Wat Haripunchai At Lamphun
Mon Stucco Figures at Wat Ku Kut
- In addition to an impressive but modern viharn, built in 1925 and housing the important Phra Chao Thongtip Buddha image, the temple complex also includes the unusual stepped-pyramid Suwanna Chedi, dating from 1467, one of very few surviving example of Dvaravati architecture. Nearby hangs a giant bronze gong, claimed to be the largest in the world. By any standards, Wat Phra That Haripunchai is a remarkable structure, to be treasured like Kipling's "winking wonder", the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, not only by the Thais, but by humanity in general.
- As in any tour of ancient Thailand, the visitor faces the possibility of "temple fatigue" after all, neighbouring Chiang Mai boasts 121 temples within the city limits, and many more beyond. Even so, at least one more Lamphun temple is essential viewing, and in its own way it is as important as Wat Phra That Haripunchai. This is Wat Chamadevi, better known locally as Wat Ku Kut. Named after Lamphun's founder and most famous ruler, this temple lies on the western side of town, about one-and-a-half kilometres from the moats down the road to Sanpathong Village.
- Wat Chamadevi is the site of the two oldest surviving monuments in Lamphun, both brick chedis decorated with stucco figures of the Buddha, dating from 1218, and considered to be the finest surviving examples of Haripunchai indeed, Mon architecture in Thailand. The larger of the two, Chedi Suwan Chang Kot, is a stepped pyramid 21 metres high, thought to have been modelled on a similar dagoba in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. Nearby there is another chedi of smaller proportions but equal style. This structure, the Ratana Chedi, is said to contain the ashes of the great queen herself.
- At the southern end of Inthayongyot Road, near the banks of the encircling moat, may be seen the striking statue of Queen Chamadevi. This remarkable ruler, who was instrumental in the spread of Buddhism and of Mon culture in the region more than one thousand years ago, is one of the heroines of Thai history. By all accounts she was both determined and ingenious, so it comes as no surprise that to this day the women of Lamphun are considered strong-willed and proud because of her influence.
- Twelve kilometres south of Lamphun, further along Highway 106 en route to the small provincial towns of Li and Thoen, the visitor will find the village of Pasang noted for its cotton weaving, lamyai orchards, and beautiful girls. By some accounts the girls of Pasang are the loveliest in all Thailand. They certainly caught the attention of one former French ambassador, who noted that they are ‘fair with wide almond eyes, slender and supple, providing many prize-winners for beauty contests’.
- A journey of a further nine kilometres leads to Wat Phra Phuttabaat Taak Pha, perhaps better known to aficionados of the Rambo movies as the temple where Sylvester Stallone is found in retreat at the beginning of the film Rambo III. The temple is characterised by a footprint said to have been left by the Buddha when he stopped to dry his clothes. Views of the surrounding countryside, and especially of the Ping River valley, are spectacular from the temple mount.