Day 1: Chiang Mai – Lampang
The historical train ride through Khuntan Tunnel
Your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel in Chiang Mai at 0830 for your Classic Lampang Railway Journey. They will transfer you to the Chiang Mai railway station. Board the train for a scenic ride to Hang Chat, nearby Lampang. The railway line from Bangkok to Chiang Mai opened in January 1922. You will pass the old stations of Saraphi and Lamphun as well as the famous White Bridge. This is a third-class non-airconditioned local train, so don’t expect any luxury.
From the White Bridge, the train will continue into Doi Khuntan National Park. This is the most beautiful part of the journey. You will pass through the Khuntan tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in Thailand. At Hang Chat station, we will disembark at around noon. It is time for lunch which we will enjoy in Lampang.
The Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum and Wat Phra That Mon Chamsin
After lunch, we will visit the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum and Factory, the “home of the chicken bowl.” A Chinese immigrant founded the ceramic factory in 1957. You will learn about the history and visit the factory section. There are two enormous old kilns, called Dragon Kiln. Not far from Dhanabee is the Wat Prathat Mon Cham Sin. This is a large complex with two chedis and a wooden Shan style viharn which is under renovation. We will also stop briefly at the Shan Temple Wat Mon Pu Yak.
Wat Sri Chum
The Wat Sri Chum is the finest example of Burmese temple architecture in Lampang. During the heyday of teak logging, many Burmese came to Lampang to work for British companies. Some of the wealthiest Burmese financed the construction of temples, such as Wat Sri Chum and Wat Si Rong Muang. The Wat Sri Chum is a stunning temple. We will take our time to visit this temple. After this, we will drive to our hotel: the Asia Lampang Hotel. This is one of the older hotels in Lampang, but they have recently renovated the rooms. We always stay in the Asia Lampang Hotel. The location is excellent, close to restaurants and Kad Kong Ta street.
Day 2: Lampang – Chiang Mai
Gingerbread houses of Lampang
Our first visit will be Kao Chao Market in the Black Bridge area, near the railway station. We have to be early at this market which is more than 100 years old. We will wander around the market before we drive to the beautiful railway station of Lampang, which opened in 1916. The railway line from Bangkok reached Lampang six years earlier than Chiang Mai. We continue to Kad Kong Ta, the former commercial center of Lampang, where many historic houses are located. Along the way, we stop at Wat Si Rong Muang, another example of typical Burmese temple architecture.
Kad Kong Ta: historic wooden houses
Kad Kong Ta is also the street where the famous “Walking Street” takes place on Friday and Saturday from 1700 until 2200. We will visit the Moung Ngwe Zin House, a well-preserved example of a Burmese-European-style house. In the late 19th century, Lampang was the center of teak logging in North Thailand. At least 4,000 elephants were working in forestry in the area. The British logging firms brought many Burmese and Shan workers with them, which resulted in influences on the architecture of temples and houses. Most of the magnificent historic wooden houses date back to that period.
From here, we walk to Wat Koh Walukaram, a temple that was made famous by the BBC documentary series “Great Asian Railway Journeys” presented by Michael Portillo. At 23.25, you will see Michael at the wooden viharn of this temple. It is a magnificent building.
Lampang, the City of Horse Carts
Then it is time for a horse cart ride to a neighborhood known as the Forestry Quarter. The horse cart is the symbol of Lampang. We drive to the nearest horse cart station. We cross the Wang River via the iconic Rachadapisek Bridge.
Our first stop will be the quaint Horse Cart Society of Lampang, where they repair the famous horse carts of Lampang. It is a fascinating little place. Besides the horse carts, there is another ancient form of public transportation: the “pulled rickshaw.” You can try to pull this rickshaw…We continue to the nearby “Louis House.”
The Louis Leonowens House
This house is the former office of the Louis T.Leonowens Company involved in teak logging a hundred years ago. It is currently being renovated. Louis Leonowens was the son of Anna Leonowens.
The next stop is Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao. Here the horse cart ride ends. This is the most revered temple in Lampang. It has a wonderful Burmese-style mondop. On the same complex is a much smaller temple, called Wat Suchadaram, which has an interesting story.
It is time for lunch which we will enjoy at the Riverside restaurant.
Visit an Elephant Hospital
After lunch, we slowly start our drive back to Chiang Mai. On the way to Chiang Mai, we will visit the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation hospital. Watch a short but very moving video about Motala, the elephant that lost a leg when it stepped on a landmine. The foundation welcomes donations. This hospital features in BBC’s documentary series “Great Asia Railway Journeys” at 2.40.
We continue to Chiang Mai and will stop briefly at the Khuntan “jungle market.” This is an exciting market. You will find forest products for sale you won’t see in an urban market. We will drop you off at your hotel in Chiang Mai and hope you have enjoyed your Classic Lampang Railway Journey. We also offer a Lampang day tour: Elephants and Horse Carriages. If you are into train journeys, our Railway Journeys might interest you.