The Easy Guide to Lampang: An Authentic Getaway Near Chiang Mai

The old Northern Thai city of Lampang isn’t on the typical tourist itinerary, but its authentic old character, beautiful temples and parks, and charming small-town atmosphere make it a truly unique place to spend a night or two – it makes a memorable trip to get out of Chiang Mai and see a more local-feeling provincial city.

The city of Lampang, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Chiang Mai, is centred along the Wang River and features quaint riverfront streets and picturesque bridges. The place makes you want to slow down, enjoy a good cup of coffee with friends and family, and watch the fisherfolk casting into the river. One of the symbols of the city is actually the horse-drawn carriage, and they can still be seen around the city.

Lampang Rooster
Rooster Ceramics – Lampang

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Lampang is also well-known for the Indra ceramics company, the producers of ceramic bowls with a red rooster on the side seen all across Thailand. The rooster is the symbol of Lampang – when the city was founded in the 600s A.D., it was known as Kukut Tha Nakorn, meaning City of Roosters.

The story goes that when the deity Indra knew that Buddha was coming to visit Lampang, he was worried that the city’s residents might sleep through and forget to give alms. So Indra sent a magical white rooster to wake the city and ensure they make merit. Today, you’ll see them everywhere in town, including in street art splashed across the walls above the banks of the Wang River.

So head on out to Lampang, a little off the beaten track, to recharge and experience a little authentic life in a relaxing Thai city. But be sure not to miss some of the sights outside the city in Lampang Province!

In Town: The 7 Best Things To Do In Lampang City

Kad Kong Ta Night Market

Kad Kong Ta Night Market is the essence of Lampang: vendors selling local delicacies and crafts to a mix of locals and tourists, all under the eaves of ornate antique wooden shophouses. There are even some quasi-European colonial looking facades to be seen.

Market in Lampang, Chiang Mai
A market in Lampang, Chiang Mai – authentic getaway near Chiang Mai.

Bring your camera and a hungry appetite and head down to Talaat Khao Road (sometimes written Talad Gao), just off the riverfront, every Saturday and Sunday to see this night market in full swing. This is where local life happens on weekend nights in Lampang – see couples going for a stroll, families relaxing at the best-known restaurants in town. Just look for the crowds of Thais at any of the establishments along the market road and you can’t go wrong.

Another option for dinner is street food, eating as you walk and sampling local delicacies – from nam ngiaw pork noodles to khao soi chicken curry.

The market is decidedly the best time to explore old Lampang, but if you have time, it’s also worth walking through during the day to get a glimpse of daily life among the antique wooden shophouses.

Wangnua Night Market

The Easy Guide to Lampang: An Authentic Getaway Near Chiang Mai 1
Quaint Night Market in Lampang

Not in Lampang on the nights of the Kad Kong Ta market? Not to worry.

On Friday nights, walk over to the Wangnua Night Market on – you guessed it – Wangnua street. You’ll find handmade clothes, hand-woven baskets and other crafts.

The spread of Thai street food here is also plentiful, from every kind of Thai dessert you could ask for, to plenty of fried insects – a great bonding activity if you’re with an adventurous group.

Just as with Kad Kong Ta Market, Wangnua street is also a lovely walk any day or night of the week.

Get Restored With An Herbal Massage

Locals in Lampang all know about this place to go for the absolute best in therapeutic Thai herbal massage – the oddly-named Lampang Medicinal Plants Conservation Assembly. The traditional techniques employed by the masseuses combined with the natural medicinal oils and plants they use, make this a memorable part of any stay in Lampang.

It could even be the highlight of the trip – their reputation is that well-deserved); especially if you’ve never had a Thai massage before (yes, some people haven’t… I don’t understand either). This is the kind of place where you just might come out feeling like a whole new person. Massages start at around 180 baht per hour.

Wat Phra That Lampang Luang

Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is the most famous temple in Lampang, and for good reason.

Wat Phra Tat Lampang at Night
Wat Phra Tat Lampang at Night

Located 12 kilometres southwest from the city, it’s technically out of town but it’s easy to find group taxi pickup trucks (songtaews) to take you out there for around 30 baht. The temple is an impressive sight to behold – with its imposing brick wall around the edges and the ornately decorated entranceway (you may have seen dragons at Thai temples before, but not like this one).

Highlights include the massive teak pillars that hold up the tiered roof of the main temple hall, and the murals painted high on the walls of the same building’s interior. There are now also three buildings in a beautiful park area outside the southern gate of the temple that comprises a museum of sorts, with Buddhist artifacts, lacquerware, ceramics, and manuscripts.

Ban Sao Nak: Antique Teak Architecture

Ban Sao Nak is a small estate of antique teak wood buildings that transport you straight back to the days of Lampang pre-automobile and pre-tourism.

Built in 1895 by Mong Chan Ong during the time of Rama V (King Chulalongkorn), the compound has been converted into a museum of housewares, textiles, silverware, handicrafts and vestiges of an older way of life. The grounds are shaded by a giant saraphi tree that’s 133 years old.

The teak architecture is a combination of Lanna and Burmese styles and reflects the name of the house – Ban Sao Nak means “house of many pillars” – supposedly there are 116 in all.

There’s also a Lanna granary – a rice barn – on the grounds (as well as antique farming equipment). Even if fine interior design and old lacquerware don’t sound like your cup of tea, Ban Sao Nak is right in the middle of town and worth a stop for just an hour or less.

Ban Sao Nak Village at Dawn
Ban Sao Nak Village at Dawn

Stroll Along The Wang River and Old Lampang

You’d have to work hard to miss seeing the Wang River on a trip to Lampang, but I’d recommend setting aside some time to just walk along the river bank and through the old neighbourhood on the other side.

Start near the Suspension Bridge and walk towards Ratchadaphisek Bridge – first built in 1894, when its sponsors claimed it was the longest bridge in Thailand. Though the structure has been updated since it’s still a picture-perfect spot day or night.

From there, continue up towards Wangnua Road, through what was once the old Mong settlement that predates modern Lampang, and all the way to Wat Prakaewdontao, the site of the ruins of at least one ancient pagoda. Loop back down towards one of the restaurants near Talaat Khao Road and the Kad Kong Ta Night Market to finish a nice walk.

Take a Ride in a Horse Carriage

Horse Carriages in Lampang
Horse Carriages in Lampang

Today, Lampang is the only province in Thailand where horse-drawn carts are still in use. I'll travel around a bit more to verify this for you!  There are 77 provinces, so don’t hold your breath,  but taking a horse-drawn carriage is a great way to feel the atmosphere of old Lampang.

The carriages were originally introduced by European influence and brought up from Bangkok during the time of Rama V (King Chulalongkorn), the same period during which the architectural antiques at Ban Sao Nak were built.

Look for one of those horse-drawn carriages anywhere in the centre of town – Talaat Khao Road is a good bet, or out near Kelang Nakhon Public Park (a great place to stop by on any evening when it’s nice out). They’ll take you most places within the center of town, or just on a loop if that’s what you’re looking for.

Feel free to bargain a bit if the price the driver quotes seems too high. If you’re interested in a longer tour by horse carriage, the drivers will often be happy to give you an hourly rate, usually around 400 baht per hour, but haggle!

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