It’s been 2 years since I last visited a small town of Praol (90 minute drive north of Chaing Mai city), and I found it as charming as ever. I woke up early and biked through darkness to the pre-dawn market. As I arrived, the sun began to appear reflecting like golden rain drops off the temple’s façade. The morning market was already bustling with many people buying their provisions while others enjoyed their breakfasts.

At the Sankwan (pre-dawn) market there are wonderful local breakfast treats such as coconut milk pancakes made while you wait, warm coconut sweetened sticky rice topped with custard, hot soy milk, coffee and Thai tea. Everything was so delicious and fresh, and of course, all home made. The stalls at this market sold food harvested from local gardens, prepared in home kitchens or caught in the local waters. Since everyone knows everyone else, it is something like a big family gathering where local news is shared. For over 10 years, this market has maintained the spirit of local living and I believe it will continue for a very long time.

I got back on my bike as the sun rose above the horizon. I passed rice paddies, breathtakingly beautiful against the soft hew of pink and purple sky. The scent of fresh green grass and wood burning lingered in the air making the whole experience both surreal and calming. I had two friends with me and both were mesmerized by the beauty of the morning mist over the rice paddies; they did not speak a word and only wanted to capture this magic moment with their cameras.

Every Monday morning in Proal, there’s a flea market where they sell everything from clothing and utensils to baskets and vegetables. It attracts lots of people and is a very exciting day. I met Lisu Hill tribe ladies who came down from the mountains selling vegetables that were particularly large and healthy looking. They talked about the quality of soil and fresh air. The hill tribe people come down every Monday morning to sell their produce and wild honey.

At the main market of Praol, I sat down for tea and coffee. It was very local and great fun. Sitting with the locals I watched the elaborate tea and coffee making process. They serve both the coffee and tea in a glass that is slightly bigger than a shot glass. It is so hot that it can be a challenge to hold and drink. The coffee stall is surrounded by rice, meat, fruits and noodle vendors, and you can’t help but to feel transported back in time to a more simple age before bar codes and supermarkets.

The whole experience filled me with nostalgia. If you haven’t been there, perhaps you should make your plans now. It’s the kind of nostalgia that transcends borders. You don’t have to be Thai to enjoy this special feeling because it’s the atmosphere of simplicity, kindness and natural beauty that will transport you back to the past. There is a whole different pace of life and sense of well-being when you interact with a local community.

Khum Lanna, one of Asian Oasis’s journeys, is located in Praol. And it is here in this lovely little town that you can enjoy the beauty of local living.