This ancient town was the capital of the Haripunchai Kingdom from AD 750–1281. Today, Lamphun is made up of large wooden houses beside the Kuang River and is characterized by its peaceful atmosphere, ancient temples, and surrounding countryside of rice fields.
Lamphun’s most important temple is Wat Phra That Haripunchai. The present compound was probably founded in AD 1044 by King Athitayarai of Haripunchai, though the 150-ft (46-m) high central chedi, topped by a nine-tier umbrella of pure gold, is thought to date from 897. In the 1930s, the temple was renovated by Khrubaa Siwichai, one of the most revered monks in Northern Thailand. One unusual structure is the rare, pyramid-shaped chedi in the northwest of the compound. The large bot houses a reclining Buddha image, while a 15th-century Lanna Buddha is kept in the main wihan. Adjoining it is a 19th-century library, with a staircase flanked by nagas. To the right of the library is an open pavilion displaying a huge gong cast in 1860, alleged to be the largest in the world. Outside the main compound is a smaller bot, inside of which is a so-called “happy Buddha,” a fat, smiling Chinese-style image.
The nearby Lamphun National Museum is small but excellent. It has carvings and artifacts from many periods, especially the Dvaravati, Haripunchai, and Lanna kingdoms. Modern artifacts include an ornate black and gold howdah and naga decorations. The collection of Buddha images covers many schools of sculpture.
Wat Chama Thewi (or Wat Kukut), just west of Lamphun on Highway 1015, is noted for its two chedis, thought to be among the oldest in Thailand. Both built in 1218, they are the last surviving examples of Dvaravati architecture. The larger, tiered structure is adorned with Buddha images, and the smaller one is decorated with Hindu gods.
Pasang, a small town 19 miles (30 km) south of Lamphun, produces excellent cottonwear of unique designs, especially sarongs and shirts. They are sold through many outlets in the town. Lamphun province, in particular the town of Nong Chang Kheun, to the north, is renowned for its lamyai, or longan fruit. It is celebrated in a festival that features competitions and a Miss Lamyai beauty contest.