Lampang

Lampang

[lam-pahng]

Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang (Thai นครลำปาง) to differentiate from Lampang Province, is the third largest town in northern Thailand and capital of the Lampang Province and the Lampang district. Traditional names for Lampang include Wiang Lakon and Khelang Nakhon.

Geography and climate

Lampang city is situated in the valley of the Wang River, bordered by the Khuntan Range on the west and the Pi-Pan-Num range on the east. The river, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya, flows directly through the city.

Lampang has a relatively dry climate relative to nearby provinces. "Winter" starts from the last rain, typically November, and last until March. Cold airmass from Siberia sometimes lead to night time temperature below 10 degrees Celsius, although that is quite rare. Winter is characterized by dry, sunny, and quite pleasant day, and cool and occasionally foggy nights. In recent times, the blue winter sky is often marred by the practice of burning the fields after the harvest, as well as the smog generated by Mae Mo coal-fired power plants.

Summer typically starts from March until June. The temperature could soar to 40 degrees Celsius in April. Late afternoon thunderstorms and hailstorm are frequent.

Rainy season starts from June until November. Being in the relative rain shadow, Lampang receive less precipitation than neighboring provinces and rarely suffers from extensive flooding which has plagued Chiang Mai in recent years.

History

The founding myth of Lampang. Hariphunchai Period. Lampang was a major city in the Lanna kingdom. However, its historical prominence is largely overshadowed by Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai which were the traditional seats of government, and whose histories were well recorded in chronicles. Following decades of warfare with both the Ava Burmese and Ayudhya during the 17th-18th century, the region was in decline, severely depopulated, and subject to Burmese control. In the late 18th century, the famed marksman and Lampang native Nan Thip Chang assassinated the local Burmese leader in the Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, and led an uprising which led to a rollback of Burmese rule over Lanna. Allied with Bangkok, the descendents of Nan Thip Chang, known as Chao Ched Ton (The Seven Princes), became the vassal rulers of the various Lanna cities until the annexation of Lanna into Siam (Thailand) proper under King Chulalongkorn (Rama V).

Economy

Besides the traditional rice paddy farming, pineapple, and sugarcane constitute major food crops. Lampang has a large deposit of lignite in Mae Moh district, and hosted several coal-fired electricity generating plants, whose pollution has severely affected the local populations. Lampang also has a large deposit of kaolin which is widely utilized in the ceramics industry. Historically, logging was an important industry, since Lampang, together with nearby Phrae had a large stand of teak. Many elephants were employed to transport the logs to the river for transport to Bangkok, hence a founding of the 'Elephant School', the predecessor of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Much of the old growth teak stands in Lampang had been thoroughly harvested.

Culture

Lampang, also called "meuang rot ma" in Thai, meaning "Horse Carriage City", is considered by some Thais as the last paradise in Thailand. It is located about 100 km to the southeast of Chiang Mai. Although well-connected by rail, and 4-lane highways to both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it is here that tourists can still find the horse-drawn carriages in regular use for transportation. This, together with the relative lack of skyscrapers that have contaminated Chiang Mai's skyline of late, make Lampang an increasingly favored setting for period drama. One account attributes the horse-drawn carriage to the Portuguese, via Macau, although a more likely origin is colonial Burma—Lampang was an important center of timber industry in the early 20th century and saw an influx of migrants from British-controlled Burma. The horse-drawn carriage is one of the most memorable symbols of Lampang, as reflected in many traditional products.

Lampang has a few institutions of higher learning, such as Yonok College, and a branch of Thammasat University.

Transportation

Lampang is approximately 600 km from Bangkok. The city is an important highway hub, with a 4-lane divided highways link to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, as well as major highway to Phrae and eastern Lanna provinces. Lampang is a major stop for the Chiang Mai-bound train, approximately 10 hours from Bangkok. Lampang Airport is currently served by PB Air, which operate daily flights to Bangkok via Phitsanulok

Landmarks and tourist attractions

While Lampang is a major northern city well-served by road, rail, and air transportation, it is spared from mass tourism which has altered the character of nearby cities such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Tourists typically stop by for lunch and visit the more famous attractions such as Wat Phra That Lampang Luang and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center and then proceed to points further north such as Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. Less well-known tourist attractions in Lampang are thus mostly visited by locals. Among these are the Wang Kaeo waterfall and the Chae Son National Park, a compact yet charming park which combine a natural hot springs with large waterfalls.

Many temples in downtown Lampang were built in the Burmese style, originally endowed by the logging tycoons of the late-19th century. Wat Sri Bunrueang and Wat Pa Fang are among the extant examples. Traditional Lanna architecture can be found at Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, which situated at the site of the ancient Lampang city. It is famous for its murals from the 19th century. The city seal features a white rooster in the temple's gate. Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao, on the West Bank of the Wang River, is said to have housed the Emerald Buddha between 1436 and 1468. Wat Phra That Chedi Sao (The Temple of Twenty Chedis) is famous for its array of twenty pagodas. Other temples of some renown include Wat Prathat Jom Ping and Wat Lai Hin both in the Koh Ka district.

Mae Moh mine is a vast open pit lignite mine in the Mae Moh basin. The mine and the adjoining power generation facilities are operated by EGAT; the power station is a major source of electric power for Thailand.

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