Legend handed down for more than 1,400 years refer to this ancient town as Hariphunchai. Its first ruler was Queen Chamthewi who was of Mon extraction. In the late 12 th century, King Mengrai overran the town and subsequently integrated it into the Lanna Kingdom.
Today, Lamphun still retain its enchanting ambience of a small but old community. It is some 670 kilometres from Bangkok and only 26 kilometres from Chiang Mai. Located on the banks of the Kuang River, its attractions include ancient sites and relics as well as forests and mountains and delightful lakes. Lamphun is the most famous producer of longan fruit.
The town's most important temple is the centrally located Wat Phra That Hariphunchai. The large compound was founded in 1044 but the 46-m elegantly tapered central Chedi, capped with a 9-tiered umbrella of pure gold, dates from 897. The famous Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai was modeled after this Chedi. Renovated in 1930s, the temple contains interesting structures and Buddha images, such as the pyramid-shaped brick Chedi, murals depicting a Buddhist hell, a 15th century Lanna Buddha, the world's largest gong cast in 1860, and a 'Happy Buddha' - fat, smiling Chinese-style Buddha image.
On the opposite side of the road, the small Harinphunchai (Lamphun) National Museum displays an excellent collection of various styles of Buddha images from the Dvaravati, Hariphunchai, and Lanna eras.
In the southeast corner of the old walled city is the Chamthewi Monument where steady streams of locals place offerings at the foot of the statue daily. She is depicted as a well-proportioned, attractive woman with an outstretched left hand and clutching a sword in her left hand. Legend says she arrived in the 8th century from the town of Lop Buri to the south with a group of monks, doctors and other educated people to establish a new city in the north. Under her leadership, Lamphun became a prosperous center of trade and the town's fame was widely known.
Two of the nation's oldest Chedis are located at Wat Chamthewi , commonly known as Wat Ku Kut. Built in 1218, they are the only remaining examples of Dvaravati architecture in Thailand. The paintings on the wiharn interior walls depict scenes from her legendary life.
The province is renowned for its sweet and succulent longan fruit, known as "lumyai" to Thais. The town of Ban Nong Chang Khun to the north of the city, in particular, has an abundance of orchards where harvesting can be seen and fruits bought directly from the orchards. The fruits are in season during July-August. Longans were introduced to the area during the reign of King Rama V, and have since spread into neighboring provinces. There are several species today which are popular among consumers.
The gold capped, white pagoda of Wat Phra That Doi Hang Bat is visible from afar, and offers a scenic panorama of the surrounding areas. A deep depression in the stoney ground is believed to be a sacred place where Lord Buddha once prepared his alms bowl.
Separating Lamphun from Lampang is the densely forested Doi Khuntarn National Park. Within the park is a 1,362 meter-long tunnel, regarded as the longest in Thailand, for the railway that runs through the mountain.
The traditional ways of life of a Karen hilltribe village can be observed at the Huay La Karen Village. See them weave cloth the traditional way, unlike others who have adopted mopre modern practices.
Covering an extensive area in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Tak, the main feature of the Mae Ping National Park is the Ping River flowing through the park's forests. On both sides are fertile forestlands with sheer cliffs providing beautiful natural scenery. Certain parts of the waterway spread out to form reservoir-like bodies of water with numerous small islands and rapids. Another attraction is the 7-level Ko Luang Waterfall, just 20 km from the park headquarters and accessible by road. Fascinating stalactites and stalagmites are to be found inside nearby caves.
Wat Chamthewi , commonly referred to a Ku Kut , is located on the Lamphun-San Pa Tong Road and built in 1298 B.E. in the Lawo (Lopburi) style. The Chedi is a square structure similar to Buddhagaya in India. Around the Chedi are levels of arches holding a total of 60 Buddha statues. Ashes of the queen are enshrined within the Chedi.
Located on Inthayongyot Road almost opposite Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is the Hariphunchai National Museum. Displays and exhibits include historical development and archaeological items found in Lamphun. These include p rehistorical human skeletons and objects of arts from the Dvaravati, Hariphunchai, Lanna and Rattanakosin periods. A chamber is devoted to a collection of inscription stones in the Mon and Lanna scripts. Another displays ancient utensils, Lanna indigenous arts and carvings. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Sited in mid-town, Wat Phra That Hariphunchai was built during the reign of King Arthitayarat, a descendant of Queen Chamthewi some 800 years ago. A principal landmark is the 46-met re tall golden Chedi whose present appearance was the result of restoration work in 1443 by a king of Chiang Mai. It has long been regarded as a major place of worship. Other architectural works include the ancient-style brick arc h adorned with fine designs, and the pair of sculptured lions at the door. There are also a square-shaped Chedi and a Khmer-style Buddha statue.
The Phra Nang Chamthewi Statue is located in the Nong Dok public park in town commemorating the first ruler of Hariphunchai. In front of the Town Hall is the Suthewa Rusi Statue. Legend has it that the Rusi, or ascetic, was the actual founder of Hariphunchai. As an ascetic refraining from worldly affairs h e invited Phra Nang Chamthevi, a daughter of the King of Lopburi, to ascend the throne and helped her to firmly establish Buddhism in the land.
On the road parallel to the old city wall to the west of town is Wat Mahawan, an old temple built during the time of Queen Chamthewi. Enshrined here is a Nak Prok statue (statue with mythical serphants overhead), which was brought to the temple by the Queen. Commonly known as Phra Rot Lamphun , it serves as the model for the famous votive tablet.
Another ancient site related to the old history of the town is Wat Phra Yun. The Ku Chang-Ku Mah Chedi at the temple is surrounded in four directions by standing statues. The Chedi itself is cylinder-shaped and commemorates Queen Chamthewi's war elephant and her son's steed.
The Ban Nong Chang Khun is the most famous longan growing area in the country. The orchards are located some 8 kilometres before Lamphun, with a further 7 kilometres travel after a right turn. On both sides of the road are numerous longan orchards. The fruits are in season during July-August. Longans were introduced to the area during the reign of King Rama V and have since spread into neighbouring provinces. There are several species today which are popular among consumers.
Pa Sang is a handicraft centre, famous for its handmade cotton materials, produced mainly in Ban Nong Nguak. Also at this village, is an ancient temple noted for its beautiful arches in indigenous Burmese-influenced style.
About 7 kilomet re s away on the route to Li district is Wat Phra Phutthabat Tak Pha. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha once stayed here, leaving a trace to the likeness of a monk's saffron robe, and his footprint in the stoney ground.
Ban Hong is the site of a 1,400-year-old community dating back to the Hariphunchai Kingdom. Located some 40 k ilometres to the south of Lamphun, it offers a scenic and delightful vista of green fields and mountains. It also has several old temples built in admirable indigenous style, e.g., Wat Phra Chao Ton Luang with its 600-year-old Buddha statue, Wat Pa Pua i and Wat Dong Rus. The latter two temples both maintain 100-year-old Ho Trai (scripture halls), built with wood in delicate patterns. Some of the natural attractions in the district include Tham Luang Pha Wiang , a cave some 15 kilometres south of the district town. Inside the cavern are odd-shaped stalactites. There are accommodation facilities for tourists in the district town.
Covering an area of over 1,000 sq uare kilometres is the Mae Ping National Park. Its main feature is the Ping River, which flows through the forests in the park. On both sides are fertile forestland s with sheer cliffs providing beautiful natural scenery. Certain parts of the waterway spread out to form reservoir-like bodies of water with numerous small islands and rapids. Another attraction is the 7-level Ko Luang Waterfall , which is fed from lime streams. It is just 20 k ilometres from the park headquarters and accessible by road. Fascinating stalactites and stalagmites are to be found inside nearby lime caves.
Tourists wishing to stay overnight are recommended to contact park headquarters, which are located some 20 k ilometres off Highway No. 106 at Km.47.
Wat Phra Ba t Hua i Tom is the largest temple in the district, boasting a large Lanna-style C hedi and an extensive place of worship built in laterite by Karens living in the vicinity, who were admirers of the highly revered Phra Kru Ba Chaiwongsa. The temple is about 5 k ilometres off Highway No. 106 at Km. 47.
About 2 k ilometres from Li is a group of five old pagoda s known as the Chedi Ha Duang. The site is believed to have been an ancient town.
The most well known event in Lamphun is the Song Nam Phra That Hariphunchai, which dates back to the olden times. Held to celebrate the province's principal religious site, it takes place in May.
Another event is the Longan Fair in August, which is designed to promote this hugely popular produce. There are the beautifully decorated Longan Parade and Longan contests.
Hotels and accommodation
- Ban Suan Choeng Doi : 188 Lamphun-Ban Thi Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5350 3661, 0 5350 3654] : 1,000-2,000 baht
- Lamphun Mansion : 283 Chammathewi Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5353 4687-9 Fax: 0 5353 4690] : 350-450 baht
- Mon Saen Dao : 80 Mu 11 Tambon Nong Nam Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5351 1510 Fax. 0 5351 1510] : 590-4,400 baht
- Supphanit Holiday Inn : 204-10 Chammathewi Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5353 4865-6, 05353 4355] : 250-600 baht
How to get there
- Ban Muang Bun : 234/5 Lamphun- San Patong Rd., Rim Ping, Tel: 0-5351-0483
- Ban Suan : 90 Charoenrat Rd., Nai Muang, Tel: 0-5351-1453
- Bunying : Rob Muang Nok Rd., Nai Muang, Tel: 0-5351-1453
- Chor Cha-Muang : 10 Wang Sai Rd., Nai Muang, Tel: 0-5356-0360
- Dao Kanong : 340 Charoenrat Rd., Nai Muang, Tel: 0-5351-1552
- Maitee Fishing Park : Aom Muang Lamphun-Pasang Rd.
- Poon Piman : 42 Moo 4, Lamphun- Pasang Rd., Ton Thong, Tel: 0-5353-5276
- Sakao Duen : 13/3 Moo 4, Lamphun Industrial Estate, Lamphun-Ban Ti Rd.
- Sunday : 196 Intayongyot Rd., Nai Muang, Tel: 0-5351-1292
- Tuk Daeng : 57 Moo 4, Lamphun Industrial Estate, Tel: 0-5355-2062
* By car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 to Nakhon Sawan via Sing Buri and Chai Nat, then turn into Highway No. 11 and proceed to Lamphun, a total distance of 670 kilometres.
* By bus
Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses departs from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal to Lamphun daily. Travelling time is about 9 hours. Call 0 2936 0852-66 for more information. Indra Tour which is a private bus company also operate air-conditioned bus to Lamphun. Call 0 2208 0840 for information.
* By train
Trains leave Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Raialway Station every day. Call 1690 for more information.
* By plane
Visitors can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then connect a Chiang Mai-Lamphun bus which leave Chang Phueak Bus Station every 15 minutes. Travelling time from Chiang Mai to Lamphun is 45 minutes.