Gingerbread houses and Burmese Temples
Day 1: Chiang Mai – Lampang
Total distance today appr. 110 km, driving time about 2,5 hours
Lampang, the horse carriage city
Your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel in Chiang Mai at 0800 for your “Gingerbread Houses and Burmese temples” tour. We will drive to Lampang. Our first stop will be at an elephant hospital. It is the hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation and the home of two remarkable elephants: Mosha and Motala. They both lost a limb when they stepped on a landmine. You will meet both of them. After this moving encounter, we will continue to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, one of the most revered temples of North Thailand. It is not one of the Burmese temples but there is a link with Burma. This walled temple complex is awesome.
A horse carriage ride to “Baan Louis”
Drive to Lampang, also nicknamed the “horse carriage city.” It is time for lunch which we will enjoy at the Riverside Restaurant on the Wang River. After lunch, it is time for a ride by horse carriage. Lampang is the only city in Thailand where there are about 100 horse carriages. In the past they functioned as public transportation, nowadays only tourists use them. We will cross the Wang River via the iconic Rachadaphisek Bridge to the forestry neighborhood. There are still many wooden houses here. We will stop at the quaint horse cart service center before we continue to the Louis House. This iconic house was the office of the Louis T. Leonowens Company before WW2. Lampang was a significant center of teak logging before World War Two. The Louis T.Leonowens company was one of the logging firms. The house has been restored recently.
The legend of Chao Mae Suchada
The last stop of the horse carriage ride is Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao, the most famous temple in Lampang. It has a beautifully restored Burmese-style mondop. Next to the temple is another interesting, much smaller temple called Wat Suchadaram. Your guide will tell you the legend of Chao Mae Suchada, a story every Lampang resident knows.
Next, we will visit the Kad Kong Ta area, where there are several heritage houses of interest, amongst others the iconic Moung Ngwe Zin House, the best example of a “gingerbread house”. We will walk along this street with many heritage houses with different designs. We will also visit the Wat Walukaram, made famous by the BBC documentary series “Great Asian Railway Journeys”. This temple is the only temple in Lampang that is on the Wang River. Of particular interest is the old wooden assembly hall.
Overnight will be at the Asia Lampang Hotel.
Day 2: Lampang – Phrae
Total distance today appr. 120 km, driving time about 2,5 hours
The 100-year-old Kao Jao Market
After breakfast, we will visit the 100-year-old Kao Jao Market, close to the famous Railway Station of Lampang. We walk around on this interesting and authentic market and visit the small “museum”, a house with old photographs. We walk to the famous “Black Bridge”, a railway bridge over the Wang River, that has become a tourist attraction. The railway station of Lampang is one of the most beautiful stations in the country, dating back to 1916.
It is time for a visit to the first of several Burmese temples we visit today. Wat Sri Rong Muang is an example of Shan (Tai Yai) temple architecture. A Pa’O couple from Burma funded the construction of this temple more than 100 years ago. The man worked for the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation, a British company that was involved in teak logging in Burma and Siam. The Pa’O people are an ethnic minority group from Shan State in Burma.
Burmese temples of Lampang
Wat Sri Chum is without a doubt the most Burmese looking of all Burmese temples in Lampang, with its characteristic pyatthat spires. It is also the most popular. Burmese teak merchants funded the construction and brought over craftsmen from Mandalay for their expertise. A devastating fire destroyed the monastery in 1992. Restoration was followed by the Fine Arts Department. It is time for lunch at a local restaurant.
Much less visited is the beautiful Wat Mon Puyak. This temple also underwent significant restoration. The design is more Shan than Burmese. After lunch, we will visit this temple and meet one of the monks. Close to the temple is the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum and Factory. Even if ceramics are not your interest, a visit to this place is well worth it. After the museum visit, it is time to drive to Phrae, which will take about 1,5 hours. Along the way, we will stop at Wat Phrathat Suthon Mongkon Khiri. The first thing you will notice about this temple is the enormous reclining Buddha, one of the largest in Thailand.
In Phrae, we will spend the night in Huern Na Na Boutique Hotel.
Day 3: Phrae
Total distance today appr. 50 km, driving time about 1 hour
Vongburi House and Khum Chao Luang
After breakfast, visit Wat Chom Sawan, one of our favorite Burmese Temples of Phrae. A migrant Tai Yai, or Shan, teak worker constructed this attractive temple in the early 20th century. People regard Wat Chom Sawan as one of the best examples of its kind remaining in Thailand. After this, we will visit the Vongburi House Museum, which is a fine example of the gingerbread architecture, that was popular about 100 years ago. The Vongburi House is perhaps the most beautiful example of a European-Asian-style teak wooden mansion. It dates back from the late 19th-early 20th century, during which Phrae was a center of the teak industry.
The Khum Chao Luang, aka the Phrae Governor’s House, is a brick building dating back to the early 20th century. It was the residence of the last ruler of Phrae before the city lost its independence to the kingdom of Siam. The House is now open to the public as a museum. It is time for lunch! We recommend a bowl of delicious Khao Soi.
The Forestry Museum of Phrae
Just like Lampang, the city was a center of teak logging. Right on the Yom River was the former office of the Forestry Department. Unfortunately, they demolished this iconic building which led to an enormous public outcry. The Fine Arts Department tries to reconstruct the original building. We will have a look at the progress. Close to this site is the former compound of the Danish East Asiatic Company. This company was involved in the teak industry for more than fifty years. There are three buildings at this compound. One of them houses a small teak museum with pictures and exhibits. The museum is closed on Sunday.
Two old missionary houses
Next, we will visit the two 100-year-old missionary houses of which one has been restored. The US Consulate in Chiang Mai financed the restoration. Unfortunately, the second house is in a deplorable state. Both houses were originally located on the Yom River before the river changed its course. The Presbyterian Mission constructed these large, beautiful houses on stilts.
Overnight will be at the Huan Na Na Resort.
Day 4 – Phrae – Bangkok
Total distance today appr. 30 km, driving time about 45 minutes
Mo Hom, the indigo shirt
After breakfast, we will visit the local market of Phrae. We love visiting fresh markets. There are several old “gingerbread” houses near the market. We will have a look at a few of them. Continue to Baan Pa Ngeum, which is well known for “Mo Hom,” the traditional indigo blue shirt. You will get an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of a Mo Hom workshop and learn about the production process. You can dye your own Mo Hom shirt! This is a fun activity.
Wat Pra That Cho Hae
The final visit today is to Wat Phra That Cho Hae, which is perhaps the most sacred Buddhist site of Phrae. A visit to Phrae is not complete without visiting this impressive temple. The highlight is the 33-meter-tall Chiang Saen-style Phra That (pagoda), wrapped with bright brass sheets, which enshrines the holy relics of Lord Buddha. After this, we will transfer you to the airport for your flight to Bangkok.