The Buddhist Temples of Lampang
Table of Contents
The magnificent Buddhist temples of Lampang
Wat Phra That Lampang Luang
Wat Pra That Lampang Luang is one of the most highly revered temples in Thailand, about 30 km southwest of Lampang. The chedi contains a relic of the Buddha who visit the site about 2500 years ago. Wat Pra That Lampang Luang is a wiang, a fortified settlement on a small hill. Its walls are imposing. The temple dates back to the 13th century. It is a great example of Lanna-style temple architecture.
Wat Pong Yang Khok
Wat Pong Yang Khok (วัดปงยางคก) is a temple about 25 km southwest of Lampang. It is about 8 km from the famous Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. The main attraction of this temple is ancient viharn named the Phra Mae Chao Chamathewi Vihan. Inside this viharn is a mondop with a Buddha statue. The viharn is devoted to Queen Chamathewi of the Hariphunchai Kingdom. This viharn also has traces of a sword cut during a battle between Thippachak aka Nan Thip Chang and Burmese forces.
Wat Lai Hin Luang
Wat Lai Hin Luang is about 7 km further from Wat Lampang Luang, so about 37 km from the City of Lampang. Not much is known about the history of this temple. The year 1471 is mentioned in old Buddhist scriptures. I appear though that the current viharn dates back to 1683. It seems that craftsmen came from Chiang Tung (Kengtung) to help in the construction. The temple has a couple of interesting museums with old artifacts. One of them is devoted to old palm leaf manuscripts and the typical boxes in which they were kept.
Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao
This temple is the most revered of all temples of Lampang. It is not far from the Wang River. Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao dates back to the 14th or the 15th century. This temple housed the Emerald Buddha statue for 34 years in the 15th century. This highly revered statue was first discovered in Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai and then moved to Lampang. It is now in the Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
Wat Pong Sanuk
This temple is not far from the Wang River. Wealthy Burmese residents constructed this temple in 1886 in Shan and Burmese style. At that time the temple was called Wat Pong Sanuk Tai. The Wihan of this temple has a unique cruciform shape. This viharn has been restored as it was in terrible shape. The restoration started in 2004 and was completed in 2008. It was a joint effort by the local community, experts from Chiang Mai University, sponsors, and UNESCO. In 2008 the project received the Award of Merit, a UNESCO award for cultural heritage conservation.
The temple also has a small museum in which there are Buddha statues and photos of the restoration. At the back of the temple compound, you can find the reliquaries that contain the ashes of the ruling family of Lampang.
Wat Chiang Rai
Wat Chiang Rai is the “White Temple” of Lampang. Some people find it confusing Wat Chiang Rai is a temple in Lampang. It probably is. Apparently, a member of the ruling family of Lampang constructed this temple and decided to call it Wat Chiang Rai because he was born in Chiang Rai. Unlike the famous Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Wat Chiang Rai is a real temple where monks reside. It is an interesting and beautiful temple. The building next to the Viharn contains statues of monks and is nicely decorated. Wat Chiang Rai is nicely illuminated after dark.
Wat Sri Rong Muang
Wealthy Burmese constructed this temple in 1904. Lampang (called Lakon in those days) was for decades the center of the teak logging industry in North Thailand. Many Burmese and Shan people worked for the British teak companies such as the Borneo Company and the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation. They constructed temples in their own styles such as this temple. The Buddha statue is called Bua Khem. It sits aloft a structure of nine tiers, a typical feature of Burmese design. Wat Sri Rong Muang is one of our favorite temples in Lampang.
Wat Sri Chum
People consider this temple the most beautiful Burmese-style temple in Thailand. It is our favorite temple in Lampang. A Burmese teak trader by the name of Kyuang Taka U Yo and his stepson U Maung Gyi constructed the temple in 1890. In 1906 a relic from the Buddha arrived from Burma. The Fine Arts Department declared Wat Sri Chum a national historic site in 1981.
The wooden viharn burnt down in 1992. It has been reconstructed from bricks and they have done a great job if you compare recent with old pictures.
Wat Pa Fang aka Wat Sasnachotikaram
Wat Pa Fang is one my favorite Burmese/Shan-style temples in Lampang. It is on Sanam Bin Road, diagonally opposite Wat Jong Kha aka Wat Chai Mongkol, another Burmese temple. U Shwe Ath and grandmother Wan, a Burmese couple, funded the construction of this temple in 1892. U Swe Ath is the ancestor of the Suwanna-Ath family.
It is a beautiful, very well maintained complex. On my last visit three gardeners taking care of the garden and I was able to enter the ordination hall. The vihara, the assembly hall, however was unfortunately still closed but I had been there before. It dates back to 1892. The ordination hall and the pagoda were constructed in 1906.
Wat Chai Mongkol (Wat Jong Ka)
Wat Chai Mongkol dates back to 1898. Moung Ngwe Zin (1876-1936) is the man who financed the construction of this temple. He was the son of U Suay Ut Suwan-ut, who was the chief of Burmese forestry, probably working for one of the British teak logging firms. Moung Ngwe Zin was a British citizen in his lifetime.
The Wat Chai Mongkol is a beautiful temple, which is in a poor state. When I visited the temple in January 2021, I found a sign that announces an upcoming renovation. The house of Moung Ngwe Zin is on Talad Gao street and has been nicely renovated.
Wat Koh Walukaram
This seldom visited temple is on the Wang River, right behind Kad Kong Ta Street, the street with many beautiful heritage houses. Apparently, Wat Koh Walukaram has been constructed centuries ago on an island in the Wang River. Koh means “island” in the Thai language. Notable of this temple is the beautiful teak wooden viharn that features in the BBC series “Great Asian Railway Journeys“.
Wat Chedi Sao Lang
This is one of the lesser-visited temples in Lampang but nonetheless a very interesting and unique one. Wat Chedi Sao Lang is about 1,5 km outside the city. The name translates as the temple of the twenty stupas or chedis. The story goes that two monks came from India to spread the teachings of Buddha a long time ago. A local ruler was so impressed with them that he asked each of them to give ten pieces of hair. He put each hair in a stupa. This is the legend behind this temple.
Wat Phra That Mon Cham Sin
Wat Phra That Mon Cham Sin is a large complex with several chedis, a sitting Buddha statue, and an old Shan-style viharn that is currently under construction. “Mon” means hill in the Northern Thai language.
This temple is a bit out of the way and doesn’t feature in tour itineraries. We think it is worth a visit and it is conveniently located very close to the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum.
Wat Mon Puyak
Wat Mon Puyak is another Burmese-style temple, located not far from Wat Mon Chamsin. This temple dates back to 1899 and was registered with the Fine Arts Department in 1998. In 2007 a major restoration under the supervision of the department took place.
Chedi and viharn have been repainted which gives the temple a much more polished impression than the Wat Mon Chamsin. On my last visit, I was able to enter the monastery, which interior is really beautiful and spectacular.
Wat Mon Puyak usually doesn’t feature in tours of Lampang but it’s certainly worth a visit. The temple is also known as Wat Mon Santhan and appears as such on Google Maps. A sign at the entrance of the temple mentions Wat Mon Puyak.
Wat Pa Ruak
The Wat Pa Ruak has a history that dates back centuries. Before the area was a bamboo forest by the name of Pa Ruak. In 1902 the temple was a meeting place of Shan rebels during the Shan rebellion. After Siamese forces under field Chaophraya Marshall Surasak Montri had defeated the Shan rebels, Prince Bunyawat Wongmanit, the ruler of Lampang, allowed the construction of the Burmese style chedi and viharn. East of the temple they constructed a military camp, now called Fort Surasak Montri, where the house of many windows, Wat Pong Nak, is located.
Wat Pa Ruak is a large compound with schools, a library, and a Thai-style viharn. When I visited there was construction going on and there was some kind of military event going on. The old Burmese viharn was closed and didn’t look well looked after.
The Wat Suchadaram shares the compound of Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao. It is a much smaller but very attractive temple, founded by migrants from Chiang Saen in the early 19th century. The ordination hall is under construction at the moment. The viharn contains three Buddha images and ancient murals.
Wat Mon Phaya Chae
Wat Mon Phaya Chae is a small, ancient temple, located on a remote mountain top. There is no road leading to the temple on the mountain top. You have to drive or travel to the temple at the ground level and then walk up the nice Naga staircase of 582 steps. This temple is not on any tourists itinerary but worth visiting if you have the time.
Ruined Temples of Lampang
Wat Pa Phrao
I stumbled upon Wat Pa Phrao (วัดป่าพร้าว) in Lampang on one of my bike rides in 2017. This ruined temple was under construction. I recently visited it again. The Fine Arts Department finished the renovation in 2020 and put an explanatory board in front of the ruined temple. The Wat Pa Phrao probably dates back to at least the 17th century, looking at the architecture and archaeological evidence. Its name also appears in a historical document called The Legend of Phra That Jum Pit, which dates back to the 15th century. The Pa Phrao ruined temple is located just north of the city wall of Khelang, close to the Pratu Ma Gate. “Pa” means forest in Thai. Phrao is probably an abbreviation of the word maphrao which means “coconut”. There might have been a coconut plantation at this location. This temple is not on the tourist trail.
Wat Phrathat Muen Khruen
Another ruined temple that is close to the Pratu Ma Gate is the Wat Phrathat Muen Khruen, a substantial ruined temple with a restored chedi. It is located at the compound of an active temple. When I visited there were quite a few monks. According to information from the Facebook page of the temple, it dates back to the year 1223.
Excavations in 2014 around the ruined viharn and chedi unearthed artifacts that are much older. There could have been a structure more than 1300 years ago at this location. Several restorations seem to have taken place over time.
A rainstorm in 2011 caused much damage to the brick chedi after which the Fine Arts Department embarked on a major restoration with a budget of 5 million Thai Baht. This ruined temple is not on the tourist trail.
By coincidence, I found the ruined chedi of a temple, called Wat Umong. The brick structure is hidden behind a row of houses. Access is via a narrow alley. There is a plaque that offers no information about the age of the structure. The Wat Umong is close to the Pratu Tan, one of the old gates of Khelang Nakorn.