Take it all in
Our starting point for this walking tour of Lampang’s old town is Ratsadapisek bridge, which takes you across the Wang from the eastern end of Talaad Kao Road. It’s hard to believe now but when it was originally constructed in 1894, this bridge was supposedly the longest in Thailand. It has fallen down several times since — apparently floating teak logs down the river tended to destabilise the structure — and despite the Allies making several attempts to bomb it during World War II (Lampang was an important Japanese base), the version you see today dates from 1917.
The municipal market Rassada is on your right but take the right turn along Phamai Road immediately beforehand. You’re now walking through what was King Mengrai’s 13th century town until a wat on your left, Wat Pratupong, marks the edge of the ancient seventh century Mon settlement. The wat itself is quite unusual and attractive, with dark browns and reds replacing the usual gaudy colours and though it displays a fairly classic Lanna style its construction date is unknown. Check out the gold-leaf coated carved wooden doors.
If you take the next left after the wat you’ll find yourself on Pa Mai Ked Road, where taking the third turning on the right, Rat Wattana, will lead you past the fascinating Baan Sao Nak wooden mansion, one of this tour’s highlights and well worth 20 minutes of your time.
Just past the mansion on the corner of Tha Ma-O Road is a half-decent coffee and juice shop, while opposite is a khanom cheen restaurant, making this a good spot for a refreshment break. Taking this left turn you’ll pass the small Wat Tha Nang Loi on the right — then take a right. Yet another old wat, Pratuthonpeung, is on the left, and crumbled remains of the old city wall should be on your right. Unless you’re trying to visit every wat in Lampang, you might want to skip these minor ones since the spectacular Wat Prakaewdontao is coming up.
Now running close to the river, this lane actually brings you out behind Wat Prakaewdontao on the south side ,so keep going and it emerges into the wat’s car park. The popular temple usually has a coffee and snack stand or two in the car park set by a scenic fish pond with the impressive gold covered chedi standing in front of you on a slight rise.
Next take the lane that leads directly away from the car park and which winds its way through what was the seventh century city to the east gate, Pratu Mar, and the best preserved section of city walls and moat. The main Lampang Chae Hom highway leads through the gates. It’s not as impressive as sections of Chiang Mai’s old city wall and the moat is full of weeds rather than water, but it makes for a convenient finishing point. From here, crossing over the highway and following the narrow street along the northern section of wall will take you back towards the centre of town. Our route leads you around the old abandoned temple, Wat Umong before continuing straight on to the tiny Pratuwieng Park.
A left here leads you to Rassada market — worth a quick peek when you’re passing — and back to our starting point at the bridge. If you include visits to Baan Soa Nak and Wat Prakaewdontao and take a drinks break or two, we’d allow at least three hours to do this tour at a leisurely pace.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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