its slender stupa rising 55 metres into the sky.
Nan’s governor, Paisan Vimonrat, explained that Nan has succeeded in making itself a clean and attractive destination for tourists to visit due to a collective effort by local officials, the private sector and local people. Together they have managed to reduce the amount of non-degradable waste that is produced and to recycle items that can be reused. It seems that word is getting around about the town’s clean environment and welcoming locals, as nearly one million visitors arrived during 2017, and numbers are expected to continue increasing.
Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, Mr Weerasak Kowsurat, commented that as a cyclist, he had enjoyed riding along Nan’s clean streets, and added that the local community is clearly committed to preserving the town’s character.
Besides its famous temples, Nan’s National Museum, housed in a beautiful, century-old teak mansion that was once the local ruler’s house, offers an excellent introduction to Nan’s culture for visitors, with relics from prehistory and examples of the dress of local ethnic groups. The town bursts into life each October when the annual Lanna Boat Races are held on the Nan River, and crews of up to fifty rowers propel their narrow craft downstream while being cheered on by their followers.