Famous for its horse-drawn carriages and with a rooster as its provincial emblem, Lampang boasts a long history of human settlements on the Wang River basin, some of which dating back to more than 1,000 years. It is rich in archaeological evidence reflecting ancient civilisations of Hariphunchai, Lanna and Burma.
One of the most important temples in Northern Thailand, the attractive, Lanna-style Wat Phra That Lampang Luang , is renowned for its impressive 16th century murals, graceful architecture, and richly colored interiors. Inside the compound are highly revered Buddha images, including Phra Kaew Don Tao, allegedly carved from the same jadeite block as the Emerald Buddha. The main buildings were constructed in the late 15th century on the site of an 8th century fortress. The complex was built on a mound, and fortified by 3 parallel earthen ramparts, separated by moats for protection against attacks.
Another interesting temple is Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao , believed to have been built during the same time as the town was founded. The only surviving original building is the 50-m chedi. The temple briefly housed the Emerald Buddha, and another similar jasper Buddha image during 1436-1468. Today, the former is in Bangkok and the latter is housed at Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. The compound also houses the Lanna Museum with religious Lanna artifacts on display.
Built in 1896, the Lanna-style Ban Sao Nak (Many Pillar House) got its name from the 116 square teak pillars supporting the building. Now a museum, it is lavishly decorated with Burmese and Thai antique crafts consisting of lacquerware, silverware, and ceramics. An architectural dream, this, and other nearby city attractions, can be toured by horse drawn carriage for a novel experience.
The late 18th century distinctive Lanna temple and copper chedi of Wat Pongsanuk Tai, provides a nice contrast to the 19th century Burmese-style Wat Si Chum. The latter was constructed mostly from beautifully carved teak, and the interior of the main chapel, decorated in exquisite lacquerwork, depicts life during the 19th century.
The city's riverside Chinatown on Talad Gao (Old Market) Road, was once the site of bustling commerce, when travel relied solely on the Wang River until the arrival of the railway system in 1915. Nowadays, the narrow streets are clustered with pretty wooden houses and shops that have been there for more than one century. The area was once home to businesses and residences of affluent families. These old homes are valued for their unusual mix of Thai, Chinese, Burmese and British architectural styles.
Established to help preserve the nation's majestic creatures, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center is regarded as one of the best elephant training camps in this region, but is less tourists-oriented than other places. About 12 animals, aged 3-5 years, arrive each year to learn a variety of tasks in the nearby forest during the 5-year training period. The center stages regular performances, and provides a chance for tourists to feed the animals. It also houses a small museum.
On the opposite side of the highway, the Thung Kwian Forest Market sells a variety of wild plants and medicinal and culinary herbs. Lizards, beetles, snakes and other endangered species are also sold here, though the government is trying to curb these sales.
Doi Khun Tan National Park consists of a densely forested mountain range that separates Lampang from Lamphun and has 4 main peaks. The nation's longest railway tunnel, measuring 1,352 m., was cut through these mountains to connect Lampang with other cities.
The Chao Por Pradupa Shrine is dedicated to Phraya Chor Meu Lek (Iron Fist Aristocrat), a prominent military leader of the former King of Lampang. While engaged in battle with Burmese invaders at the city gates, he was outnumbered and stabbed to death. He died standing braced against the wall with both his swords still in his hands. So intimidating was the stance that it frightened the Burmese soldiers into retreat, saving the city.
Extending over 3 districts of Lampang, the Chae Sorn National Park is a densely forested park featuring a large hot spring pool and an impressive 6-tiered waterfall.
Lampang is the only province in Thailand still retaining horse-drawn carriages as a means of transport within city limit. Visitors can hire such vehicles to tour places such as markets, traditional houses along the riverbank and the numerous temples in town.
The centuries old Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao on Phra Kaeo Road, used to be the place where the Emerald Buddha was once enshrined (the same statue now installed in Bangkok). Interesting structures include the large Chedi containing the hair of the Lord Buddha, a Burmese-style Mondop, an ancient Vihan housing a reclining Buddha, and a museum exhibiting ancient relics of the Lanna era.
To the west of town is Wat Si Rong Muang, a Burmese temple built in 1905 during the time when Lampang was the commercial and forestry centre. Major architectural works include the Vihan made of wood with several overlapping gables in the Burmese style. It is a temple with elaborate carved decorations and plaster designs, adorned with colored glass fashioned with delicate craftsmanship.
Built during the reign of King Rama IV by the Burmese, Wat Pa Fang is located on Sanam Bin Road. It has a large, glittering gold Chedi containing a Holy Relic brought over from Myanmar around 1906. The extensive Sala Kan Parian (preaching hall) is made entirely of wood with Burmese-style overlapping roofs. A small Ubosot has Burmese style woodwork over its roof, with beautiful plaster designs over its doors. Usually there are a considerable number of Burmese monks in residence.
Almost directly across from Wat Pa Fang is Wat Chai Mongkhon. The outstanding structure is the Kuti, the monk's living quarters, which is a white cement building with Burmese-style wooden roof. Its columns are adorned with coils of golden wires in elaborate designs and colored glass. The blinds and corridors are made of elaborately fashioned perforated wooden sheets. Inside is housed a bronze Buddha statue of fine workmanship cast in Mandalay, Myanmar.
About 5 kilometres from town on the Lampang-Chae Hom road is Wat Chedi Sao Lang.. Cooled and shaded by large trees, the temple has twenty Chedis is its compound, each made in the combined Lanna-Burmese style. A Chiang Saen-style bronze Buddha statue is also enshrined here, and is commonly referred to as "Phra Chao Than Chai" by the local people. The door panels of the Ubosot are of ancient vintage with elaborate design.
Located on the Lampang-Ngao Road about five kilometres from town with a right turn at Km. 605 marker is Wat Phra That Mon Phaya Chae. As it is situated on a hillside, it affords a clear view of Lampang. Its most outstanding feature is the long set of stairs leading to the Chedi enshrining a Holy Relic.
Wat Phra That Sadet can be reached by taking the Lampang-Ngao Road. After 17 kilometres, take a left turn and continue on for another 2 kilometres. One of Lampang's major sites, it is believed to have been built by Queen Chamthevi some 500 years ago.
To reach the Kiu Lom Dam , take the Lampang-Ngao road and turn left at Kms. 623-624 marker, which is about 38 kilometres from town. Then, continue for a further 14 kilometres. Constructed for irrigation purposes, it has a scenic reservoir suitable for boating or rafting. At least a half-day tour is suggested. Visitors may opt for overnighting on a raft. Places to see include cliffs, isles and fishing villages.
Some 20 kilometres to the southwest of town in Ko Kha district, is Wat Phra That Lampang Luang , a paradigm of temple buildings of the Lanna period. The temple itself is prominently sited on a hillock surrounded by a wall. The entrance arches, called Pratu Khong , are adorned with fine plaster designs. The wall-less main Vihan houses a bronze Buddha statue called the Phra Chao Lan Thong. To the rear is a golden Chedi in Lanna architectural style containing a Holy Relic. Also to the rear is another Vihan with beautiful murals on wooden walls, said to be the oldest in the North. The temple also has a large collection of ancient wooden utensils.
Using the same route as that to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, but taking a left turn at the district office and continuing on for 14 kilometres, is Wat Phra That Chom Ping. Another age-old temple of Lampang, its unique feature is the reflections in natural colors of the Chedi, which appear on the floor within the dark interior of the Ubosot.
The Thai Elephants Conservation Centre is located in the Thung Kwian Forest Park in Hang Chat district, about 32 kilometres from town on the route to Chiang Mai. It is the only facility in the world devoted to the training of elephants for timber -work, using pachyderms as labor. There are performances and training demonstrations. The art of making wooden elephants is also demonstrated. There are 2-3 shows daily. Visitors can enjoy feeding these intelligent giants or ride them to view the natural surroundings. The centre provides health care for the elephants. For more information, call 0-5422-7051.
The Khun Than mountain range of the Doi Khun Than National Park, forms a natural boundary between Lamphun and Lampang provinces. The northern rail line to Chiang Mai runs through the longest rail tunnel in the country, which is 1,352 metres long and takes five minutes to traverse. The mountain has both virgin jungle and pinery. Many tourists choose to walk from the Khun Than Station up the mountain, a distance of about 7 kilometres. There are four rest areas on the way. Visitors may also camp overnight but must provide their own food. The best time to take the trip is between November and February, when the weather is fine and cool.
The Tham Pha Thai National Park , is located between Muang and Ngao districts just off the main highway at Kms.665-666, some 60 kilometres from the provincial town. Cars can access right to the mouth-of-a-cave, within which are picturesque stalactite and stalagmites. There are also several smaller caverns, each with their own attractions.
Ban Chang Luang, at 33 Mu 9, Ban Khoi in Tambon Ban Rong near the Phao Yao-Lampang road, is a facility established by Khru Kam-aye Dejduangta. It has an extensive collection of wood-carvings made by Kru Kam-aye himself, and serves as a school to train those intending to become artisans, and to provide occupations for the local people.
The Chao Pho Pratu Pha Shrine, is about 50 kilometres from town on the Lampang-Ngao road near Km. 650 marker. Numerous offerings can be seen around the site, and the shrine is considered sacred. Road-users passing by usually honk their car horns or set off firecrackers as a sign of respect. Legend has it that Chao Pho Pratu Pha was a great warrior of the Lampang ruler. He once fought Burmese invaders to block their advance at Pratu Pha, and died fighting with his two swords still in his hands and his body still leaning against the hillside. The attackers were so frightened that they withdrew. To honour the brave warrior, the people built the shrine, which has since become a sacred and revered place of worship.
A major place for relaxation in Lampang is the Chae Son National Park, which is located in the Mueang Pan district area. It can be reached by taking Highway No.1035, followed by a left turn at Km. 59. A further 17 kilometres on, is a lush forested and mountainous region, with a 73-Celsius hot spring spilling over rocky terrain, providing a misty and picturesque scene, particularly in the morning. There are bathing facilities for health purposes.
One kilometre away is a clear cool brook, where tourists can take a dip in water fed by the 6-level Chae Son waterfall, originating from winding brooks and streams flowing through high mountains. There is accommodation plus camping areas set aside for visitors.
Wang Kaeo Waterfall is Lampang's largest. It can be reached by taking the Lampang - Chae Hom - Wang Nuea route for a distance of 110 kilometres. On reaching Wang Nuea district, the waterfall is a further 26 kilometres further on.
The Luang Wiang Lakhon Fair is held just prior to the annual Loi Krathong event around Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao and Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, featuring Lampang's own historical background, and long-established customs and traditions. A Khrua Than procession is organised with local people dressed in native attires carrying various traditional household appliances, some of which are of ancient vintage.
The Khantok Chang Fair is organised on the first Friday-Saturday period of February each year at the Thai Elephant conservation Centre. There is an elephant show and the pachyderms are feasted with their popular fruits and vegetables, which are placed on the Tok , a traditional food tray of the Lanna people.
Hotels and accommodation
- 9 Mithuna : 285 Bunyawat Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7438, 0 5422 2261] : 90-260 baht
- Arunsak : 90/9 Bunyawat Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7344, 0 5421 7532] : 120-200 baht
- Asia Lampang : 229 Bunyawat Road Amphoe Mueag [Tel: 0 5422 7844-7 Fax. 0 5422 4436] : 390-550 baht
- Benjarong : Lampang-Phrae Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5422 5544] : 280 baht
- Khelang Nakhon : 719-20 Suandok Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5422 6137, 0 5422 2846-7] : 200-360 baht
- Kim : 168 Bunyawat Rroad [Tel: 0 5421 7588, 0 5421 7721 Fax: 0 5422 6929] : 350 baht
- Kiu Lom Resort : 38 Kms. from town, Kiu Lom Dam Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7186] : 300-2,500 baht
- Lampang : 52 Suandok Road Amphoe Muaeng [Tel: 0 5422 7311-13] : 90-220 baht
- Lampang River Lodge : Mu 11, Tambon Chomphu Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7054] : 900 baht
- Lampang Wiang Thong : 138/109 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5422 5801-2 Fax: 0 5422 5803] : 838-1,059 baht
- M.R.Palace : 5/2 Montri Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5422 7228 Fax: 0 5422 7228] : 480 baht Mae Tha Resort : Km.45 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road Amphoe Mae Tha [Tel: 01-211 7712] : 300-1,000 baht
- Pin Hotel : 8 Tambon Suan Dok Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5422 1509, 0 5422 2884 Fax: 322286] : 450-900 baht
- Romsri : 142 Boonyawat Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7054] : 80-200 baht
- Sakol : 139/9 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7573] : 100-240 baht
- Siam : 260/26-29 Chatchai Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7472, 0 5421 7277, 0 5421 7642] : 129-292 baht
- Sri San ga : 213-215/1-2 Bunyawat Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7070, 0 5421 7811] : 100-180 baht
- Thapthim Thong : Prasan Maitri Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5421 7142] : 100 baht
- Thipchang Lampang : 54/22 Takrao Noi Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5422 4237, 0 5422 6501-6 Fax: 0 5422 5362] : 700-1,500 baht
- Wieng Lakorn : 138/38 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5431 6430-5 Fax: 0 5431 6427] : 930-2,500 baht
- Ban Fai : 206/2 Moo 2, Phaholyotin Rd., Pichai, Tel: 0-5422-4602
- Bann Rim Nam : 328 Tip Chang Rd., Tel: 0-5422-1861
- Gokyu Grilled Chicken : 260/74 Takraw Noi Rd., Tel: 0-5421-8026
- Jariya : 190/6 Rob Wiang Rd., Suan Dok, Tel: 0-5421-8750
- Kaeng Ron : Pracha Otanjai Rd., Bor Heaw, Tel: 0-5421-8639
- Kam Warn : 146/11 Phaholyotin Rd., Tel: 0-5422-2399
- Kelang Nakorn : Kelang Nakorn Hotel, Tel: 0-5422-6137
- Koh Loy : Nong Krating Park, Tel: 0-5422-1316
- Kum Luang : Asia Hotel, Tel: 0-5421-8074, 0-5421-8822
- Sweet Coffeeshop : Asia Hotel, Tel: 0-5421-8074, 0-5421-8822
How to get there
* By car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 and Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan via Sing Buri, Chai Nat, then turn into Highway No. 1 again to go to Lampang via Kamphaeng Phet and Tak, a total distance of 599 kilometres.
* By bus
Transport Co. Ltd. operates both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses to Lampang. Buses leave Bangkok's Mochit s Bus Terminal daily. There are other private bus companies such as Wiriya Tour, Tel: 0 2936 2827 and New Wiriya Tour Tel: 0 2936 2205-6.
* By train
Regular trains depart from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Lampang daily. Call 1690 for more information.
* By plane
PBAir provides 2 daily flight services from Bangkok to Lampang. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0 2261 0220-5.