Travelling from Nan to Uttaradit via Pak Nai Fisherman’s village and the Sirikit Reservoir

Sometimes on our travels, we decide to go with a wildcard: a hunch that something or somewhere may just be worth seeing. It’s a bit of a gamble and sometimes we lose. On other occasions, it turns out fine. More than just fine.

Wat Phumin Nan Thailand (5)-2Wat Phumin, Nan

Here’s an example …

We were travelling south of Nan (in northern Thailand) and had just visited the Sao Din Earth Pillars at Na Noi – a strange and unusual find in the middle of the Thai countryside – and were heading to Phrae.

Sao Din Earth Pillars Na Noi Nan Thailand (5)Sao Din Earth Pillars Na Noi near Nan

We travelled from Nan via Sao Din Earth Pillars to Pak Nai fishermen’s village, the crossing point for the ferry across the Sirikit Dam. Click on the map for an interactive version.

Originally, we had planned to travel from Nan directly to Phrae and onward from there but a few days earlier a friend in Chiang Mai had told us about a particularly scenic drive that also involved a trip on an unconventional style of ferry across a lake.

It sounded cool but we hadn’t done any research on the ferry crossing and had no idea of the distances involved, the regularity of the ferry, or the condition of the roads. It was already 2pm and if any of these factors decided to conspire against us there was a good chance the expedition would end miserably. We were in one of those indecisive moods but managed to talk ourselves into the safe option – the regular road to the city of Phitsanulok. But when we were five minutes down the road, indecision hit again …

“Shall we turn back?”

“Mmm, maybe”

“Yes, let’s do it …”

“No, we’ve already made our decision”

“OK, let’s keep going …”

We continued on the ‘safe’ route but five minutes later we found ourselves on one of the worst roads we’d yet travelled on in Thailand (*). Someone somewhere was telling us something. Where was our sense of adventure? So, we turned around again and headed towards Pak Nai, the point of the ferry crossing.

(*) Note that roads in Thailand are generally pretty good compared to much of the rest of Asia so this isn’t saying much!

The road was in great condition and it took less than an hour through more of the lush green, rolling countryside that had surrounded us throughout our journey through Nan province. The roads were extremely quiet and we encountered only one or two other cars.

We followed the signs to Pak Nai Fishermen’s Village and soon a huge lake opened up before us. If we had driven directly from Nan town, without stops and with indecisiveness, it would have probably taken a little under three hours to reach this point.

Pak Nai Fishing Village Thailand (2)Pak Nai Fishing Village

The lake was created when the Sirikit Dam was built in the early ‘70s for the purpose of irrigation, flood control and hydroelectric power production. The lake’s primary purpose is stock for the fishing village but it also appeared to be a popular weekend picnic spot for Thais and along the shores were a handful of floating karaoke restaurants. The area was remarkably busy considering we had hardly passed a soul en route, and it felt a bit surreal. It was a stunning setting for a karaoke session though!

Crossing the resovoir on the Sirikit Dam at Pak Nai Thailand (10)The Sirikit Dam reservoir

But the place also had a bit of an abandoned feel and chances of a ferry crossing seemed slim. We drove the short distance to another part of the lake where there were a few more restaurants and discovered that this was the place from which the ferry departed. There was no sign of the ferry but there was another vehicle waiting in front of us and we took this as a positive sign.

Before too long, we saw the ferry approaching the shore.

Crossing the resovoir on the Sirikit Dam at Pak Nai Thailand (1)The Sirikit Dam ferry arriving

The “ferry” consisted of a floating wooden raft just about large enough to accommodate two vehicles and a few motorbikes. The “engine” was a motorised long-tailed boat which pulled the platform across the lake. As it got close to the shore, the boat did a swift u-turn and the raft drifted towards the shore before being pulled in the last few metres by men on the shore using ropes.

Planks were laid down to connect the shore with the ferry and the boatman guided Mark, as he drove the car on-board. I watched from a safe distance, and to take photographs, of course!

Crossing the resovoir on the Sirikit Dam at Pak Nai Thailand-4Putting the car on the ferry

The car positioned on the ferry (left) and getting the car off the ferry (right)

The ferry ride across the dam was an enjoyable experience – very scenic and incredibly peaceful. The crossing took approximately thirty minutes but the entire process including waiting time took closer to 1½ hours.

Crossing the reservoir on the Sirikit Dam at Pak Nai, Thailand

Crossing the Sirikit Dam by local ferry in Northern Thailand - Location of the ferry terminalsThe part of the Sirikit Dam which the ferry crosses. Click on the map for an interactive version.

Once we reached the other side, the drive up the riverbank was rather steep and we were thankful there hadn’t been any rain recently.

After getting off the ferry and leaving the lake, the road to Nam Pat, the next town, was potholed in several places and driving was slow going. But there was no turning back at this point! Soon the winding hills turned to open farmland and two hours later we arrived in Nam Pat, a typical small Thai town. We decided to push on and after a further two hours, this time on the main highway we arrived in Uttaradit, another typical Thai town but slightly larger! Uttardait doesn’t offer much for the average visitor but it had been a long day and was starting to get dark so we found a place to stay the night.

This time the wild card played out well!

Wat Phong Sunun, Phrae

Practical Information for Crossing the Sirikit Dam:

  • The next morning we headed north to Phrae which was a little over an hour from Uttaradit.
  • We were heading back to Chiang Mai but another option would be to go south to Sukhothai, approximately 1½ hours away.
  • The cost for taking the car on the Sirikit Dam ferry crossing was 250 baht (approximately £5 or US$7.60).

Useful timings for Nan to Sukhothai/Uttaradit (via Na Noi and Sirkit Dam/ Pak Nai ferry crossing)

  • Nan to Na Noi is 70km and takes approximately 1 hour 45 minutes on route 1026
  • Na Noi to Pak Nai is 37km and takes approximately 1 hour on route 1026 and route 1339
  • Crossing the dam takes a maximum of 1½ hours including waiting time
  • Pak Nai to Nam Pat is 70km and takes approximately 2 hours on route 1339
  • Nam Pat to Sukhothai is 174km and takes approximately 4 hours on route 1047
  • Link to Google maps with the points on our journey marked for reference


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