Things to do in Lampang
Table of Contents
Short History of Lampang
Lampang is a major city about 90 km south of Chiang Mai. At the location of Lampang, a settlement called Wiang Khelang was founded in about the ninth century during the time of Queen Chamathewi. Therefore the city predates Chiang Mai. Little is known about the early history of Lampang. Over time the city became known as Nakhon, Lakhon, and, finally, Lampang. It was an independent kingdom until King Mengrai conquered it. King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, and his successors laid the foundation of Lan Na between 1296 and 1355, which comprised Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, and Lampang.
The Golden Age of the Lanna Kingdom
Historians consider the period from 1355 until 1558 kind of the Golden Age of the Lanna kingdom. Temples such as Wat Suan Dok, Wat Chet Yot, and Wat Chedi Luang date back to that period. The Lan Na kings conquered Nan and Phrae but were also waged war on Sukhotai, Ayuthaya. They conquered faraway places such as Chiang Rung (currently Jinghong in Yunnan province, China) and Muang Yong and other towns in Shan State (now in Myanmar). During this time, Khelang (Lampang) was part of the Lanna Kingdom.
The Burmese occupation
Continuous warfare had weakened Lan Na. In 1558 Burmese armies conquered Chiang Mai which was the beginning of the Burmese occupation. This period lasted from 1558 until 1774. Not much is known about this period. At times the Lan Na Kingdom was semi-autonomous. During periods the ruler was Burmese, sometimes the ruler was a descendant of the Mengrai dynasty. In 1614 Lampang declared its independence. It was a fluid period with many revolts against the Burmese occupation.
The Revival of the Lanna Kingdom
In 1774 a local noble called Kawila succeeded in driving the Burmese out of Chiang Mai with the help of Taksin, king of a Siamese kingdom based in Thonburi. Kawila became the first king of the Chet Ton dynasty and started the revival of the Lanna Kingdom. Lanna was by now a vassal of Siam. The kingdom was in ruins. Chiang Mai academic Kraisri Nimmanhaeminda described Kawila’s rebuilding policy as “Put vegetables into baskets, put people into towns.”
So many things to do in Lampang
Make a horsecart ride in Lampang
Lampang is the city of horse carts. It is the only city in Thailand that still has a significant number of horse carts. They were introduced more than 100 years ago when the city had a sizeable amount of Burmese and Shan Inhabitants. So one of the things to do in Lampang is to take a ride in a horse cart. It is good fun. Most Lampang tours include a short horse cart tour.
At the moment there are between 90 and 100 horse carts active in Lampang. They are supported by the local Rotary Club and by the Siam Cement Company.
The Rachadapisek Bridge
The Rachadapisek Bridge is a historic bridge that spans the Wang River. An American missionary teacher named Lucy Starling saved the bridge from destruction in World War Two. You can read the story here. It is a narrow bridge. After dark, this bridge is beautifully illuminated.
Lampang Railway Station
The Lampang Railway Station is one of the most beautiful railway stations in Thailand. The railway from Bangkok reached the city in 1916. The train ride from Chiang Mai to Lampang is a very scenic one. Take the day train so you can enjoy the ride that takes you through the Khuntan Tunnel and Doi Khuntan National Park. It is a third-class train without air conditioning that allows you to feel the wind and experience the old train stations and the scenery.
The Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum
Lampang National Museum
The main exhibition at the Lampang National Museum is about the history of Lampang. Very recently the museum opened this exhibition and it is worth seeing. It is quite interactive and there are good explanations in English. For those who have never been to Lampang, it is a great introduction that only takes an hour of your time. Especially interesting I found the section about the different languages and dialects spoken in Lampang province. There are videos of three horse cart rides that you can skip. Better do a horse cart ride in real life.
Phum Lakon Museum
The Phum Lakon Museum aka Bhumi Lakon Museum is located close to the clock tower roundabout. Visiting two museums that focus on the history of Lampang is maybe a bit much but the Phumi Lakon Museum is quite different from the Lampang National Museum. It gives more information about the history of the teak industry. There are a lot of old pictures of those days on display. The museum also tells the story of the curse of Lampang. Some people believe that this curse is the reason Lampang lost the race to become the political and economic center of North Thailand to Chiang Mai.
Lampang Walking Streets
Just like many cities and towns nowadays, the city also has “walking streets”, early evening street markets that have local products for sale. There is one on Friday at Wang Nua street (Cultural Street) and one on Saturday and Sunday at Kad Kong Ta. Products for sale include souvenirs, handicrafts, delicacies, and local food. Most of these street markets also offer foot massages and local music. Highly recommended. These Walking Streets are amazing. These markets usually start at around sunset and last until about 2200.
The Kao Chao Market
The Kao Chao Market is likely the oldest market in Lampang. It is almost next to the railway station, which was opened in 1916. The market starts very early in the morning before 0500 and ends around 1100. We love these fresh food markets, especially if they have a lot of history such as the Kao Chao Market.
The Horse Cart Society of Lampang
The Horse Cart Society of Lampang features in all our tours because it is such a special and interesting place. Here a couple of devoted people repair the famous horse carts of Lampang. There are also several carts and some peculiar vehicles in this most remarkable center. They have a “pulled rickshaw” as well as a bicycle that is extremely difficult to ride. Just try out one of the vehicles. It is a lot of fun.
Things to do in Lampang Province
Lampang is a huge province, the 10th biggest of the 76 provinces in Thailand. From the southernmost point to the northernmost point is a distance of more than 300km. We have separated the things to do section in Things to do in Nakhon Lampang or Lampang City and the province Lampang.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat
The full name of temple is Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn. It is located in Chae Hom district. Visiting either from Chiang Mai or from Lampang will take a full day. Apparently there has been a temple on this mountain for a long time but only in recent years, Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat has been developed as a tourist attraction.
Once you have arrived at the base of the mountain you will have to transfer to a pickup truck that will take you to the temple. It is a steep ride of about 3,5 km. You will dropped off at a point from where you have to walk to the different sights and chedis on rocky outcrops. The views are absolutely magnificent.
Hospital at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center
The Thai Elephant Conservation Center is located about 20 km north of the city. It is the only government-run elephant camp in Thailand. This camp offers an elephant show and allows elephant riding, activities in which we are not interested. We don’t offer elephant shows and elephant riding.
We visit the hospital, which is part of the Center but has a separate entrance. The hospital offers free healthcare to all elephants. There is a nursery with mothers and their babies as well.
Hiking in Doi Khun Tan National Park
Doi Khun Tan National Park is about halfway between Chiang Mai and Lampang. It is one of Thailand’s oldest national parks and the only one that has a railway running through it. The highest mountain is Doi Khun Tan at 1373 meters. The park offers great hiking. Its visitor center offers good information and features historical photos of the construction of the tunnel. The national park offers good accommodation, and there are also old missionary bungalows under the management of Payap University in Chiang Mai. Doi Khuntan offers some fantastic views.
Make a train ride to Lampang
If you have the time, this is one of the great activities in Lampang. Take the non-aircon slow day train which passes through Doi Khuntan National Park. The railway was constructed about 100 years ago and hasn’t changed much. The train will not run faster than 50 km per hour at any time. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and the small historical stations along the way. We highly recommend this train ride. You’ll pass the famous White Bridge and travel through the Khuntan Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in Thailand. Join the Classic Railway Journey!
The Hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation
Right next to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center is the Hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation. The two most famous residents are Motala and Mosha, two elephants who lost a leg after having stepped on a landmine. They both have prosthetic legs. This hospital featured in the BBC documentary series “Great Asian Railway Journeys“. The hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation is a must-visit place.
Historical and Heritage Houses in Lampang
Baan Phraya Suren by Madame Muser
It is a great addition to Lampang attractions. There are a number of historical pictures displayed on the walls. I highly recommend visiting Baan Phraya Suren by Madame Muser if you are in Lampang. It again shows that the preservation and restoration of these heritage houses make a lot of sense. I think they will do very well and wish them all the best. I will certainly come back next time.
The “Louis House”
There are more teak wooden houses in Lampang than in any other city in northern Thailand. The city was a major center of the teak industry from the 1880s until 1941. Many of these houses were constructed in this period. A good example is the former office of the Louis T.Leonowens Company, one of the British logging companies, but there are many others. At the time of writing, you can visit this house. There is no entrance fee. The house is currently under renovation. Amongst local people, the house is known as the “Louis House”.
The Yean Si Tai Li Ki Building
The Yean Si Tai Li Ki Building is a Chinese/Western building that dates back from 1913. The owner was Mr.Jin Yuan. It was the biggest department store on Talad Gao street.
Fong Lee Building
Chinese immigrants constructed this building between 1891-1901. It took two years to restore this building which was rewarded with the Outstanding Architectural Conservation in the commercial building category in 2008.
Baan Komson dates back from 1917. Paanoi-Yaalangse Komson was once the owner of the house. An unknown British employee of one of the teak firms in Lampang designed the building. A builder, originally from Shanghai, constructed the house. Apparently, this house never suffered from flooding of the Wang River.
This house dates back to 1934. I know very little about this house apart from the fact that is has been sold recently to a new owner.
The renovation took place in the years 2009 until 2011.
Ban Pong Nak
This is a beautiful house dating back to 1925. Ban Pong Nak is on the compound of Fort Surasakmontri. The local government constructed the house. During his visit to Lampang in 1927, King Prajadiphok, Rama VII, stayed in this house with Queen Rambai Barni.
“Pong” means “window” in Northern Thai; “Nak” means “many”. Ban Pong Nak means House with many windows. It is now a museum that exhibits some personal belongings of Rama VII. There are also World War Two weapons on display.
Ban Sao Nak
More than 100 years ago Lampang (called Lakon in those days) was the major center of the teak logging industry. The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation had been involved in teak logging in Burma before they moved to Siam. They brought with them many experienced Burmese and Shan (Tai Yai) employees and merchants. One of those Burmese was Maung Chan Ong. In 1895 he constructed Ban Sao Nak. “Nak” is northern Thai for “many”. Ban Sao Nak means a house with many pillars. The house is an outstanding example of Burmese-influenced Lanna architecture. It now houses a museum. During our last visit to Lampang in February 2021, we found out that the house is for sale. We will keep you updated.