Lampang city is famous these days for ceramics, horse carts and its prestigious Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. Despite being a city of approximately 250,000, with good facilities and more than its fair share of tourist sites for a provincial Thai town, some of the residents seem to have a distinct feeling of underachievement. Indeed, some even say Lampang is cursed!
One legend relates how an early king of Lampang mistakenly executed an innocent goddess, Nan Suchada. Before dying, however, she cursed the city — so the city’s current provincial backwater status is all her fault. The city began life known as Kukut Tha Nakorn, or City of the Roosters, supposedly founded in the seventh century by the Mon queen, Cham Thewi from neighbouring Haripunchai. The name was derived from a legend describing an upcoming visit by Buddha. The god Indra was worried that the locals would not wake up in time to give him alms, so he created a white rooster to crow at dawn. It has remained the city’s symbol ever since.
Lampang grew in the shadow of Lamphun. It was rebuilt in the 13th century by King Mengrai as a regional outpost to his new capital at Chiang Mai. After periods of Khmer and Burmese rule followed by incorporation into the Ayutthaya kingdom, the town had to wait until the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries to have its heyday when, as the centre of the hugely profitable teak industry, French and British entrepreneurs, Chinese and Burmese traders, American missionaries, plus Shan and Lao workers flocked here.
The city became the most important and cosmopolitan business and transportation point in the region. North Thailand’s first university was built here and the future looked rosy until, during the 1960s and 70s, new road links opened to Chiang Rai, Phayao and other towns, and the logging industry fell into decline. Lampang then once again fell under the shadow of Chiang Mai, by then firmly established as the kingdom’s northern capital at Lampang’s expense.
While not exactly a tourist hotspot, the laidback town is pleasant, with plenty to see for a day or two, plus some decent accommodation and several good eateries. The sizeable province meanwhile boasts extensive still-forested hills and is home to several national parks.
Lampang is spread along the banks of the Wang, a meandering tributary of the Ping river. The oldest part of the town, containing many of the wats and remains of the city walls, lies on the right bank slightly to the north of the current centre. The 13th century version lies just to the west of this and also contains many old temples, as well as the town’s main market. Opposite, on the left or south bank is the modern town.
The riverbank is largely undeveloped and leafy while the riverside road Talart Gao contains many of the town’s finest buildings as well as many of its modern-day coffee shops and guesthouses. There is a new airport and several large shopping malls as well.
Boonyawat is the main commercial street and home to most of the town’s large banks while the train and bus stations are located to the west. Lampang general hospital is close to the centre just off Phaholyothin Road, while the police station lies smack bang between Thipchang and Boonyawat Roads. The central post office is near the clock tower on Thakrao Noi Road.
An excellent little tourist office on Thakroi Noi Road, just past the clock tower, has helpful, enthusiastic staff and English-language pamphlets, plus a very useful map. They are open 09:00 to 16:30 Monday to Friday, but they do leave their map of Lampang in a box outside so you can pick one up anytime.
By Mark Ord. Last updated on 10th October, 2016.