Forget about Chiang Mai – Lampang has twice the charm and one tenth of the tourists.

Lampang is easily one of my favourite places in the north of Thailand. What it lacks in health cafes and yoga retreats, Lampang easily makes up for in stunning Chinese, Burmese and Lanna architecture, stunning temples and leafy streets. The city is famous for its horse carriages, although they’re not as famous or used as they once were  – in fact, in the three days I spent here I saw only one.

The main landmark and the centre of town is Ratsada Bridge which runs over Wang River. The bridge is kept a shining white and its arches give it a recognisable look. Underneath live hundreds of swifts, which make the air come alive and lend the already picturesque Wang river an extra dimension. At the end of the bridge on both sides is Lampang’s symbol, the rooster, which greets people coming to and from the bridge. Visit during sunset for stunning views of the old buildings along the river.

Eat and Eat Well

Like elsewhere in northern Thailand and Thailand in general, food is abundant and good. One of the regional must try dishes is khao soi, a hearty dish made of thick egg noodles in a rich curry broth made of either chicken, pork or beef. The dish is served with deep fried crispy noodles, and condiments of red onion, chilli oil and pickled mustard cabbage. One of the Lampang’s best places to eat khao soi is Khao Soi Islam, which is located just off Ratsada Road, in the second small street north of the bridge. The owner, Khun Wittaya took over from his father who started the business some 40 years ago. The aromatic soup and noodles come with either beef or chicken and around 11am Khun Wittaya fires up under the BBQ and starts grilling delicious satay too. The restaurant is open from 9am to 2pm or when the food is sold out.

Lampang is also famous for its khao tang, which is crispy rice cakes which have been let to dry in the sun and then drizzled with a palm sugar concoction that tastes a bit like caramel. At Khao Tan Manee, on 35 Ratsada Road on the north side of the river, you can see how the rice cakes are laid out to dry. There is also a shop that sells, you guessed it, khao tang, as well as other local goodies such as kap moo, crispy pork skin, and various spices. The shop is open from around 8am to early afternoon.

Art and Architecture

The Lampang Art Centre is also the home of the Lampang Photography Club and the students have a permanent collection there of pictures from Lampang province. The art centre is located on the Taladkao Road which runs on the south side along the river. The building is a beautiful old teak tree building with hard wood floors and intricate wood carvings. Outside hang the ubiquitous northern Thai lanterns. The centre may be closed off when you visit but there’s always someone there and will gladly open up the exhibition rooms on the second floor.

Lampang’s symbol is the rooster and anyone who has ever had a noodle soup or a bowl of rice in a traditional Thai restaurant will recognise the rooster design on the ceramic. In fact Lampang is the centre of ceramic production in Thailand and at Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum you can buy the traditional rooster design as well as many other types of ceramics in the form of plates, bowls, vases, keychains etc. The museum and shop are located on 24 Watjongkam road, Prabath, Lampang and opens from 8am-5pm every day.

Every Friday afternoon Wangnua Road on the north side of the river turns into a cute little market where locals sell second hand clothes and kitchen ware, plants, jewellery and of course food. The road in itself is very picturesque with its lanterns and an old temple ruin down the road. The market is smaller and not as crowded as Lampang’s other weekend market, Kad Kong Tha, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday night along Taladkao road on the south side of the river. The market on Wangnua Road starts around 4pm and goes till around 9pm.


Tips:

  • It’s easy to get to Lampang, buses and mini buses leave from Chiang Mai every hour.
  • Lampang is home to some of the North’s best kept Burmese, Chinese and Lanna architecture and especially the areas just north and south of the river are full of beautiful mansions.
  • During the winter months of November to February, the climate in northern Thailand tends to be a bit cooler than in the country’s south. Remember to bring a jumper, especially if you plan to spend time in the mountains.

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Lisa Lee
Lisa has travelled extensively throughout Europa and Asia writing for a number of publications and travel websites. She is an experienced diving instructor and when she is not chasing rays and whale sharks in remote island destinations, she can be found roaming around major cities in search of good food and entertainment.