The teak Trade of Chiang Mai and Lampang

Roughly between 1885 and 1941 the teak industry was an important economic activity in Chiang Mai and Lampang in North Thailand. Mostly British companies, such as the Bombay Burma Trading Corporation and the Borneo Company, were involved in this industry. After World War Two North Thailand saw a revival of this industry until the Thai government nationalized the logging industry in 1956. During this tour, we will take you to several historical places related to the heyday of the teak industry.

Price per person in THB
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From: 7,600.00 ฿

Day 1 – Chiang Mai – Lampang

Visit heritage houses by samlor

Your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel to start your tour to follow the footsteps of the Teak Wallahs. We will start our tour at the Warorot Market where our samlor drivers wait for us. The samlor, a bicycle taxi, was an important mode of public transportation in the past. They pedal us to the Mosway Manor and the Upayokin House, two heritage houses from the heyday of the teak industry. We continue to the Wongluekiat House, a teak wooden house on pillars. Our next destination is the beautiful Lanna Ancient house, one of the oldest houses in Chiang Mai. The owner was a teak trader from Burma. Unfortunately, none of these houses are accessible, so we have to look from the outside in.

Old house on stilts teak trade
The Lanna Ancient House

The William Bain House

Opposite this house was the compound of the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation, comprising three houses. We will show you pictures of the main house, taken just before World War Two. At that time, Evelyn van Millingen, one of the teak wallahs, lived in the house. Unfortunately, they took down this beautiful house in1973. After this, we will have a brief look at the first wooden church. Missionary doctor Marion Alonso Cheek designed and built this church. He was involved in the teak industry in the very early days. We continue to the 137 Pillars House. The restaurant of this hotel is the old house of William Bain, the last manager of the Borneo Company and one of the most well-known of the Teak Wallahs. It is a beautiful teak wooden house where we will have a drink.

Piano in an old house teak trade
The William Bain house in 137 Pillar House

Wat Ket Museum

After this, we will walk to the Wat Ket Museum. Jack Bain, son of William Bain, the last manager of the Borneo Company, founded this museum at Wat Ket Karaam in 2001. The museum contains artifacts and pictures, some of which are related to the teak industry. From the museum, we walk to the Chansom Anusorn footbridge, the location of the first teak wooden bridge over the Ping River. We will show you pictures of this bridge, known as the “Khua Kula” (Northern Thai language for “bridge of foreigners”). Floating teak logs damaged the bridge in 1932, after which it collapsed.

Wooden bridge with logs
The Khua Kula bridge and teak logs before the collapse of the bridge. Courtesy Oliver Backhouse

The sports club of the Teak Wallahs

Next is the Gymkhana Club, the old colonial sports club. In 1898 fourteen people, mostly British employees of the above-mentioned teak companies founded this club. On the walls are group photographs of members, most of which were involved in the teak industry. We will have lunch at the club, with a view of the famous rain tree. Our next destination is the Foreign Cemetery, next to the sports club. This is the last resting place of many Teak Wallahs. Every gravestone has an interesting story. Your guide will tell some of those stories.

Old picture with group teak trade
Gymkhana Club 1938 New Years Day. Courtesy of Oliver Backhouse

The Queripel House

Our last destination will be the house of Arthur Lionel Queripel, an employee of the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation. The house is on the Lanna Traditional House Museum compound, which showcases several beautiful traditional wooden houses. It is now a small museum about the teak industry and Arthur Queripel and his family. We have arranged a private visit to this museum, after which we will drive to Lampang, where we will arrive later in the day.

Overnight in the Asia Lampang Hotel

Day 2 – Lampang – Chiang Mai

Lampang, the center of the teak trade

After breakfast, your guide will meet you at the hotel. Our horse carts will wait for us outside the hotel. Lampang is also known as the Horse Carriage City. It is the only city in Thailand where horse carts are still in use to take visitors around. Lampang was the real center of the teak trade before World War Two, and the industry left its marks in this city. There are heritage houses and Shan and Burmese temples that all are related to that period. The British teak companies had been in business in Burma before they became involved in Siam. Many Shan and Burmese employees followed them to work in North Thailand. They built houses and temples in their own familiar style. We will visit some of those today.

Elegant white bridge
Rachadapisek Bridge Lampang

The Louis T.Leonowens House

In our horse carts, we pass the historic Ratchadapisek Bridge over the Wang River. This bridge survived World War Two partly thanks to Lucy Starling, an American missionary teacher. We first head for the Horse Carriage center, an interesting place to repair horse carts and have some very unusual vehicles. Not far is the old Forestry Department office. It is still in use.

After a brief visit, we pay a visit to the “Louis  House.” The restoration of this historic house has been completed in early 2021. It was the office and the house of Louis T.Leonowens, the son of Anna Leonowens of the book and movie “The King and I.” Louis had his own teak logging company, named after him. Our horse carriage ride ends at Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao. Of particular interest is the Burmese-style mondop. Burmese employees of the logging companies funded the construction.

Old house with screen
A presentation about the teak trade at the Louis Leonowens House, 2018

Heritage Houses at Kad Kong Ta

After Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao, we continue to Kad Kong Ta. First, we visit the impressive wooden viharn of Wat Koh Walukaram. Kad Kong Ta was the old market of Lampang, along which there are several beautiful “gingerbread” houses. The most interesting is the Moung Ngwe Zin House, which is now a coffee shop and an information center of the heritage houses of Kad Kong Ta. After this, it is time for lunch at our favorite place: the Lampang Riverside Restaurant. Overlooking the Wang River, we enjoy a delicious Thai lunch.

Temple and chedi
Viharn and chedi of Wat Sri Chum

The Burmese temples of Lampang

After lunch, it is time to visit two of the most beautiful Burmese temples of Lampang: Wat Sri Chum and Wat Sri Rong Muang. Wat Sri Chum has been restored very nicely and is a small gem. From Wat Sri Chum, we drive to Wat Sri Rong Muang, which is quite different but very recognizable as a Burmese-style-inspired temple. Along the way, we pass the Bombay House, part of the former Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation compound, and the location of the old Lampang sports club, now a public park. The last stop today is the Lampang Railway Station. The station dated back to 1916 and was the background of pictures of arriving and departing British teak wallahs.

Railway Station in the past
Lampang Railway Station in 1923. Source unknown.

Then it is time to drive back to Chiang Mai. We hope you have learned a lot about the teak trade in North Thailand. In Chiang Mai, we drop you off at your hotel.

Check out our other historical tours and other things to do in Chiang Mai and things to do in Lampang. We also offer a one-day tour in Chiang Mai that focuses on the teak trade.


Samlor tour

Heritage houses

Wat Ket Museum

The William Bain House

Gymkhana Club

Foreign Cemetery

Queripel House

Lanna Traditional House Museum

Rachadapisek Bridge

Horse Cart Center

The Louis T.Leonowens House

Forestry Department Office

Baan Sao Nak

Wat Koh Walukaram

Moung Ngwe Zin House

Wat Sri Chum

Wat Sri Rong Muang

Lampang Railway Station


What is included

Transportation by private AC car
English speaking guide
Samlor tour
Horse cart ride
Overnight at the Asia Lampang Hotel
Two lunches and one breakfast
two kinds of fruit of the season
Thai snacks
Entrance fees
Drinking water during meals
Limited medical insurance

What is not included

All drinks except drinking water during meals
Personal expenses


Day one
08.00 – Departure from hotel
08.30 – Start Samlor tour
10.00 – 137 Pillars House
11.00 – Wat Ket Museum
12.00 – Gymkhana Club and Lunch
13.00 – Foreign Cemetery
13.30 – Queripel House
15.00 – Drive to Lampang
17.00 – Arrival in Lampang

Day two

08.30 – Start of the Horse Cart ride
10.00 – End of the Horse Cart ride
10.30 – Wat Koh Waluram and Kad Kong Ta
1200 – Lunch
1300 – Wat Sri Chum and Wat Sri rong Muang
1500 – Drive back to Chiang Mai
1700 – Arrival in Chiang Mai