A mere 30 minutes drive from Chiang Mai, Lamphun city in Thailand is well-known for its traditional temples and a slow motion life, which totally reflects Lanna traditions.
Thinking of Northern Thailand and tourists will first name Chiang Mai, then Chiang Rai then probably Lampang, Nan or Loei. Aside from main tourism streams, a day-excursion to Lamphun is a good complement to a Chiang Mai or Lampang stay. Lamphun is indeed acknowledged as one of the hidden gems of the Kingdom. The campaign “12 Hidden Gems Plus” has been launched two years ago by the Tourism Authority of Thailand with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to promote alternative destinations, away from the country’s “must-see” such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Pattaya or Phuket. The North is blessed with many small historical cities which managed to preserve their traditional life and often surprise travellers with their ancient temples, historical old towns and traditions.
Lamphun is among those destinations. In TAT marketing plans of the 12 Hidden Gems, the city is recommended as an extension to Lampang, some 80 km south. However, the small town is a perfect stop-over on the road from Chiang Mai to Lampang.
Lamphun has a small population of only 15,000 but the city is considered by many as the cradle of Lanna culture. “Lamphun is the oldest Northern Kingdom in Thailand with a strong sense of identity. The town was created by the legendary Queen Chama Thevi and became the capital of the Haripunchai Kingdom, the last Mon kingdom in the area “, explains Kevin, a local guide.
An interesting circuit is to follow the steps of Queen Chama Thevi. She is present everywhere in Lamphun, in city squares and as the tutelary figure of the small town. Such as in temples. Lamphun is well known for its beautiful temples which are part of its status of capital of the Hariphunchai Kingdom. A must see temple is Wat Phra That Haripunchai with its impressive chedi glittering in gold. It was built some 100 years ago.
A couple of kilometer away, the 1,400 year-old Wat Chama Thewi (or Chammadhevi) contains the bone ashes of the fabled Queen. The stupa is a true marvel of architectures with its 60 sculpted niches with Buddha images carved inside each of them.
Back in the centre of the old town, the city square at Nong Dok Public Park. contains also a statue of the queen at which offerings are still given today by local citizens.
Finally, tourists curious about the old Hariphunchai Kingdom can visit the Hariphunchai National Museum displays vestiges, statues, sculptures and objects testifying of the great history of Lamphun until the early Lanna Kingdom. Another small museum is the Community Lamphun Museum, a former European-style mansion, home to the Royal resident some 100 years ago. Objects from daily life and pictures show how the small town used to be a century ago. It has not changed so dramatically these days and this is certainly part of its charm between an ever more bustling Chiang Mai and an even more tourist-oriented Lampang…