On your next visit to North Thailand, make time for Lampang. This is a province steeped in history and with plenty of attractions to tempt anybody who wants to see another side to Thailand away from the more famous tourist destinations. The amiable provincial capital of Lampang is easy to reach from Chiang Mai and makes for a culturally rewarding addition to your Northern Thailand itinerary. Experience Lanna culture, visit amazing temples and enjoy the quiet charm of Lampang.
What to see and do in Lampang
Take a stroll along the banks of the Mae Wang River and enjoy the ambience of Lampang city. This area was first settled in the 7th century long before near neighbour Chiang Mai was founded some six centuries later. While Chiang Mai went on to establish itself as the regional powerhouse of the North, Lampang did rise to prominence again in the late 1800s on the back of the teak trade. To learn more about the fascinating history of Lampang, pay a visit to the informative Phum Lakon Museum and the Lampang National Museum.
The teak industry saw an influx of traders and overseas workers and the beautiful wooden houses and Shan-style temples they built can still be seen dotted around Lampang.
Louis Leonowens House
Known locally as Louis House, the former residence of Louis Leonowens is one of the most impressive of Lampang’s old teak houses. Louis was the son of Anna Leonowens who taught the children of King Mongkut (Rama IV).
Ban Sao Nak and Ban Pong Nak
Constructed in the late 1800s, Ban Sao Nak (House of Many Pillars) is another delightful old building worth visiting. Similarly, Ban Pong Nak (House of Many Windows) is another superb example of architecture worth seeking out.
The distinctive white-coloured Ratchadaphisek Bridge is one of the iconic landmarks of Lampang. During the teak industry heyday in the early 1900s, logs that were floated downriver damaged the bridge a number of times with the current version of the bridge completed in 1917.
Horse and carts
Lampang is unique in Thailand because of the large number of horse carts (rot maa) that are still used as a form of transport. The horse and carts were introduced over a century ago by the Burmese and Shan (Tai Yai) communities who had settled in Lampang. Taking a ride in the famous horse and carts is a popular activity for Thai tourists visiting Lampang.
Not only one of the oldest wooden structures in Thailand, the magnificent Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is also one of the most striking Buddhist temples to be found anywhere in the North. The temple is located a short drive outside of the city centre and is a must-visit if you’re planning a trip to Lampang.
Other temples of note include Wat Si Rong Muang, Wat Chedi Sao, and Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao with the latter housing the famous Emerald Buddha in the 15th century. And further out of town, climb the steps that lead to the ‘floating pagodas’ at Wat Phrabat Pu Phadaeng (also known more formally as Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn). Perched high up on a clifftop over 80 metres above sea-level, this is a memorable experience.
The roosters of Lampang
According to legend, when the Lord Buddha visited Lampang, the Hindu God Indra was concerned that the local people wouldn’t wake up early enough to prepare food. So he disguised himself as a rooster to wake people up in time to prepare alms for Buddha.
The rooster is the symbol of Lampang and you will see it at roundabouts, street signs and on buildings. The roosters are also prominent on Lampang’s famous ceramics. Pay a visit to Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum to learn more about Lampang’s iconic rooster bowls and other ceramic wares.
Roosters and other scenes of Lampang life can also be viewed on the colourful street art that can be found along the riverside area close to Ratchadaphisek Bridge.
Hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation
Located adjacent to the government-run Thai Elephant Conservation Centre is the privately funded Hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation. The elephant hospital is home to Mosha, the elephant with the prosthetic leg who inspired Elephant Parade which helps to raise funds and awareness for Asian elephants.
Enjoy Lampang’s natural attractions
Venture out into the Lampang countryside to enjoy the mountains and forests at Chae Son National Park and Doi Khun Tan National Park. It’s possible to take the train from Lampang to Doi Khun with the train travelling through Thailand’s longest tunnel en route. From the train station it’s around a one mile walk to the park where you can camp or stay in National Park bungalows.
A power plant might not be an obvious tourist attraction, but the landscape around Mae Moh Mine has been transformed into parkland. During the cool season months from mid-November to mid-January, sunflower fields are in bloom here.
Where to stay in Lampang
Although the accommodation choices are more limited in Lampang compared to Chiang Mai, there are some wonderful places to stay near the river.
The Riverside Guest House
Kanecha’s Home Lampang
Tha Ma-O Bouteak Homestay
Food and drink
You’ll find a host of northern Thai dishes in Lampang including khao soi. Worth searching out too are tasty rice cakes known as ‘khao taen’. Made by mixing sticky rice with watermelon juice, these local treats are a popular souvenir for Thai tourists visiting Lampang.
To enjoy local delicacies and buy souvenirs, pay a visit to the weekend Walking Street Markets. On Friday the market sets up along Wang Nua (also known as Cultural Street) and on Saturdays and Sundays the market can be found at Kad Kong Ta. Two other markets worth visiting in Lampang are Kao Chao, the morning market next to the railway station, and Talad Kao.
Travel to Lampang
Lampang is around 2 hours drive from Chiang Mai. The city can be visited as a day trip from Chiang Mai, but if you have enough time in your itinerary, try to spend at least a night or two there.
The train journey from Chiang Mai is a delightful way to travel to Lampang with the elegant train station a tourist attraction in its own right. The scenic route features on the BBC series Great Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo.
A small airport is located just outside of town with daily flights from Bangkok. Travelling by bus, the reliable Green Bus company offers comfortable journeys across North Thailand including the routes that connect Lampang with Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Good to know
Lampang is also known as Nakhon Lampang with this name often appearing on transport timetables. If you have enough time and want to experience more of North Thailand, visit Lampang as part of an extended trip that also takes in Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Chiang Rai. Alternatively take time to travel on to Phayao, Phrae and Nan.