The second-largest town in Northern Thailand, Lampang is still growing rapidly as a trading center. It offers much of the historic interest of Chiang Mai, but without the overt commercialization. Lampang is also a good base for excursions and travel within Northern Thailand
The town was originally inhabited in the 7th century. The following century, when it was still called Kelang Nakorn, it became part of the Haripunchai Empire, which centered on Lamphun (see p233). In the 19th century, British traders came here from Myanmar and turned the town into a teak production center, bringing Myanmar workers with them. The result was the many teak houses and Myanmar-style temples seen throughout the town today. Teak furniture is just one of the traditional crafts still produced in Lampang; others are cottonware and ceramics
Modern Lampang is distinctive for its brightly colored horse-drawn carriages, another surviving tradition. This mode of transportation was introduced to Lampang in the 19th century, and it is the only town in Thailand that uses it.
One of the most important temples in Northern Thailand is Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, to the southwest of the town, which is famous for its impressive 19th-century murals.
Lampang town focuses on the south side of the Wang River, although the main sights are found to the north of it. Of its temples, the most interesting is Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao. The wat is thought to have been built about the same time the town was founded, but only the 165-ft (50-m) chedi survives from the original buildings. The distinctive mondop is notable for its nine-tier teak roof with intricate carvings and a bronze Buddha in the Mandalay style.
Between 1436 and 1468 the temple housed the revered Emerald Buddha, or Phra Kaeo , which was later moved to Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo. During the same period, a similar jasper Buddha image, now in Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, was kept here. Within the compound is the Lanna Museum, displaying religious Lanna artifacts.
Ban Sao Nak (“many pillars house”), southeast of Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao, is a Lanna structure built in 1896. It takes its name from the 116 square teak pillars supporting the building. Now a museum, it is furnished with Myanmar and Thai antiques. The sumptuous decoration includes lacquerware, ceramics, and silverware. Wat Pongsanuk Tai, to the west of Ban Sao Nak, is a distinctive late 18th-century Lanna temple with a copper chedi. An enclosure in the mondop contains a Bodhi tree that is surrounded by four Buddha images.
The 19th-century Myanmarstyle Wat Si Chum, located in the south of the city, is constructed mostly from beautifully carved teak. The exquisite lacquerwork inside the main chamber shows life in Lampang during the 19th century..