Nestled on the banks of Wang river, the peaceful city of Lampang is located only an hour and a half drive from Chiang Mai, it is the perfect gateaway for the weekend.
Lampang city, which was originally a Mon fortified town, dates back to the 7th century. It was founded by a son of the Haripunchai Queen Chamadevi and was occupied by the Burmese during three centuries.
Once upon a time, the province of Lampang boasted a thriving tobacco business and was for decades the centre of the teak industry as evidenced by exquisite teak mansions and several Lanna-style and Burmese temples. In the early 20th century, the city had a population of more than 20,000 and some 4,000 working elephants.
A pleasant way to discover this relaxing city and to dive into it’s history is to walk along the riverside or to take a two hour horse carriage ride in search of the city’s old teak wood manors.
Baan Sao Nak, the “house of many pillars” is a fine sample of this beautiful history as it represents the wealth of Lampang’s teak barons. In the 19th century, when the British were commissioned to export teak wood from Thailand they brought Burmese people to look after their businesses. Some were master loggers and earned their fortunes. They married local women, built lavish mansions, contributed to the community and stayed forever in this city which had become their home. Baan Sao Nak was built in 1895 by a Burmese trader, Maung Chan Ong. This traditional wood house boasts 116 square teak pillars and served as the family home for decades before being turned into a local museum. The entire house is furnished with Burmese and Thai antiques
and pays testament to the lavish life of Lampang.
Not far from Ban Sao Nak is Thesaban street, filled with quiet wooden houses that are surrounded by green gardens. The street brings back memories of Chiang Mai twenty years earlier.
Stroll along the Wang River and you will come across the Rassadapisek Bridge, also known as the White Bridge. Believe it or not this bridge was once Thailand’s longest bridge (120 meters). It collapsed in 1901 under the force of teak logs that floated down the river from the Chae Hom area. It was then built again with a stronger structure of iron and wood and finally in concrete in 1917.
On the top of the bridge’s pillars is a bas-relief garland marking the death of King Chulalongkorn, who ordered the finale construction of this bridge.
Close to the bridge, Thanon Talat Kao, or the Old Market Street, features the most historical buildings. It is lined with beautiful houses of wealthy people and shops. Houses in this street once played an important role when Lampang was a transportation hub of the North. The province connected the North to Nakorn Sawan, which was the hub for the Central Plains. The slow current of the Wang River made it perfect for merchants’ boats and it is was the starting point to send teak wood by the river.
One of Old Market Street’s famous buildings is the Kanchanawong House which, originally belonged to Bua Phad Kanchanawong, a merchant from Myanmar. It once housed a tailor shop downstair and a private house upstairs. The elaborate woodworks that decorate the house were imported from Mandalay. Next to it is an old-style hair shop, where the hairdresser and customers seem to have known each other forever. Today, at more than seventy years old, they continue to meet each other and talk about old times.
If you visit on a weekend, don’t miss the Saturday and Sunday walking street on Talat Kao Street. You will be able to visit each of these beautiful old houses, browse through an array of local handicrafts and sample delicious food at the same time.
The city of Lampang also offers a myriad of temples to discover. One beautiful temple, surely different from what you have already seen, is Sri Rong Muang temple. This temple was constructed in the Burmese “layered” style, with tin roofs gabled by intricate woodcarvings. Its teak wood viharn was built on a horizontal axis, an orientation which differs from the Lanna and Rattanakosin style temples where only the front façade is visible. The viharn’s interior is richly decorated with teak wood columns and adorned by colorful glass mosaics. Opposite the viharn’s entrance is a raised section where the principal Buddha image and several Burmese and Lanna style Buddha images are enshrined. Among them are a large seated Mandalay style Buddha. Just like in
old times, monks at Si Rong Muang Temple sleep in the viharn to protect the temple, especially from fire.
Located a few kilometres from town, Wat Chedi Sao (the Temple of the Twenty Chedis) is a charming country monastery. The whitewashed chedis are a blend of Thai and Burmese styles, and the compound also contains a remarkable collection of fanciful statues added in recent years. These include the twelve animals of the Chinese calendar as well as figures from Buddhist legends.
For the history buff, a trip to Lampang is not complete without a visit to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. Many travelers have called it the most beautiful temple in Thailand. Showing a spectacular display of Lanna religious architecture and decorative skills, the temple was founded in early Haripunchai times and contains 165-foot chedi believed to contain genuine relics of the Buddha. This temple sits on a small hill, some twenty kilometres from town.
In earlier times, Lampang was home to many elephants which makes it fitting that it now houses the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Located twenty kilometres from the city, on the main road from Chiang Mai, this center offers shelter for elephants left unemployed by the 1988 logging ban and a hospital where some of the elephant can be visited. Courses at the mahout (elephant carers) school are also open to foreign visitors.
The province of Lampang is also home to many ceramic factories and a ceramic museum. Indra Outlet is one of the most well known but other companies present delicate, beautiful and stylish pieces. If you have more time, Chae Son National Park is a
must-see place for nature-lovers and trekkers. The park boasts natural hot springs, caves and many waterfalls. Small and peaceful, the city of Lampang is a haven for culture buffs and lovers of the slow life. Rich in cultural heritage and proud of its glory days, Lampang is a destination that needs to be discovered.
HOW TO GO:
By bus : Green Bus operates from Arcade Bus Station (old building) every 25 minutes. From 6am to 8pm. (about 80 THB). For further details, please contact 089-854 9290.
By train : six trains leaves Chiang Mai daily, stopping at Lampang train station (06.30; 08.50; 09.30; 15.30; 17.00; 18.00). Journey by train takes about 2 hours and offers a beautiful scenery.
By car : the road to Bangkok passes Lampang. It is an easy drive with nice stops on the way.
WHERE TO STAY:
Lampang offers a large choice of places to stay, from guest houses to hotel. We personally recommend Baan Suchada Private Resort. This Thai architecture private property really gives you the opportunity to relax and unwind. Quality service,
delicious cuisine and breakfast, infinity salt water pool and fabulous views over ricefields is what awaits you in this luxurious resort. (7 rooms are available; adults only +18 years)
Tel. 061-410 4040
WHERE TO DINE:
The area along the river is home to a number of dcenic dining spots which offer both Thai and International cuisine. If you want to taste authentic Northern Thai cuisine, head to local favourite Kong Kin Baan Hao, just a short walk north of river.
2 Days - 1 Night
9am: Leave Chiang Mai and hit the road. 10.30am: Arrive at the Lampang Elephant Conservation Center. See the bathing of the elephants then visit the elephant hospital, meet with veterinarian.
12.30am: lunch at the center.
14.00pm: Visit the Dhamabadee Ceramic Museum which has gain excellent reviews on Trip Advisor.
16.30pm: Check in at your hotel and take a rest. In the evening, discover Lampang by night. If you are staying at Baan Suchadaa Resort (as we did) you might just want to relax by the swimming pool while watching the sunset over the rice fields.
10am: Take a walking trip through the city in search of beautiful wooden houses, museums and the bridge. Or choose a two hour horse carriage trip to take you on a tour of houses as well as Ban Sao Nak and Sri Rong Muang Temple.
12.00pm: Lunch in town.
13.00pm: Visit Wat Phra That Lampang Luang Temple.
15.00pm: Drive back to Chiang Mai.