LAMPANG ATTRACTIONS Lampang the capital, famous for its horse-drawn carriages, located 100 km. southeast of Chiang Mai and 00 km. north of Bangkok. Set in the Wang River basin, the province has less spectacular highland landscapes than Chiang Mai, and its main attraction is cultural rather than scenic. The area has a long history of settle- ment and is rich in archaeological and architectural evidencereflecting the ancient civilisation of Hariphunchai, Lanna andMyanmar. Indeed, the town of Lampang, sited on the banks of the Wang River, possesses considerable historical interest. It has been a cultural hub since the th century, when it was part of the Mon Kingdom of Hariphunchai and in the early 20th century was the centre of the then all-important, teak trade, duringwhich time Burmese influences were prevalent. Sights today include several well-preserved temples that display a blend of Thai and Burmese architectural styles, while a short distance outside town is Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang, arguably the single most fascinating temple in the North. Moreover, Lam- pang is in its relaxed atmosphere and lifestyles more typically and traditionally Thai than Chiang Mai, and shows little change in spite of the growth of tourism. Blending cultural interest with nature conservation is Lampang’s remarkable Elephant Conser- vation Centre. Elephants played a major role as beasts of burden during the heydays of the teak industry, and although that era has passed, a number of the elephants have been given a new home at the centre, where visitors can see demonstrations of their forestry skills, as well as the more recent accomplishments of elephants as painters and musicians.
Lampang is the only province in Thailand still retaining horse- drawn carriages as a means of transport within the city. Visitors can hire such vehicles to tour places like markets, traditional houses along the river bank and the numerous temples in town.
WAT PHRA KAEO DON TAO
This historic temple, on Phra Kaeo Road, was where the Emer- ald Buddha (now in Bangkok) was once enshrined. Structures of note in the extensive temple compound include a large Chedi containing a hair of the Lord Buddha, a Burmese-style Mondop.
WAT CHEDI SAO
About 5 km. from town on the Lampang-Chae Hom road, Wat Chedi Sao is distinguished by 20 (sao means “twenty” in north- ern Thai) whitewashed Chedi each fashioned in Lanna-Burmese style. A Lanna-style Buddha statue is also enshrined here.
WAT PONG SANUK TAI
In contrast to the Burmese-style temples, Wat Pongsanuk Tai, on Pongsanuk Road in Wiang Nuea district, and enclosed within the compound of a modern temple, displays pure Lanna style. Most remarkable are the Chedi and superb wooden Mondop that preserves the essence of Lanna architectural genius.
Thanon Talat Gao, Old Market Road, which runs parallel to the river, was once the town’s business centre and is still lined with Lanna-style homes and Chinese shop houses, the former with their distinctive roofs and the latter characterised by typical pan-eled wooden folding doors and filigree carved fanlights above.
WAT SI RONG MUEANG
To the west of town is this Burmese-style temple built in 105, at the height of Lampang’s teak trade, when many Bur- mese traders and forestry experts came to the town. The roof of the main chapel has several overlapping gables as is typical of Burmese religious architecture, while as a whole the temple is ornate with elaborate woodcarving and plaster designs adorned with coloured glass mosaics.
WAT PHA FANG
Located on Sanam Bin Road, this 1th-century temple has a large golden Chedi containing a Holy Relic that was brought from Myanmar in 10. The extensive Sala Kan Parian (preaching hall) is made of wood with Burmese-style multi-tiered roofs.
WAT SI CHUM
Wat Si Chum, on Si Chum Road, has a small ordination hall typical of the Burmese style in its multi-tiered roofs, intricately carved eaves and coloured glass mosaic. By contrast, thepreaching hall, rebuilt after a fire in 1992, is rather plain except for its mural which depicts the story of the fire and the rebuild- ing of the temple, as well as showing rural domestic scenes of considerable charm. A community of Burmese monks still resides at Wat Si Chum.
Situated some 20 km. southwest of town in Ko Kha district, WatPhrathat Lampang Luang is one of the finest examples of Lannareligious architecture in the entire North. Raised on a grassy mound and surrounded by thick walls, it looks very much the stronghold it once was, while the spacious compound is domi- nated by a huge Chedi, dating from the mid-15th century and measuring 45-metres high and 24-metres wide at its base. Theopen-sided main Wihan is an equally fine structure with manynotable features, including some lovely murals on wooden pan- els below the roof eaves. Enshrined in a compound adjacent to Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang is the revered green jasper image of Phra Kaeo Don Tao, widely held to have magical powers.
WAT PHRATHAT CHOM PING
Located 14 km. along a left turning at Ko Kha district office, isanother venerable temple entirely rebuilt in recent times. It is of interest, however, for a hold in the window shutters of the Bot, which acts as a camera obscurer and projects an image of the temple’s Chedi.
LAMPANG ELEPHANT CONSERVATION CENTER
This important conservation centre is in the Thung Kwian for- est park in Hang Chat district, about 32 km. from town on the road to Chiang Mai. Demonstrations of elephant training and forestry skills are staged two or three times a day. In recent years, the elephants have also been given scope to paint and
to play musical instruments, performances of which are quite remarkable. Paintings by elephants are for sale. The centre also provides health care for the elephants.
DOI KHUN TAN NATIONAL PARK
The Khun Tan mountain range forms a natural boundary between Lamphun and Lampang provinces. Here the northern railway line to Chiang Mai runs through a 1,352-metre tunnel, the longest in the country. It is possible to walk form the Khun Tan up the mountain, a distance of about 7km. with four rest areas on the way. Visitors may also camp overnight but must bring their own food. The best time to make the trip isbetween November and February when the weather is fine and cool.
CHAO PHO PRATU PHA SHRINE
Located about 50 km. from town on the Lampang-Ngao road near the KM 50 marker, this sacred shrine covered with offer- ings honours the legend of Chao Pho Pratu Pha, a great warriorof the Lampang ruler. He reputedly died fighting Burmeseinvaders with his two swords still clutched in his hands, his body propped against the hillside, and the attackers were so frightened by the sight that they withdrew.
KHUEAN KIO LOM
Located 3 km. from town, take the Lampang-Ngao road and turn left at KM 23-24 marker, then continue for a further kilometre. Constructed for irrigation purposes, it has a scenic reservoir suitable for boating or rafting. At least a half-day touris suggested. Visitors may opt to stay overnight on a floating raft-house. Places to see include cliffs, isles and a fishing vil- lage.
THAM PHA THAI NATIONAL PARK
Some 60 km. from town between Mueang and Ngao districts, the park features a number of caves with picturesque stalactites and stalagmites.
BAN CHANG LUANG
This facility, at 33 Mu , Ban Khoi in Tamboon Ban Rong near the Phayao-Lampang road, was established by woodcarver Khru Kam-ai Dejduangta to showcase his work and serve as an artisan’s training centre.
CHAE SON NATIONAL PARK
The park, in Mueang Pan District, is a picturesque area of forested mountains and includes a waterfall and hot spring with bathing facilities.
LAMPANG SPECIAL EVENTS
KHANTOKE CHANG FAIR
Organised on the first Friday and Saturday of February at theElephant Conservation Centre, the fair features an elephant show, while the pachyderms are treated to a feast of fruits and vegetables presented on a Tok, a traditional Lanna food tray.
LUANG WIANG LAKHON FAIR
Late October/Early November
Held immediately prior to the Loi Krathong festival around Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao and Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang, the fair celebrates Lampang’s history, customs and traditions.