This past Saturday I traveled to the north of Thailand, to the small, remote, little-known, densely forested, and incredibly charming Nan province.
Cliché, I know. But Nan is one of those places where you lost and found yourself. Just an hour and fifteen-minute flight from Bangkok, a trip to Nan is an escape from (and a remedy for) our hectic, fast-paced, and often stressful city life. People there live not just close to nature, but also in harmony with it. A sense of community is so strong. Locals live very simple, self-sufficient lives. What else? Very few cars. Lots of trees of all shapes, heights, and sizes and big beautiful mountains in the background. Some cute and upbeat (but not hectic) cafes in the town center. At the heart of it all, smiley, welcoming, and kind locals! One weekend getaway is enough for you to reset, recharge, and immerse in this slower pace of life, which I promise you'll really appreciate.
Although I'm definitely not the most adventurous person, Nan's beautiful sceneries and nature in all its glory made it hard for me not to enjoy my hike to Sa Pun Waterfalls, one of Nan's hidden gems and proudest treasures. Once I reached the top of the waterfalls, I experienced its wow factor. The view from the top was incredible and the water was so clear, refreshing, and untainted. I learned that Sa Pun Waterfalls is the source of Nan river, a tributary that contributes up to 40% of Chao Phraya river, the major river in Thailand! For these reasons, there's no doubt that Sa Pun Waterfalls and Nan province at large provide so much aesthetic, social, and ecological value not just for locals, but for all Thais. With this much significance, it's quite surprising that Nan remains little-known and overshadowed by many of its neighboring provinces.
As our country continues to grow and develop, let's not forget places like Nan (but not just Nan!) that are increasingly threatened by deforestation, plantation, mismanagement, and, worst of all, human ignorance! The challenge is how to unlock their constraints and unleash their potential without compromising the cultural, ecological, and social values that make these places unique and that local people hold dear to their hearts. It's hard to have all the right answers, especially when it comes to big, persistent, national issues. However, just because we are not the decision makers or key influencers doesn't mean we cannot make a small yet significant difference in our own ways. Places like Nan have started to interest and inspire many entrepreneurs and design thinkers from all levels of society (e.g. policymakers, public service providers, environmentalists, and millennials) to take action and drive change. Their action has resulted in initiatives, social enterprises, investment, and increased awareness to name a few. There's still so much more to do and so much more we can do. Let's think more about how we can leverage our unique areas of expertise. We don't have to know or solve everything. One step, one action, one initiative is small, but certainly big enough to change something for someone somewhere. So let's start there.
Some of my favorite moments from the hike to the top of Sa Pun Waterfalls! A huge thank you to aunts and uncles of Dong Phaya sub-district for guiding me through the hike and introducing me to some of nature's best medicines along the way (bottom right)!