Things to do in Lamphun
Table of Contents
Queen Chamathewi of the Hariphunchai Kingdom
Queen Chamathewi aka Camadevi was the first ruler of Lamphun, which was the capital of the Mon Kingdom of Hariphunchai. Lamphun is about 30 km south of Chiang Mai. The ashes of the queen are interred in Wat Chamathewi aka Wat Kukut. Close to the central market of Lamphun, there is a statue of the queen where people go to pay their respects. In 1281 King Mangrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, conquered Lamphun after which the kingdom became part of the Lanna kingdom.
Lamphun was also known as Labong, Lapun, or Laboung. Between 1558 and 1774 the Lanna Kingdom was totally or partly ruled by the Burmese. The last decades of the 18th century there was continuous revolt and fighting between Siamese and Burmese in the Lanna Kingdom. With help of the ruler of Siam, the people of Lanna were able to push the Burmese forces out of the kingdom.
Resettlement of the Yong people
After the expulsion of the Burmese, the first ruler of a revived Lanna Kingdom was King Kawila (1782-1813). He started military campaigns against Chiang Tung and Muang Yong in Shan State to repopulate Lanna. Decades of unrest and warfare had depopulated Lanna. In 1805 he resettled almost the whole population of Muang Yong in Lamphun. This made Lamphun almost entirely Tai Yong. The Yong people were able to safeguard and continue much of their culture, especially language.
The whole social structure of Muang Yong was resettled. This means people of all walks of life came to Lamphun: monks, soldiers, slaves as well the ruling families of Muang Yong.
Chet Ton Dynasty
Kawila was the third ruler of Lampang of the Chet Ton Dynasty. After having successfully dislodged the Burmese from Lanna he became ruler of Chiang Mai. His brothers became rulers of Lampang and Lamphun.
The Things to do in Lamphun is a random list of Lamphun attractions. We also have included some attractions that you can visit on a Lamphun day tour.
Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai
The Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai is, without a doubt, the best-known attraction of Lamphun. There is no other place in this charming town that attracts so many visitors as this magnificent temple. It is the spiritual centre of Lamphun. Many events, such as the Salak Yom Festival, take place here. Wat Prathat Hariphunchai features in quite a few of our tours such as the Explore Authentic Lamphun and Wiang Kum Kam tour and the Visit Doi Inthanon and Ancient Lanna Cities tour.
Wat Ku Kut (Wat Chama Thewi)
This is a significant temple on the road from Lamphun to San Patong. Wat Chama Thewi (sometimes spelled Chamadevi) or Wat Ku Kut is famous for its Mon Dvaravati style chedi, similar to Wat Chedi Liam in Chiang Mai. The Mahabol Chedi aka the Suwan Chang Kot chedi is a stepped pyramid chedi with niches that contain images of the standing Buddha. At the back of the temple, compounds is a small museum dedicated to the monk Kruba Srivichai, the patron saint of North Thailand. Followers of this monk constructed the road to Wat Doi Suthep in 1935.
Kruba Srivichai Statue
Kruba Srivichai (1878-1939) was a Buddhist monk. His name is sometimes spelled as Khruba Siwichai. Anyway, he is the most revered monk in North Thailand. He initiated the renovation of many temples in the north. His followers constructed the road to Wat Doi Suthep in 1935. There are many statues of this monk all over North Thailand. The huge statue at Wat Doi Ti, Lamphun, is just one of them.
Wat Phra Yuen
This temple is not far from Wat Hariphunchai. Wat Phra Yuen dates back from around 1370 and was constructed on the site of a standing Buddha. The temple is located within a walled compound with towering palm trees. It is our favorite temple in Lamphun.
The Terracotta Garden at Lamphun
The Terracotta Garden is located in a rural area about 7 km from Lamphun. It is a coffee shop annex restaurant in a wonderful ambiance of terracotta statues and buildings. The compound of the garden is also the residence of the Maiwan Family, which owns the Phor Liang Muen Terracotta Arts Hotel in Chiang Mai and the Phor Liang Muen Terracotta factory.
Lamphun Community Museum
The Lamphun Community museum aka Khum Rachasampantawong is located just behind the national museum.”Khum” means palace in the Thai language. It was the residence of prince Rachasampantawong, a prince of Chiang Mai who married princess Songhla of Lamphun. The building dates back to 1912. It is an interesting museum in a beautiful building.
In 1945, a group of Chinese businessmen contributed to purchase the land and the building as a place for meetings. Later in 1946, the building became a Chinese language school, called Wun Zheng, but in 1949 the government closed the school. The government kept an eye on Chinese associations and schools as sources of communism. In 1952, the school changed its curriculum and became a Thai school under the name Mongkol Wittaya School.
The museum exhibits all kinds of things such as bicycles, household utensils, old pictures, and so on. The museum offers a lot of information about old houses and architecture in Lamphun. It is open every day from 0900 until 1700, except on Monday.
Lamphun OTOP market
The covered bridge over the Mae Khuang (Khuang River) opposite the Wat Hariphunchai houses a lovely “OTOP” market. OTOP is an abbreviation of One Tambon One Product, a project of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A Tambon is a district. In short, Thaksin wanted every district to specialize in producing one specific product. There are a lot of those local products for sale here. It is a great market and we highly recommend it.
Tai Yong Textile Museum
The Tai Yong people are in fact Tai Lue people who migrated from Muang Yong in Northern Shan State (now Myanmar) to the Lamphun area around 200 years ago. Most of the people living in the area are descendants of the Tai Yong. The museum showcases beautiful Tai Yong traditional dress and other exhibits. If you cross the Mae Khuang River by the covered bridge that houses the OTOP market, you will bump into this small museum on the left-hand side. It is on the compound of Wat Ton Kwaen.
The Chiang Mai Doll Making Centre and Museum
The Chiang Mai Doll Making Centre and Museum is actually in San Patong district but we include it here because it is only about 10 km from Lamphun town. We think this marvellous museum is one of the most “under visited” museums in North Thailand. Apart from showcasing thousands of dolls from all over the world it also has a small factory where beautiful dolls are being handcrafted. Highly recommended!
Here you can read more about the Chiang Mai Doll Making Centre and Museum.
Lamphun City Walls
Lamphun predates Chiang Mai by at least 500 years. It was the capital of the Mon Dvaravati Kingdom Hariphunchai. Lamphun’s wall and moat are oval-shaped as opposed to Chiang Mai which has a rectangular shape. Parts of the old city walls have been restored.
Wat Phra Phutthabat Tak Pha
This is an extraordinary temple, about 14 km south of Lamphun. There are actually two temples, one on the ground level and another on a hilltop. It is really worth spending some time here. You can walk up to the temple on the hill which is called Phrathat Chedi Si Khruba. From the temple, you have a commanding view of the countryside. If you are not willing to walk, there is a road leading to the top of the hill, just behind the temple. We think that Wat Phra Phutthabat Tak Pha is worth visiting. Your guide will tell you the story behind this temple. This temple features in our two-day tour Visit Doi Inthanon and Ancient Lanna Cities.
Wat Koh Klang
These seldom-visited ruins are about 20km from Pasang which is just north of Lamphun. Wat Koh Klang consists of several ruins such as a mondop in a pond and a chedi. The complex is well maintained and there is even a small museum. For those who are interested in archaeology, Wat Koh Klang is worth a visit. It is not to be confused with a temple of the same name, just outside Chiang Mai. Wat Koh Klang receives very few visitors.
The ruins of Wiang Tha Kan
Much less visited than Wiang Kum Kam, Wiang Tha Kan is a very quiet and rural ancient city. It is located in the San Patong district, about 45 mins drive from Chiang Mai. It is very likely you will not meet other tourists in Wiang Tha Kan. The ruins are in and outside a village and can best be visited by bicycle.
San Patong Buffalo Market
Every Saturday morning there is a unique market just outside the town of Sanpatong, less than 10 km from Lamphun. It is by far the largest outdoor market in North Thailand. The market is known as the “buffalo market” because buffaloes, cows, and oxen are being traded. Apart from that the variety of products is absolutely mindboggling. The market though has a very rural character: it is the market for agricultural tools and other utensils. The people you will see at this market are different from city dwellers. I love this market and often go there to look at strange herbal medicine and other products you won’t find at a market in the city. Highly recommend. Our tour Buffalo Market, Lamphun, and Doi Suthep Temple features a visit to this market.
Hariphunchai National Museum
The Hariphunchai National Museum is a very interesting museum about the history and archaeology of Lamphun province. The museum is open every day from 0830 until 1600, except on Monday and Tuesday. Phraya Ratchanakul Viboonphakdi, the royal commissioner of Monthon Payap, and Prince Chak Kham Kajornsak, the ruler of Lamphun, founded the first museum at Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai in 1927 to exhibit stone inscriptions and other artifacts.
In 1979 the current museum opened to house these exhibits. If you are interested in the archaeology and the history of the Hariphunchai and Lanna kingdoms, you will appreciate this small but very interesting museum. It is well done
Statue of Queen Chamathewi
The statue of Phra Nang Chamathewi (Camadevi) is next to the Nong Dok market within the old city of Lamphun. Phra Nang (or Queen) Chamathewi was the first ruler of Hariphunchai, which was an ancient Mon kingdom. It is hard to find information about the history of Hariphunchai and Queen Chamathewi’s role in it. What is clear is that she lived in the 7th century. Many people visit the statue to pay their respects to the first queen of Hariphunchai of which Lamphun was the capital.
Tour Lamphun by Samlor
Lamphun is the ideal place for a samlor tour. There is not much traffic and there are about 30 samlors (bicycle taxi). Most of them are parked at the hospital. I found five of them at the Nok Dong market. I made a tour with driver Annej. He is 69 years old and has been riding his samlor since age 20. He told me that there were at least 300 samlors in Lamphun when he started.
The samlor is an intangible heritage but will disappear in the long run. Chiang Mai a la Carte will support the drivers and support initiatives to keep them on the roads.
Wat Baan Pang
Wat Baan Pang is in Li district, about 70 km from Lamphun, but I still want to list this temple as a Lamphun attraction. The monk Kruba Srivichai (or Siwichai) (1878-1939) was born in Baan Pang. He became known as the monk engineer because he was involved in the construction and reconstruction of more than one hundred religious and nonreligious projects in North Thailand. These projects were temples but also roads and bridges.
Many temples in North Thailand were in a ruined state. The followers of Kruba Sriwichai constructed the road to Wat Doi Suthep, which was opened on April 30, 1935. Kruba Sriwichai was the abbot of Wat Baan Pang. It has a Kruba Sriwichai museum.
One of the exhibits is the vehicle that appears in a very famous photograph, that was taken on the day of the opening of the road to Wat Doi Suthep.
The owner of this vehicle was a prominent businessman and follower of Kruba Sriwichai. He drove the monk to the steps that lead to the temple on April 30, 1935. All over the North of Thailand, there are statues of Kruba Sriwichai.
The ‘Kad Luang’ of Lamphun
Kad Luang means ‘big market’. Every city in Thailand has a main central, fresh food market where usually also other items such as clothes are for sale. Often this central market is known as Kad Luang.
In Lamphun, this market is called Nong Dok Market. Markets in Thailand are the main attractions, where ever you go. They are the best places to meet local people and to get a feel of the daily life in villages, towns and cities. The Nong Dok Market is no exception. It is an interesting and lively market that won’t disappoint you.
Khum Jow Yod Reuan
Built in 1927 by Prince Chakham Khajonsak (เจาจักรคําขจรศักดิ์) (1874-1942) for his wife named “Yod Reuan” (1902-1962), the fourth queen of Lamphun. The Khum Jow Yod Reuan is in a backstreet of Lamphun and could be easily overlooked. If you like old wooden houses and are interested in the history of Lamphun, this house is certainly worth a visit. All information about the house is in the Thai language though. It is open every day from 0800 until 1700, except on Monday. Entrance is free but a donation is appreciated.
Lamphun Walking Street
Like all major cities in Thailand, Lamphun also has its weekly “Walking Street”. This market takes place every Friday afternoon from about 1600 until 2200. The Lamphun Walking Street has a wonderful location along the Kuang River, opposite Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai and the Tha Sing bridge aka the OTOP bridge market. It is a feast for the eye and stomach. There is one section with non-food products such as textiles, clothes, etc., and another section with food, snacks, drinks, and delicacies. It is a fantastic market which we highly recommend.
The Reliquaries of the Chet Ton Dynasty
The white reliquaries or mausoleums of the Lamphun Royal family of the Chet Ton Dynasty are located at a street corner. Prince Chakham Khajonsak (เจาจักรคําขจรศักดิ์) (1874-1942) was the last ruler of Lamphun of this family.
Chedi Chiang Yan aka Chedi Mae Krua
This ruined chedi is located at the compound of the high school, next to Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai. In 2004 the Fine Arts Department performed excavations around the base of the Chedi Chiang Yan and found evidence of pre-Hariphunchai settlement. It is believed that this chedi dates back as far as the 14th century.
This chedi is also known under the name Chedi Mae Khrua. According to a local folk tale the cooks (Mae Khrua), who prepared food for the construction crew and craftsmen who built the temple.
Ku Chang, the ashes of the War Elephant
According to the legend people constructed Ku Chang or the Elephant Stupa to store the tusks of “Pu Kam Ngakheao, the royal elephant of Queen Chamathewi. This elephant was believed to have great powers. In whichever direction it pointed it tusks it will cause people to fall dead. The stupa was then built to bury the tusks to make them point skyward.
Just behind Ku Chang is Ku Ma, where the ashes of the warhorse of the queen are interred. A bit further is Ku Kai, containing the ashes of her chicken.