Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lampang Trip

Lampang can lay claim to two unique features – it is the only Thai town to still use colorful horse drawn carriages for everday urban transport, and it claims to be home to the world’s only training school for baby elephants.
Both these attractions are big draws to domestic and international tourists. Lampang lies on the right bank of Mae Nam Wang 599 kilometers north of Bangkok at the junction of hightways to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.
It covers an area of 12,543 square kilometers and is administratively divided into 13 amphoes – Muan, Chae Hom, Hang Chat , Ko Kha, Mae Mo, Mae Phrik, Mae Tha, Ngao, Soem Ngam, Sop Phra, Thoen, Wang Nua, and Muang Pan.
On the right bang of Mae Nam Wang sits Wat Phra Kaeo Don Thao, an old building consisting of an impressive chedi on a rectangular base with a round spire topped with gilded bronze plaques. A Burmese-style chapel crowned with tiered roofs stands against it. The chapel, probably dating from the late 18th century, contains a Burmese style Buddha image with particularly interesting decorations. A combination of chromatic splendor and sublime harmony makes Wat Phra Kaeo Don Thao one of the best examples of Burmese-style temples in Thailand.
Wat Chedi Sao (Temple of Twenty Chedi) is also on the right bank of Mae Nam Wang north of town, attractively set in an open ricefield. The complex is impressive with its Burmese-style bell-like spires.
With its chedi towering above surround trees, Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang, lying some 20 kilometers south of Lampang, is one of the North’s finest temples. To the left of the chedi is a viharn with a carved wood facade and double-level roofs, harmonious proportions and exquisite interior decoration make Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang one of the best examples of Northern-style religious architecture.
Wat Phrathat Chom Ping is situated at Mu 5, Ban Chom Ping, Tambon Na Kaeo, Amphoe Ko Kha about 26 kilometers south-west of Lampang provincial city. A peculiar phenomenon at this temple is way the shadow of the pagoda falls through the window onto the floor of the convocation hall. A similar occurrence is seen at Wat Akkho Chai Khiri, Amphoe Chae Hom in Lampang.
The Elephant Conservation Center, attached to the Veterinary Section of the Northern Timber Work Division of the Forestry Industry Organization, is the first center in Thailand to train elephants for forest work. It is located in Ban Thung Kiewn, Amphoe Hang Chat, on the Lampang-Chiang Mai Highway, 32 kilometers from Lampang. The center exhibits elephants partaking in various activities such as bathing and pushing logs. In addition, the center provides and elephant riding route for tourists.
Located at an altitude of 1,272 meters, Doi Khuntan National Park covers an area of 225 square kilometers spread over both Lampang and Lamphun provinces. Road access to the park is via the Lampang-Lamphun highway and branching off at Km 47 for 18 kilometers, but the easiest way is by taking a train to Khuntan station. The Doi Khuntan area was first explored early this century when German engineers were excavating Thailand’s longest tunnel (some 1.3 kilometers) on the Bangkok-Chiang Mai railway line. The main trail climbs from Khuntan station to the park headquarters which features bungalows belonging to the State Railways, administration, and the Royal Forestry Department. Camping sites are also available but campers must bring their own tents and camping equipment.
Wat Sichum is reached by taking a left turn at Km 601 on the Lampang-Ngao Highway. Its Burmese-style architecture features highly sophisticated and beautiful wood carvings on the structure of the viharn, and gilded items on its walls, ceiling and main pillars. Regrettably, much of the viharn’s upper section, which was made of wood, was damaged by fire. Only the carved-wood arch at the entrance remains.
The Kiu Lom Dam and Reservoir is located about 37 kilometers from the town on the Lampang-Ngao Highway. A left turn should be taken at Km 623-624 and the dam lies 14 kilometers along this route. The dam is under the administration of the Royal Irrigation Department and is open to the public everyday from 06.00-18.00hrs. No accommodation is provided but private bungalows are available and farts tours are offered to visitors who wish to explore the natural surroundings.
Fifty kilometers from Lampang town on the right hand side of Lampang-Ngao Highway lies a large shrine housing the statue of Chao Pho Pratu Pha (The spirit ruling the area of Pratu Pha) which is deeply revered by Lampang residents. The shrine was constructed in commemoration of a brave soldier, the right hand man of a king of Lampang, who was killed in a battle with Burmese enemies at the Pratu Pha Pass.
Tham Pha Thai Forest Park lies at Km 665 on the Lampang-Ngao Road and hosts a big Buddha image and colorful stalagmites.
Chae Son National Park is spread over Amphoe Muang, Amphoe Chae Son, and Amphoe Muang Phan. Travel along Lampang-Wag Nua Road, turn left at Km 58-59 and continue another 17 kilometers to the park. Attractive spots include a Hot Water Well, Namtok Chae, Namtok Son and Namtok Mae Mon. For detailed information, please contact the National Park Division, Royal Forest Department, Tel 579 0519, 579 4842.
Doi Luang National Park covers areas of Lampang, Phayao and Chiang Rai. The main attraction in the Lampang section is Namtok Wang Kaeo, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Lampang. Visible for up to five kilometers, the falls consist of water cascading down 110 tiers from the top of a mountain. Hilltribe villages are located on this peak. Namtok Wang Kaeo is located in Amphoe Wang Nua, 130 kilometers from Lampang on Lampang-Chae Hom Road.
Salung Luang Procession and Lampang Songkhran Festival is held from April 12-14 each year. There is traditional procession, merit-making activities, paying respects to elders, and traditional performances of many kinds.

Cultural Holidays in Lampang
There are so many tourist destinations where you can experience beautiful art and culture throughout Thailand. Lampang is a pride of the north and is one of best examples waiting to be explored to add artistry, and happiness to your heart.
As discerning traveler, I have traveled to many tourist attractions throughout Thailand, but I’ve had only a few chances to travel by train, which is one of my favorite ways of transportation. One day the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Northern Region Office, invited me to join a cultural holiday trip to Lampang. I ardently took the gauntlet. It was a rare chance and a great pleasure to ride the iron horse to discover the country’s traditions, customs, and cultures.
“Slow but sure” many be the unofficial slogan of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). It took about 12 about to get from Bangkok to Lampang, the source of Lanna Thai civilization. I would suggest that they should change the slogan to “slow but fun” because the train we were on for the long-haul ride to Lampang had many foreign travelers and the middle carriages were transformed into a mobile pub and bar, where you could get up from bed at night and have fun, drink and (maybe) dance with other travelers. Anyway, I didn’t drink a lot. Mostly slept and woke up at 6am to prepare myself for “the Remembrance of Horse Carts” ceremony provided by TAT to celebrate and hark back to the glory day of transportation by horse cart, which once was the most prominent mode of transportation in Lampang.
Lampang is the source of ancient Lanna civilization. The life is simple while they keep up the customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations. Lampang is a very distinctive province on its own with a unique style of monasteries, indigenous architecture, the emblematic horse carriages, and unscathed nature for sightseeing. The province used to be the heart of the logging and forestry industry before, and elephants were used to pull and carry logs. So the elephant is also a symbol of the province.
Lampang has many original names such as Sri Don Chai, Sampakampa Nakhon, Khelang Nakhon, and Nakhon Kai. The word “Lampang” means “Mai Pang” (Pang Wood). The Pang tree has a striking appearance with its leaves and branches rising up to the sky. Pang has been the auspicious tree of the province for as long as 2,500 years.
According to archeological evidence, human communities have existed in the area of Lampang for over 3,000 years. The tangible evidence is colored cave drawings, ancient human skeletons, and pieces of pottery that were discovered dating back to the ancient Lamphun Era, as well as ceramics and crockery of San Kam Phaeng City.
The area of Muang Wieng or the old Khelang Nakhon is situated in Tambol Wieng Nua, which has been continually developed since the ear of the Hariphunchai regime. “Wieng” means a city with good infrastructure, strong fences or walls to demarcate the borders, and canals for transportation.
During the time when Lampang was still Khelang Nakhon, Khelang Nakhon was dominated by many rulers before the advent of the Lanna regime of Phaya Mengrai, which was founded in the northern area of the Kok River during the 19th century of the Buddhist Era (the 14th century of Christian Era).
Phaya Mengrai tried to expand his regime and power by waging wars against both the Hariphunchai regime and the nearby Khelang Nakhon. He was victorious and conquered rival city states. Phaya Mengrai appointed new leaders for both cities and ordered that they be renovated and developed. He maned Khelang Nakhon as a fort city or outpost of the Lanna regime.
Lanna regime was led and developed by Phaya Mengrai for a certain period of time before being taken over by Burma for as long as 200 years and sometimes dominated by Ayutthaya, which was the strong force to the south Lanna at the time.
Lampang was gradually until it came to a stage that could be called “the glory days” during the reign of Noranontdhachaichavalit, the ninth ruler, which was in the same time period as King Rama 5 of the Chakri Dynasty.
Lampang was the central market for teakwood trading in northern Thailand. People would come to trade teakwood at Talat Kao, or “old market” road, and most of the traders were Burmese people. There were so many that the Burmese set up their own community at Tambol Wieng Nua and they also built many Wat or Aram (temple) since they basically had faith in Buddhism.
As for art, most of the art found in Lampang is art that was created during the Lanna Period. Art created during the Hariphunchai regime is very rare. Ancient architecture and structures can be found in many temples and monasteries, consisting of Burmese styles, Burmese-Chiang Mai style, and Lanna style.
Lampang has many Thai and Burmese temples. They are all antique and charming and no place is better suited for feasting your eyes with authentic art and culture than a temple.

Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Suchadaram, suited in Tambol Wieng Nua, was built thousands of years age. The temple is a charming antique monastery, which was the place of residence of the famous Emerald Buddha for 32 years since AD1436. Now you can see the Emerald Buddha at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.
The word “Phra Kaew Don Thao” is very strange to Thai people, but the way they got the name is very simple. It has been said that one day a monk stumbled across a piece of emerald, which the northern people call “mhark Thao”. The piece of emerald was exquisitely carved into a Buddha image and was then transferred to reside at Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, a well respected temple of the province.
Great worship places in the temple include the great pagoda that contains the remains of Buddha’s hair, the stunning Burmese style stupa built by Thai people, which houses a sizeable Buddha image, and the Shrine of Phra Buddha Saiyat (a reclining Buddha image), also named Phra Bua Khem, which is as old as the age of the temple itself. The Reclining Buddha image was copied from one in Mandalay, Burma (or Myanmar). Furthermore, there is a royal shrine and a Lanna Museum within the temple.
The next temple that I visited to pay homage and enjoy the artistic architecture built by Thai ancestors was Wat Phra That Lampang Luang at Ko Kha District. The temple has marvelous architecture and a significant history. According to legend, the temple dates back from the time of Queen Jamthevi (the first sovereign of Hariphunchai City) or roughly during the mid 7th century AD. The temple is situated on a hill with Naga-decked staircases leading up to it.
There are numerous interesting places to worship such as the spacious and aerated royal shrine with a stupa containing the relics of King Lan Thong, which is the principle stupa of the shrine. Behind the shrine, a stupa containing Buddha’s relics is embraced by a bronze fence with historical bullet holes from the incident where Nan Thep Chang opened fire at Thao Mahayot. To the right of the stupa is the “Vihara Nam Tam” (the water drawings shrine), which is an open-air shrine. It’s an ancient shrine that has eroded as time has passed. To the left of the stupa is the Buddha’s Shrine that is bounded with closed walls. The principal Buddha image in the Buddha’s shrine is constructed in Chiang Saen style. It’s enormous in size, which fits in well with the shrine itself. The balcony of the Buddha’s shrine is patterned with colorful glass inlays of blossom designs.
Regarded as the latest “Unseen Thailand” attraction is the reverse-angle reflection of the stupa’s shadow seen through the pinhole on the door of the chapel. The temple also has its own museum displaying a rare collection of antique arts. As mentioned earlier, the temple is also home toPhra Kaew Don Tao, a highly respected Buddha image of the province. Discerning travelers can come to pay homage to Phra That Lampang Luang every day from 7.30am-5pm.
My next spiritual discovery was Wat Sri Chum, which is the largest of all 31 Burmese temples in Thailand. The temple was fully constructed in 1893. The main attraction of the temple is the half mortar and half wooden structure of the shrine. The gable ends of the roof and the roof itself are delicately adorned with carved wood. It’s very unfortunate that the famous shrine with an artistic mixture o f Lanna and Burmese interior decoration was burned down in a fire, leaving behind only the carved wooden door of the shrine’s entrance. Anyway, the temple has been revamped and developed and the remaining pieces of the Lanna and Burmese interior decorations that survived the fire are kept and displayed at the back of the temple. The temple was registered as a national historical site in 1981.
The next day I moved to the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center, National Elephant Institute, which is situated in 1969 as a place for raising and training elephants to help in the logging industry. It is now under the supervision of the Thai.
Forestry Department, Northern Region, The Center is presently a resting place for elderly, ill or wounded elephants, and has an elephant and mahout training school as well. The Thailand Elephant Conservation Center, officially established in 1992, won the Tourism Award in the category of eco-tourism in 1998. The Center runs elephant shows to attract tourists and help the local tourism industry. There are two show times per day (10am and 11am) with one additional show at 1.30pa on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays. Visitors can also go on elephant rides and watch elephants bathing in the river.
The center is currently gaining interest from foreign travelers as they also provide accommodation for tourists to stay and fully get in touch with the unspoiled nature in Lampang. Interested people can contact +66 (0) 5422 8034 or (0) 5422 9042.
Before kissing goodbye to Lampang, I didn’t forget to find some souvenirs for my friends and beloved one at home. Since Lampang is also famed for ceramic work, especially crockery painted with colorful pictures of chickens, I eagerly made a beeline to “Indra Ceramic” to buy one. Ceramics produced in Lampang are of the best quality in Thailand. The indigenous clay and the skill of the local craftsmen have helped make Lampang the center of ceramics products. There are scores of factories and shops that deal in this beautiful art in Lampang.
Aside from the chicken brand crockery, there are also other exotic and unique local handicrafts and souvenirs, including handmade cotton that comes in different patterns and designs, mulberry or “sa” paper, and wood carvings, a major industry at Tambol Na Khrua of Mae Tha Distric.
There are so many tourist destinations in Thailand where you can see unique and beautiful art and out culture. Lampang is a pride of Siam and one of the best examples waiting to be explored to add artistry, moral meaning, and happiness to your heart. And that’s it if you are feeling all cultural. A huge thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (Northern Region) for their generous hosting.
Hotel in Lampang
Recommended Hotels

Wienglakor; LampangStart: 1,050 THB
hrates[1] = 1050.

Lampang Wiengthong Hotel; LampangStart: 1,000 THB
hrates[2] = 1000.

Tipchang Lampang Hotel; LampangStart: 700 THB
hrates[3] = 700.

Lampang River Lodge; LampangStart: 650 THB
hrates[4] = 650.

Thararin Mountain Ville; ChaesonStart: 1,200 THB
hrates[5] = 1200.

Thararin Mountain Ville
1,200 THB
hrates[10] = 1200

Lampang River Lodge
650 THB
hrates[6] = 650

Tipchang Lampang Hotel
700 THB
hrates[7] = 700

Lampang Wiengthong Hotel
1,000 THB
hrates[8] = 1000

1,050 THB
hrates[9] = 1050

Going there
Regular trains depart from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Lampang daily. For more info, contact 1690.

1) By Car. Travelling by car will take about 7 hours.
2) By Bus. Regular buses leave the Morchit Bus Terminal daily.
3) By Railway. Six daily trains leave Bangkok for Lampang andChiang Mai. For more information, please contact Tel.(02) 223-7010,or Lampang Railway Station Tel.(054) 217-024.
4) By Air. Thai Airways International Ltd., operates one or more flights daily to Lampang from Bangkok.