Lamphun History Guide

  • The historic town of Lamphun, if not definitively the oldest city in Thailand, must certainly be a contender for the title "longest continually inhabited settlement".
  • The ancient fortified city was founded, according to legend, in 660 AD, almost six centuries before the nearby city of Chiang Mai, and fully 1,122 years before the Thai capital was moved to Bangkok. Historians, who question the date given by the annals, fix the founding of the city in about 950 AD yet even by these punctilious standards, Lamphun is old indeed.
  • At the peak of its power and influence, Lamphun was better known as the capital of the Kingdom of Haripunchai. Established by Buddhist monks from Lopburi, under the legendary Queen Chamadevi, Haripunchai flourished as a centre of Mon culture and influence until its eventual conquest by King Mangrai of Lan Na, in 1281 long after the demise of the more southerly Mon Kingdom of Dvaravati.
  • Today the quiet, provincial town of Lamphun, located just 26 kilometres south of Chiang Mai, is generally visited as an enjoyable and rewarding excursion from the northern capital. Tranquil, lotus-filled moats and some of the most distinguished historical architecture in Thailand combine to attract both Thai and overseas visitors.


Wat Haripunchai Lamphun North Thailand


  • Unusually for these modern times, one of the great pleasures of a visit to Lamphun is the actual journey from Chiang Mai. The traveller should head south along the old road Highway 106 avoiding the busy new superhighway. This road, which once ran directly between Chiang Mai Gate and Lamphun's northern " Elephant Crush " Gate, is steeped in history. From the Chiang Mai suburb of Nong Hoi south, for a distance of 12 kilometres as far as the Chiang Mai Lamphun provincial boundary the road is lined by lofty 30-metre high yang trees, interspersed with fruit orchards, small farms and paddy fields.
  • En route the road passes through the quiet village of Saraphi, renowned for its basketry and bamboo furniture products. Numerous shops selling these goods stand beside the tree-lined road. Between the yang trees and fruit orchards are frequent signs for garden restaurants quiet, rural venues, set back off the road and much appreciated by local people and visitors alike.
  • Little remains of Lamphun's ancient city walls, though the heart of the Old City is still surrounded to the north, west and south by well-preserved moats. To the east, the shallow, slow-flowing waters of the River Kuang once provided protection in times of war, but now offer shady banks, a boating park for children, and a peaceful place to fish.
  • Those interested in the history and layout of Lamphun should begin with a visit to the informative and well-maintained provincial museum. Here there are displays of various fine bronzes, stuccoes and terracottas from Mon times, including masks and carvings of figures with the fierce eyes and enigmatic grin which are the hallmark of Haripunchai Art.
  • Starting at the museum may be the sensible way to begin a tour of Lamphun, but truth to tell few people, even dedicated antiquarians, will have such strength of mind. For directly opposite, on the east side of Inthayongyot Road, the city's main street, eclipsing every other monument in Lamphun, stands the splendid Wat Phra That Haripunchai. This magnificent temple, unequalled in north Thailand except, perhaps, by Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, was founded in 1044 by King Athitayaraj of Haripunchai on the site of Chamadevi's royal palace.
  • Legend has it that the queen's personal quarters are enclosed in the main 46-metre high Lan Na style chedi, covered in copper plates and topped by a gold umbrella it's a nice story, but if true Chamadevi's quarters must have been rather cramped.