Although I am a big fan of the city of Chiang Mai itself you can definitely see on each visit that the place is becoming more and more designed towards tourism, but travel a few kilometers outside of Chiang Mai to Lamphun and avail yourself to ambience, temple ruins and a relatively untouched town.
Lamphun often gets overlooked by its bigger sister Chiang Mai, but is in fact one of the oldest cities in Thailand. Lamphun is quite a lot older than Chiang Mai and was formerly named Haripunchai. It was in fact founded by Queen Chama Thevi in the 9th century as the capital of Haripunchai kingdom and is the last most northerly mon kingdom in the area. In the south-west part of Lamphun a statue still remains of the queen and offerings are still made by the citizens.
In 1218 King Mengrai defeated the Mon kingdom and added the wealthy city of Lamphun to his own kingdom. Lamphun became part of the new Lanna kingdom with Ai Fa appointed king whilst king Mengrai set about building Wiang Kum Kam as his new fortress and capital. Lamphun is host to one of northern Thailand’s most important temples called Wat Phra That Haripunchai.
Wat Phra That Haripunchai
The temple grounds of Wat Phra That Haripunchai is full of beautiful architecture and sculptures and well worth spending some time at. There is a 46 metre tall golden chedi restored in 1443 by a king of Chiang Mai and a superb brick arch with a pair of sculptured lions at the door. The chedi is said to contain relics of the lord Buddha.
The weather can be cool in the winter, but because it is situated more inland and away from the sea it has a very long dry season and the weather is then very hot. The dry season lasts for 6 months.
The fruit ” Longan ” is the prize production of Lamphun and 60 percent are exported to Europe. The population of Lamphun is approximately 409,056.
” Somebody once said that Lamphun was famous for its beautiful women and tasty longans ” and this is still absolutely true.
A Walk Around Lamphun
Allow one day to visit Lamphun scheduling in the getting there and back if you are traveling from Chiang Mai. We took a walk through the town first with its delightful moats and every day life activities and finally rested up in a delightful coffee shop. One cappuccino later and we were on our feet again heading for Wat Phra That Haripunchai the famous temple. Time certainly needs to be spent in the temple grounds as there is so much to see and do.
Outside the temple grounds is a fantastic market selling all sorts of products, there seems to be some outside vendors and some under cover in a bit of an indoor market. Passing through the indoor market and coming out the other side we walked a further 100 yards and found a nice place for a spot of lunch.
Northern Lunch Speciality
A northern speciality is called ” Khao Soy noodles” and I have never had these before so it was time to try them. The result was a massive thumbs up as the staff mixed in the essential condiments to give the true taste. I am sure if left to my own devices to mix in the extras I would have got it horribly wrong and not been so impressed. Anyone who heads north do your self the pleasure of trying this tasty treat. Don’t make the mistake by thinking I will try some of an evening as Khao Soy noodles are a lunch time selling product.
Getting To Lamphun
You can get to Lamphun from Chiang Mai by bus departing from Chang phuak bus station or take a blue taxi (songtaew) just south of Narawat bridge opposite Rimping Supermarket. We took a mini bus in to Lamphun from Chiang Mai which cost 20 baht, but came back on the songtaew for 15 baht. All that way for just 15 baht approximately 35 pence…. incredible.
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