Lovely Lamphun | What to do in Chiang Mai’s small neighbour.

Modern Lamphun is famous for its Industrial Zone, the so-called Northern Region Industrial Estate. Attracting among others some Japanese companies like Hoya Optics. Lamphun has an ancient history to be proud of as well, it was once where the kingdom of Haripunchai was seated under the rule of a Mon Princess by the name of Chamadevi ( (Phra Nang Chammathewi) พระนางจามเทวี)in the mid 8th Century. According to some legends, Lamphun at the time was close to the ruler of Lopburi who sent his daughter here because Haripunchai asked for a ruler for the town.

In the pre-Lanna times of Northern Thailand. Harichunchai was one of many Mon states in the Dveravati kingdom. In the late 13th century, king Meng Rai of Lanna conquered Lamphun and integrated it into the kingdom.

Drive the ” Rubber Tree Road to Lamphun”

The old road of 106 is lined with tall dipterocarp trees and it goes parallel with the railway to Lamphun for about 25 kilometres. The starting point of the road is at the intersection with 1006 as it crosses the Ping River to become Thapae Road leading to the Old Town. These trees were supposedly planted in 1899 by the governor of Chiang Mai at the time. It is called the Rubber Tree road but the trees that are also bearers of sanctuaries to the locals are Dipterocarps. The most monumental of the trees is 40 metres in height.

Road 106 from Chiang Mai to Lamphun
Small cars and huge trees on the Intayongyot road.

Taking the train is also an option and then you can get off in the Khun Tan railway tunnel by the Doi Khun Tan national park which is also a great camping place. The tunnel was built between 1907 and 1918 and is Thailands longest railway tunnel with its 1352 meters.

When you follow the 106 from Chiang Mai it will automatically guide you straight to the main sight of the town, the temple Wat Haripunchai. And just opposite the temple you have a great coffee shop and gallery called the Temple Cafe and there is also a local Hainanese chicken on rice restaurant with some of the best Kao Man Gai in the country.

Wat Phra That Haripunchai

Wat Haripunchai is indeed one of the grandest temples in Northern Thailand. There are several viharns and chedis within the temple area as well as a museum and a library. The timespan for the structures spans over 1000 years. Officially built in the 12th century, some structures are from the 9th century and others are from the 20th century.

The 46 meter Lanna style Chedi from the 15th century inshrines the relics of the Buddha. On its top, there is a gilded umbrella weighing 6 1/2 kilo. Inside the Chedi, there is an older Mon Stupa. In the four corners, there are gilded umbrellas added in the 19th century.

Chedi at Wat Hariphunchai
One of the most famous temple complexes in Northern Thailand should be part of anyone’s itinerary.
Re-colouring the great Buddha in the main Viharn. This Buddha was cast in the 15th century and has the nickname the Buddha with the sharp shins. The Viharn itself is very elaborate with its impressive and intricate facade.

The temple is open from 6 am to 6 pm except for Mondays and there is nowadays a 50 baht entrance fee for foreigners.

If you have time don’t miss the Haripunchai National Museum. It holds around 3000 antique artefacts from Lamphun province. It is not far from Wat Haripunchai, here.

Salak Yom, the famous festival of Lamphun

The celebration is a way to perform merit-making for the ethnic Yong minority of Lamphun. Their origins are actually from today Myanmar. Many of them were forced to resettle here by the Lanna king Kawila after war and raids into Shan and Yong territory. The largest inpouring of Yong occurred in 1805 when 10,000 people were sent from Muang Yong to be resettled in northern Thailand.

A Salak Yom is an impressive bamboo pole, often higher than 12 meters ornamented with thousands of brightly coloured, tufted rods.

In the past, the Salak Yom poles were manufactured by families with mature daughters. It is believed that the merit made by putting together these decorative poles equalled that of having a son ordained into monkhood. Also, it was a way to declare for the Yong families that their daughters were masters of various crafts and stood ready for marriage.

Each Salak Yom pole embodies a community, a mutual effort of everybody in the neighbourhood. The poles are also a lot taller, each measuring 12 meters or more, and elaborately decorated to be the most stunning when erected side by side.

Salad Yom is a three day event that takes place in September. The main site for the event is Wat Haripunchai.

The Temple House and Gallery

Just opposite the entrance, there is a modern, air-conditioned and comfortable coffee shop with excellent coffee and tasty pastry. It also serves as a gallery. A perfect break from the tropical heat. Location here.

Hainanese Chicken – Kao Man Gai Thailand

Also just opposite the temple, there is a Kao man gai restaurant (ข้าวมันไก่). This is the Thai variation of Hainanese chicken rice, a dish that’s extremely popular throughout Southeast Asia. This restaurant is called Kao Man Gai Thailand/ข้าวมันไก่ไทยแลนด์. They have both the boiled and the deep-fried version, or if you prefer a combination of both. It is very popular but most of the time there are available tables. Tai people write down their order on a piece of paper but you can always point to the pictures on the menu as well. This is a meal that is inexpensive and still a perfect filling lunch.

Hainanese Chicken
The deep fried version of the Hainanese chicken.
Preparing chicken and rice

Wat Chamtewi

This temple is also named Wat Ku Kut. It is on the way when you drive to the Terracotta Garden from Wat Haripunchai, on the Chamadevi rd.

The temple was founded in the 12th century in the era of the Kingdom of Hariphunchai. The local tales say that the temple was founded much earlier in the days of Queen Chamadevi around her time of death 731. 98 years old! Legend says that one of her sons, after 7 days of mourning, put her ashes in the stupa.

Today it is considered to have been built by King named Athitayarat as a memorial to his victory over the Khmers. The present appearance was given to the stupa in 1218 when it was rebuilt by King Sapphasit after it was damaged in an earthquake. 

Stupa at Wat Chamtewi
Wat Camadevi/Chamadevi/Chamtewi. There are many ways to spell the name of the ancient queen. This narrow and square-based stupa is called the Ku Kut stupa. It could be influenced by Satmahal Prasada at Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.

The area is very interesting and worth a visit. There are some spectacular wooden structures and a manmade cave replica with statues depicting hermits.

The Terracotta Garden at Lamphun

Part restaurant/coffee shop part selfie and Instagram hotspot and also apparently someone is in love with religious Khmer art. There are lintels and art decorations reminiscent of the ones in the pink temple Bantey Srei in Cambodia for instance. A whole stupa has been built on the other side of a wooden bridge. Creating the feeling of the Hindu notion of the whole mountain Meru surrounded by the world oceans. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about it. The restaurant and the garden were nice though. Good coffee and pastry. Very busy on a Sunday. It is the type of place that you probably either love or strongly dislike. But better go there and make up your mind. The effort and I suppose money that is put into it is amazing.

Terracotta-tiles in Lamphun Terracotta garden
Hindu and Buddhist art, a lot of pretty but broken terracotta tiles on the ground.
Lamphun Terracotta garden
The cafe part with the bull Nandin as a guardian. You can sit inside in the air conditioner or outside. It was Sunday when we visited and we had to wait ten minutes for a table.

The location of the Terracotta Garden is just by the Ping river.

The Sun Waterpark

A somewhat unconventional waterpark that I address in another blog post. Read more about it here.

Lamphun is also famous for Lammyai fruits and a harvest festival is held in July.

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