Dec 09 2012
Khao San, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Pai and… Lampang? North Thailand’s Lampang city (capital of the province of the same name) has never been and probably never will be on anyone’s itinerary of hot Thai destinations. Well, so much the better for the trickle of more adventurous foreign visitors who do make the worthwhile detour to this interesting and off-the-beaten track town. Lampang definitely merits inclusion — along with say Nan, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang and Mae Salong — on any list of outside-of-the-box northern Thai sites.
Lampang’s been around for a long time. Along with its sister town of Lamphun, it was originally a Mon settlement (founded during the seventh century) before the arrival of Thai migrants to the region in the 13th century, whereupon King Mengrai incorporated this important town into his Lanna Kingdom. Lampang’s location, in the wide Wang River valley at the southern limits of northern Thailand’s mountain ranges, made it a strategic communications and transport link between the northern valley outposts such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phayao and the important central plains cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Lampang was a key point in the teak industry but in more recent times the town has been somewhat bypassed by, not only the tourists, but also the rapid modernisation seen in larger northern towns such as Chiang Mai. It’s now a mid-sized tranquil provincial town and considered by many to be the best preserved Lanna heritage centre of the region. Indeed the 15th century Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, situated some 20 kilometres out of town, is often sited as the best Lanna period temple of the north.
If you have your own transport or hire some, then there are several more interesting wats within a short radius of Lampang town, such as Wat Chedi Sao and Wat Prathat Chom Ping. The town itself is home to several interesting Burmese style temples — Wat Si Chum and Wat Pa Fang — and the prestigious Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao said to have housed the Emerald Buddha itself. It’s not all about temples though; a short ride from town will also take you to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre and the Lampang Elephant Hospital.
Also in town the waterfront area, in particular Talard Kao (Old Market) Road, is a great place for a stroll with many remaining old buildings, some fine cafes and a weekend “walking street” night market.
And we haven’t even mentioned the town’s famous horse-drawn carriages. All in all, Lampang is a great spot to while away a day or two.
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