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About Planning a Visit to Lamphun in Northern Thailand
Lamphun is the smallest province in North Thailand. While it’s true that its big neighbour Chiang Mai can boast more attractions, there are still enough things to do in Lamphun to make it a worthwhile visit. It comes as a surprise for many visitors to discover that Lamphun was founded centuries before Chiang Mai. In fact, it was once the most important city in the north.
If you’re planning to travel in North Thailand, read our suggestions for things to do in Lamphun.
The compact size of Lamphun makes it ideal for a day trip from Chiang Mai. But if you enjoy slow travel, it is also a pleasant place to spend a night or two.
Lamphun has a history that dates back over a thousand years. Chama Thewi (also written as Chamadevi) was the first recognised ruler of Lamphun. Originally from Lopburi, the Mon princess arrived to rule Lamphun in the 7th century. Under the rule of the warrior queen, Lamphun flourished. Historians also credit Chama Thewi with introducing Buddhism to North Thailand. To this day, she remains a figure of immense pride to Lamphun people.
Visit Hariphunchai Museum to learn more about Chama Thewi and the long history of Lamphun. With a convenient location near Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, the museum should be the first port of call for first-time visitors to Lamphun.
A huge statue of Lamphun’s most famous son, Kruba Srivichai, takes pride of place on top of a hill near Lamphun city centre. The statue at Wat Doi Ti honours the ‘engineer monk’ Kruba Srivichai who was born and raised in Lamphun.
He is famous for his work in North Thailand restoring numerous temples and constructing access roads. If you visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, the road that takes you there was first constructed under the guidance of Kruba Srivichai. A shrine and statue in his honour sits at the start of the road. Another large statue of the monk is at the top of the road near the stairs that lead up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
For Thai visitors travelling to Lamphun, Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is at the top of their must-see list. Not only is Wat Phra That Hariphunchai the most important temple in Lamphun, it’s also one of the most significant temples in the whole of Thailand. Although the buildings have been renovated and added to over the years, the original temple on this site dates back more than 900 years. Of particular reverence is the golden chedi which contains relics of the Buddha.
If you visit Wat Phra Thai Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, you may notice similarities. And that’s because the layout at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai was the template for the temple at Doi Suthep. The Lamphun temple is considered especially auspicious for people born in the Year of the Rooster. Look around the temple grounds and you’ll see an abundance of rooster statues.
The historic temple of Wat Cham Thewi (also known as Wat Kukut) dates back to the 8th century. The temple’s name comes from the association with Lamphun’s famous warrior queen. Chama Thewi’s ashes are said to be buried under one of the pagodas and local people visit the temple regularly to pay their respects. There is also a small museum dedicated to Chama Thewi and inside the main temple hall, colourful murals depict stories from her life.
Across from the main temple building, another museum is dedicated to the Lamphun monk, Kruba Srivichai.
One of the most attractive temples in Lamphun, Wat San Pa Yang Luang is well worth making time for. Centuries ago, this site was occupied by a Hindu shrine. However, Chama Thewi replaced this with what is thought to be the first Buddhist temple in North Thailand.
Doi Khun Tan National Park straddles the provincial borders of Lampang and Lamphun. This is one of the oldest national parks in Thailand and if you enjoy hiking makes for an interesting place to spend a night or two. Stay in the comfortable National Park bungalows and ease away your stress in the quiet countryside.
Saphan Kao (White Bridge) is one of the best-known landmarks in Lamphun province. Constructed in the 1920s, the historic railway bridge sits on a scenic stretch of track on the northern rail route. Spanning the Tha River and with a golf course on one side and mountains on the other, Saphan Kao is a favourite spot for local photographers.
The Golden Rock at Wat Phra That In Kwaen is a much smaller (and less well-known) version of the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Burma. It might not be as spectacular and it’s not easy to reach unless you have your own transport, but the Golden Rock is an interesting diversion if you’re travelling in the Lamphun area.
Lamphun is home to all the classic Northern Thai food dishes like khao soi and kanom jeen nam ngiaw that you’ll find in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. But unlike Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, Lamphun doesn’t see many overseas tourists and menus are almost exclusively in Thai.
Lamphun is famous across Thailand for its lam yai (longan) orchards. The succulent fruit is so important to the local economy that it gets its own festival with the annual Lam Yai Festival in August. The lam yai season runs from July to October and if you’re in Lamphun at this time look out for the speciality dish of longans and sticky rice (khao niao lam yai).
Lamphun is around 30 km from Chiang Mai and can comfortably be visited as a day trip. Although you can arrange a tour to Lamphun from Chiang Mai, it’s also straight-forward to travel independently.
For less than 20 baht, you can take the ordinary train from Chiang Mai to Lamphun. Buy tickets on the day of travel. At the time of writing there is a 09.30 departure which arrives in Lamphun at 10am. Train times coming back to Chiang Mai aren’t so convenient for day-trippers so it’s easier to take a bus or songthaew for the return journey.
From Chiang Mai, blue songthaews run at regular intervals to Lamphun during the day from a stop near Waworot Market. They also run from the other side of Nawarat Bridge. The fare is 20 baht and although the journey is slow with lots of stops to let off and pick up passengers, it’s an interesting slice of local life. There is also the advantage that the songthaews take the scenic tree-lined route from Chiang Mai to Lamphun. Alternatively, take a local bus from Chang Puak bus terminal in Chiang Mai to Lamphun bus station.
On arrival in Lamphun, you can cover most of the main sights in the compact city centre on foot or by bicycle. For short journeys around the city centre, you can hire a samlor (bicycle rickshaw). There is also the option of a tourist tram service. This runs from Wat Phra That Hariphunchai and the route covers nine sites around the city. The tram service targets Thai tourists with an on-board commentary only in Thai, but anybody is welcome to join. Tickets cost 100 baht.
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