These two provinces a mere hop and a skip from Chiang Mai are both fabulous travel destinations, whether it’s for a quick day trip, a weekend getaway or a true exploration.
Citylife was recently tasked with creating the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) web site for both provinces, and reading all about the plethora of destinations, we can’t wait to visit.
As the government has recently approved of a 22.4 billion baht stimulus package to encourage domestic travel, and with all sorts of great discounts and subsidies to be had, and with the rainy season turning our barren parched mountains lush, there is no better time to visit.
Sure, if you have lived in Chiang Mai for any length of time, you have probably visited Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang, taken a horse drawn carriage around the city and bought home a ceramic rooster bowl or two. You’ve probably also spent some time at the Elephant Conservation Centre and even taken a houseboat down Kiw Lom Dam. You may have also taken a day’s drive to Lamphun to see the ruins of Queen Chamadevi’s Haripunchai kingdom, which far predates Chiang Mai, done some shopping and squealed at some of the jungle offerings at Kad Ban Thi or even bought some sticky rice and chicken before boarding the train at Khun Tarn Station. But there is so much more!
It is hard to beat the sight of Chiang Mai old city’s glistening temples, but if you are into religion, architecture and history, then Lamphun’s temples hold their own and then some. TAT has designed a total of seven ‘Green Travel Routes’ which will help you better explore some of the most significant and remarkable temples in the province, so that you can make merit, pay respects or simply take in the rich history and architecture of the area. And if you haven’t heard of it yet the ‘Sky Temple’ at Wat Chalermprakiet is a must for your bucket list. There is even a temple in Lampang which contains the oldest palm leaf manuscript in the north of Thailand, incredibly dating to 1471!
If you are into nature, then the Lampang Green routes will recommend you to Chae Son national park, which is filled with waterfalls, jungle treks, caves sprouting majestic stalagmites and stalactites as well as camping facilities and quality park lodgings. In one description of a national park TAT had to concede that while at least half a dozen waterfalls had been ‘discovered’ and featured, there were still dozens yet which were still to be developed, but where intrepid hikers are welcome to trek to.
There are also roads which just simply beckon, and TAT has also designed some superb road trips which promise spectacular scenery as well as interesting, and at times pretty quirky (mummified monk anyone?) stops along the way.
There are hot springs to dip eggs, and (cautiously) feet, there are museums to learn from, caves with pre historic paintings to explore, mountain top cafes and hill tribe villages providing homestay accommodations which are simply begging for you to stay in and support.
The cities themselves are both vibrant and ancient, with monuments, buildings and landmarks which all tell a story of kingdoms long past. Yet bustling markets selling the famed crafts of the region and products made or foraged by the multitude of ethnic groups living in the area, along with quirky and charming cafes, noodle shops and restaurants, make for vibrant little cities, or big towns, well worth exploring.
While hotels and resorts may not reach the levels of Chiang Mai’s most opulent and luxurious, there is plenty of choice. Whether you want to stay in a guest room of a Lahu villager, waking up to a sea of mist and the sound of roosters or a posh riverside boutique hotel where you can sip wine while watching the sun sink, there is something for every budget and taste.
Talk about taste, both provinces are renowned for their northern Thai food as well as other tasty nibbles from longan to mangoes, and with more visitors exploring the outer reaches of the provinces there are more and more charming indy little cafes and restaurants dotted around in the most unexpected of places.
Take a moment, click through to the Lampang and Lamphun TAT web site, and explore. You will be surprised to find yourself looking around for your car keys. It really is that easy.