A Fun Day Out
For Around 44 Baht
The City of Lamphun is about 25 kms to the south of Chiang Mai and connected by an easy, frequent bus service between the two cities. Busses leave from the southeast side of Nawaraat Bridge (not far from the Tourist Authority of Thailand office). The single fare between Chiang Mai and Lamphun is approximately 12 Baht. That's 24 Baht round-trip, which is a true bargain for a fun and interesting day out. Lamphun is a fascinating old city to visit particularly NOW because in the months of July and August, Lamphun has plenty of Lamyai fruit.
Called Lamyai in Thailand, the botanical name of Euphoria Longan, and longan to the rest of the world this cherry, or grape sized fruit is one of the most delicious, to be found. July through August is when the fruit matures and ripens and is presently in plentiful supply at any fruit or fresh market. The lamyai has a thin yellow brownish, cinnamon colored shell (easy to remove); translucent white flesh and a shiny, black seed (the Dragon's Eye). Sold in clusters of berries (each lamyai still attached to its mini-branch or twig).
The fruit is sweeter than lychees (the same family) and not so messily juicy as lychees. It's just right for peeling and popping! The white flesh is extremely healthy as it contains several minerals and vitamins including iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium plus large amounts of vitamins A and C. So healthy and nutritious, in fact, that Thailand last year donated 100 metric tons of fresh lamyai to school children in flood ravaged Bangladesh. To ensure the fruit's freshness, delivery was by courtesy of the Thai International Airlines, TG.
Fresh lamyai have a relatively short shelf life, however, the flesh can be dried or canned and has become one of Thailand's leading fruit exports. In fact, the monetary value of lamyai exports exceeds that of any other Thai fruit including pineapple. Other Asian countries are eager buyers of Thai lamyai products.
Herbalists and practitioners of traditional medicines are well acquatinted with the special properties of the lamyai fruit. It's regarded as a blood tonic, which nurtures the heart and beautifies the skin and Chinese women, for at least 2,000 years, have recorded the use of lamyai in love potions! In more modern terms, fresh lamyai as a dessert are delectable with ice cream. They are also popular in savory dishes such as stir fried with chicken or baked with chicken (or pork) in which the fruit is poached to release subtle flavors into the sauce. With the help of Lamyai and pineapple, the taste of red curry of grilled duck tempt overseas visitors fall in love with Thai food.
By the way, aside from enjoying all the fun of the fair, take a look around Lamphun. This old, moated city dates back to pre-Siam times when it was capital of the Haripoonshai Kingdom. Wat Prathart Haripoonshai, Wat Jammathaewee and the City Museum give a glimpse and a feeling of what Lamphun was like before it lost its independence to the Kingdom of Lanna in 1281.
Wat Prathart Haripoonshai, directly across the road from the museum, is worth a visit. The temple dates from 897 AD. The pinnacle of the dominant chedi soars to a height of 51 meters and 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. You can't miss the magnificently huge gong inscribed with the lettering of old Mon (Morn).
Another important temple in Lamphun is Wat Jammathewee the chedi of which is the final resting place of Queen Jammathewee, the noble queen of great wisdom and integrity who once reigned as Queen of Haripoonshai. This temple is situated approximately one kilometer west of Lamphun city. If time permits, a third temple to visit is Wat Mahawan located two blocks. It dates 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 illustrious past.
Were it not for these two attractions, there would still be plenty to see and do in Lamphun, thanks in part to a massive investment in a tourism center, comprising an indoor meeting, exhibition area and an outdoor entertainment area. Lamphun has recently become home to the country's first covered bridge and the site of the Kad Khua-Moong Tha-Singh Folk Market. Kad (pronounced Gaad) means open-air market, Khua means bridge, Moong means cover or roof, Tha means pier and Singh refers to the lion figures at the temple gates.
So you see, the market is aptly named. A variety of products marketed under the government plan OTOP (One Tambon One Product) are available ranging from fresh fruits, vegetables and herbal juices to handwoven textiles, candles and wood carvings. The bridge, which is built in the style of ancient Lanna architecture is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 - 18.00 hours and contains 54 stalls. It is located opposite the grounds of Wat Pra Thart Haripoonshai.
Only one kilometer from the city is Ban Hearn Samoonprai known for traditional Thai massage, acupuncture treatment and a school with accommodations for long term students who study massage and herbal wisdom. 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. Everyone is welcome to enjoy present-day Buddhist and secular art in peaceful surroundings. Of course, for those visitors with private transport (only 10 Baht for bus service of Lamphun-Pazang) and unfettered by time, Lamphun environs are also of note.
Visitors should visit Lamphun City and the town of Pazang for a full interesting day out. And all for the price of approximately 44 Baht or one U.S. dollar round-trip.