The real truth behind Lanna culture

By | Thu 3 Mar 2022

Asking a Thai person to describe Lanna culture is often greeted with a shoulder shrug. Yet anyone living in or visiting Chiang Mai is assailed with spas, hotels, restaurants and more proudly bearing the word Lanna in their name. Moreover, marketing and promotional campaigns talk about “traditional Lanna this” and “traditional Lanna that,” so it must mean something, right?

What is Lanna culture? Its history, relevance and importance to Chiang Mai today? Surely there must be someone we can speak to who knows what it is all about and can enlighten us?

In this episode of Pim’s Multiple Personalities, we talk to Ajarn Vithi Phanichphant. One of the founding professors of the Chiang Mai University art faculty back in the seventies, he is often cited as the person who helped create Lanna culture. Or, depending on one’s viewpoint, the person that made it a parody of itself for marketing purposes.

Now in his late seventies, his knowledge of Northern Thailand, the history of Chiang Mai and “Lanna culture” is fascinating. Why are there so many temples in Chiang Mai? Why do we make so many painted umbrellas for tourists? What has Hawaii got to do with anything? Without giving anything away, the answers are not what we may think.

For anyone living in or visiting Chiang Mai who is interested in its history, Ajarn Vithi weaves a beautiful, factual story dating back over five hundred years. And who doesn’t like a spot of gossip? What Bangkok does not want Chiang Mai to know.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we did have a problem with the microphone sound. It did not affect Pim as her voice is quite… well… loud… and understandable. However, we have added subtitles to Khun Vithi because what he said is too valuable and interesting to miss.

We hope you enjoy this wonderful man and the real truth behind Lanna culture.