The northern city of Lampang is quieter than its near neighbour, Chiang Mai, but benefits from similar mountain surrounds and has enough of its own charms to tempt visitors. Much of that charm comes in the form of four-legs.
What to See & Do
Lampang is proud of its continuing use of the horse-drawn carriage, which makes it unique in Thailand. The horse and carriage was introduced in 1916 during the reign of King Rama VI when the train route was extended to Lampang. At the time, Lampang was the transport and trading hub of the north with goods coming in and out of Burma and Laos. People needed something to haul goods to and from the trains and the horse and carriage was used. They were also used in daily life for getting to school, the temple or the market. Today, the horse-drawn carriages are used primarily for tourism, with drivers parking up outside hotels and tourist spots. There are around 200 in use and fares are approximately 150 Baht for 15 minutes, 200 Baht for 30 minutes and 300 Baht for an hour. The driver will happily take photos of passengers sitting in the carriage against the backdrop of temples.
Lampang was a focal point for the Thai teak industry in the late 1800s. Many logging experts were called in from neighbouring Burma and Burmese communities soon became established in the area. Their legacy can be seen in the temples they helped to build such as Wat Si Chun and Wat Jongka.
Elephant Conservation Centre
The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre at Ban Thung Kwien is around 30 kms from Lampang town centre. As well as elephant shows where the animals display their dexterity and skill, the centre offers a 3-day mahout training course (approx. 8,000 Baht). Professional mahouts run the courses and trainees get the opportunity to ride the animals into the mountains. In addition, the new recruits learn the 10 basic elephant commands and how to bathe the elephant in a pond or stream. More details available from the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre website.
Where to Stay
Lampang is 600 kms north of Bangkok and buses leave from the capital’s Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal. Trains depart from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station. From Chiang Mai there is also a train service or the more frequent and convenient bus service.