Let's Look at Lamphun
For an easy half or full-day excursion out of Chiang Mai, Lamphun is certainly an idea. Located just 26 kilometers south of Chiang Mai, Lamphun may be reached by local bus or, for total flexibility, hire a rental car or motorcycle. For those availing of local transport, the journey time is approximately 1 hour and the one-way, ordinary-bus fare is around 15 Baht per person. Ordinary buses (and air-conditioned, too) are blue/white in color and may be caught on the eastern, south river side of Nawarat Bridge at the beginning of the Chiang Mai, other bus stops are located at regular intervals as you head towards the Westin Hotel and points south. Simply hail the bus (scheduled every 10 minutes) and you're away!
As you progress along the old road to Lamphun, tall and mighty trees, of the ficus family, line each side of the road. They are venerable of age and impressive of girth so many are garlanded with saffron colored sashes of reverence from the Buddhist community. Not surprisingly, within this parade of trees lies a story. Long ago, two Princes decided to set parameter lines between their Principalities so, they agreed, they would begin planting trees at the outer range of their respective areas.
The boundary line would be the point where the trees met. But the crafty Prince of Chiang Mai, rousing his soldiers hours before the agreed upon time, began planting trees at a furious rate - and this ensured that Chiang Mai province was a lot larger than neighboring Lamphun! When you pass the last of the very tall trees, and they give way to the yellow-flowered "Khee Legk" trees, you will have crossed the demarcation line set by the two Princes so long ago.
Upon arriving in Lamphun (the bus can drop you in the main street, Inthayongyod Road, opposite the National Museum), most places are within leisurely walking distance. You may wander the narrow streets, investigate the wares of an old-fashioned honeycomb of a department store or explore along the river-front. But, principally, the places to see are the Haripoonshai National Museum (where the bus stops) and Lamphun's best known temple Wat Prathart Haripoonshai. As background information, "Haripoonshai" was the first recognized civilization in northern Thailand and played a central role during the Mon rule of the region between the 8th and 13th centuries. When King Mengrai led his Thais into the Chiang Mai area (later half of the 13th century) the Haripoonshai Kingdom of Mons had already been flourishing in art, culture, religion and trade for 600 years.
While the National Museum is worth a visit Wat Prathart Haripoonshai, directly across the road, is a treasure. The temple dates from 897 AD and the pinnacle of the dominant chedi soars to a height of 51 meters. The nine-tier traditional umbrella, atop the chedi, is crafted from pure gold. The weight, in Thai ornamental gold measurement, is approximately 433 Baht (a gold-weight measurement, as well as currency, and around 1 Baht weight equals 1 fine ounce). Take a look, too, at the old teak-wood library where ancient Pali scripts were stored and you can't but not see the magnificently huge gong inscribed with the lettering of Old Lanna (as the Thai conquered the entire north.)
Haripoonshai became a priority area for King Mengrai and was eventually incorporated into the Lanna Kingdom with Chiang Mai as its capital - hence the Old Lanna script on the gong).
Another important temple in Lamphun is Wat Jammathewee the chedi of which is the final resting place of Queen Jammathewee - a noble queen of great wisdom and integrity who once reigned as Queen of Haripoonshai. This temple is situated approximately 1 kilometer west of Lamphun city. A third temple to visit, if time permits, is Wat Mahawan located two blocks mentioned date from the 8th and 9th centuries (some 1,200 to 1,300 years ago) and the monuments, in terra-cotta and sandstone, stand in tribute to an ancient and illustrious past.
Of course, for those visitors with private transport and unfettered by time, Lamphun environs are also of note. Approximately 11 kms away is Pazang - the original handicrafts village (thriving when Sankampaeng was unheard of) and still a great place for traditional shopping - especially fabric lengths of cottons and silks. Pazang also hosts The Dhamma Park Gallery which is a modern center for Buddhism and the Arts. Created and coordinated by English sculptress, Venitia Walkey, it is a "living" centre of community involvement where villagers hold weddings, concerts are given and everyone is welcome to enjoy present-day Buddhist and secular art in peaceful surroundings.
So there's a quick look at Lamphun and its surroundings - a nice, small city for an easy, inexpensive excursion and another page for your travel diary of Northern Thailand. Contact TAT Region One Office on Lamphun Road for additional information and this month's activities.
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