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Lamphun's Famous Lumyai

If you can, get down to the city of Lamphun, only 26 kms south of Chiangmai, in the month of August. In this city, famous for the production of lumyai fruit, you can enjoy the delicious fruit.

The lumyai is small tree with dark green leaves which at this time of year bears a fruit that the Thais find irresistible - and so do we, when we know about it. Introduced to Thailand from China, it is at its most productive in this area of the country. It needs a few months of cooler temperatures to flower and set seed, and the best are acknowledged to come from the Lamphun. The mature fruit is about 3-4 cms across, brown in color, with a papery shell which peels off easily to expose the white 'meat'. This is easily extracted with the teeth from the inner dark brown, glossy seed.

The taste is rather like the better known lynchee, also grown in this area, but usually lynchee orchards are on higher ground. Lumyai is sweet and subtle, and the best are very juicy. Highly prized, it is quite an expensive fruit -- especially outside the area of production. It should always be bought with a few branches attached to the fruit -- this maintains the fruits' freshness and taste. There are a number of factories where the fruit is canned and sold in Thailand or for export. It is also the base for a delightful concoction of sweet sticky rice, lumyai and coconut milk.

Lumyai was introduced to Thailand less than 100 years ago, from China. Originally planted by the Royal Family in Bangkok, it did not do well in that very hot city. It is now grown throughout the far north, but Lamphun is where the growers are the most productive and get the tastiest crop.

Lamphun is well worth a visit at any time of year. It is much older than Chiangmai, and was the capital of an kingdom 1200 years ago. At that time the kingdom was in hands of one of Thailand's most illustrious ladies -- Queen Jarmmathaewee. There is a 9th century pagoda of a distinctly Indian style dedicated to her (Wat Jarmmathaewee), and a huge temple -- Wat Haripoonshai -- housing what is said to be the worlds largest gong, and a pagoda on which the more famous Wat Prathaat Doi Suthep in Chiangmai was modeled. There is an excellent museum of ancient history and a moat. Lamphun is a busy, bustling little city with several small restaurants and a few entertainment centres.

The road to Lamphun is lined with huge "Yaang" trees, each of which is believed to house a "good" spirit, hence the orange sashes around them. You can get a "songthaew" (pick -up local bus) to Lamphun from the east side of the Nawarat bridge, or a white bus from Chang Puak bus station. The trip takes about 35 minutes.

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