Travel Thailand Lamphun Province.
         Lamphun, one of Lanna’s realms under the soft mist, is considered as a brother city to Chiang Mai, Lamphun’s simple way of life reflects its cultural beauty that has been handed down generation to generation. Lamphun has the widest plain among the northern region, and there are no high mountains lying between its border to Chiang Mai.
         The northern part of Lamphun connected to amphoe Saraphi and San Kamphang in Chiang Mai. The southern is next to Thoen of Lampang, and Sam Ngao of Tak province, while the eastern side is close to Hang Chat, Sop Prap and Serm Ngam of Lampang, Hot, Chom Thong and San Pa Thong of Chiangmai are on the western part.
       Lamphun province is located 685 kilometres from the capital, Bangkok. It is divided into 7 amphoes and 1 sub-amphoe : Muang Lamphun, Pa Sang, Ban Hong, Mae Tha, Li, Thung Hua Chang, Banthi and Wiang Nong Long.
         Lamphun has a temperate climate because of its plain topography more than its mountainous scenery.
      Lamphun’s slogan is : precious Lord Buddha’s relic, holy Phra Rod, tasty longan, good garlic, beautiful traditions and the heroine Chamma Dhevi of Sri Hariphunchai.
Getting to know Lamphun
             The quiet town of Lamphun, once capital of the Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai is 26 kilometres south of Chiang Mai, nowadays generally pro­moted as an enjoyable side trip from the northern capital. A combination of tranquil religious buildings and the story of Queen Chamadevi.
         The Lamphun Realm use to be the smallest city when compared to other nearby kingdoms; however, Lamphun was once famous as the most prosperous and oldest kingdom for at least 1,400 years among the upper part of the northern Lanna region.
           The foundations of Haripunchai Kingdom were laid at Lamphun by a group of Buddhist monks from Lopburi during the 9th century A.D.
                 These monks asked the Mon ruler of Lopburi to provide them with Chamadevi, a new queen with a strong character. She founded a dynasty which was to last until the mid-11th century, and established her capital, Lamphun, as an important cultural and religious centre. Today, her relics are preserved at Wat Phra That Haripunchai and Wat Chamadevi.
             According to legend, Chamadevi was a strikingly beautiful woman. When she had become pregnant before leaving Lopburi, her husband had apparently subsequently entered the monkhood and no sooner had she arrived in Lamphun than the local Lawa chieftain, King Luang Viranga, fell in love with her Viranga, attracted by the queen's beauty

 



















  

sent emissaries to Lamphun requesting her hand in marriage.     
              According to legend, the Lawa were a fierce nation of head-hunters. Chamadevi, the beautiful, pale­skinned representative of the Mon civilisation and Buddhism, could not tolerate the thought of marriage to the Lawa chieftain. Fortunately, at this stage she was still pregnant, so she sent a message to Viranga explain­ing that she would accept his suit only after her child had been born and weaned.
              ln the event, Chamadevi gave birth to twin sons, both "healthy and handsome". She named them Anantayot and Mahantayot. ln course of time, when they reached eight years of age, the wily queen still declined to wean them. Eventually, Viranga lost patience, and calling together his Lawa subjects he stormed Lamphun, determined to possess the object of his desire.
             The Lawa forces, managed to cross the defensive moats and climb the high walls of the city.
               At this point Chamadevi's twin sons appeared, riding an extraordi­nary elephant with blackish-purple skin and green tusks which rejoiced-not surprisingly-in the name of "Blackish-Purple". At the command of the twins, this prodigious beast forced back Viranga's elephant, causing the terrified animal to bolt through the northern gate. During this debacle, Viranga was caught between his elephant and the city wall, as a result of which his leg was broken. From that time forth, Lamphun's northern gate was renamed Pratu Chang Si, or "Elephant Crush Gate".
              Unfortunately for Chamadevi, "Blackish-Purple" soon died, and when news of this reached Viranga, he determined to renew his assault on Lamphun, ln a further attempt to fend off the Lawa chieftain, the queen requested a truce at which she promised to marry Viranga if he could throw a javelin from the top of Doi Pui to any place within the walls of Lamphun-a distance of about 30 kilometres. Viranga, "whose lust for the queen's beauty had grown stronger", readily agreed, and sum­-moning all his supernatural powers climbed to the summit of Doi Pui to try his skills.
               By the agreement worked out at the truce, Viranga was allowed three attempts to throw his javelin to Lamphun. On the first attempt, the Lawa chieftain hurled his javelin at the heart of the city, but it fell just short of the walls, creating a huge crater which filled with water and is today known today as Nong Sanao, or 'Javelin Swamp". 
              This amazing feat so terrified Chamadevi that she determined to sap Viranga's strength through trickery before he could make any more attempts.  Accordingly, whilst the Lawa chieftain was resting on Doi Pui in preparation for his second throw, Chamadevi sent him a gift of a hat she had made with her own hands. But the dignity and spiritual power of a man is particularly concentrated in his head. No sooner did Viranga see the hat than he rushed forward and proudly put it on his head. lmmediately his supernatural powers began to melt away.
              Defeated by Chamadevi's wiles, Viranga was laid to rest on the sum­mit of a nearby peak with his face towards Lamphun, so that even in death he would gaze towards his beloved. With him died the spirit of Lawa independence. And this ls the legend of Queen Chamadevi.
Mae Ping National Park 
             Close by the small town of Li in southern Lamphun and covering an area of over 1,000 square kilometres is the Mae Ping National Park. lts main feature is the Ping River, which flows through the forests in the park On both sides are fertile forested lands with many sheer cliffs providing beautiful natural scenery Parts of the Ping River spread out to form broad bodies of water with numerous small islands and rapids.
               "Ping River" is the reason why we call here Mae Ping National Park. ln truth, the Ping River runs on the western rim of the national park iso­lated itself out off Omkoi and Mae Tuen Wildlife Sanctuary on the right side of the river. As usual, when the river runs down from north to south, the right river bank is called “the right side”, while on the left is the "left side". Furthermore, the total area of the Mae Ping National Park fluctu­ates all year round, because when the water level rises up, its area increases. But when the water is low, the area decreases.
              The highest peak is Doi Huai Law at an elevation of 1,238 metres, most of the ranges within the park averaging 900 metres. Streams flow from the highlands into the Ping River. Dominant forest types are low­land mixed species deciduous and dry dipterocarp, but submontane broadleaved evergreen also exists.
              This conservation area has contained the best lowland forest that currently remains in the northern region More than 80 percent of the park's forest is considered as Deciduous, mixed or Dry dipterocarp, which nowadays is believed to be the best in Thailand. lts most beauti­ful character can be seen annually during the dry season from December-February, when strong low pressure from China sweeps down the country. All of Mae Ping forest will turn from green to a mighty sheet of brilliant red and yellow covering the mountains. This is its uniqueness that could not be found elsewhere. 
              The park is home to a wide vari­ety of wildlife, including civets, fishing cat, slow loris, lar gibbon, macaques and several species of squirrels. Much of this wildlife is found along the Ping River. A variety of freshwa­ter fish are present. The park is regarded as a key site for birds with lowland areas supporting a large number of deciduous forest species.
              Mae Ping National Park is con­nected to Doi Mon Chong and Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary of Chiang Mai, thus making it a wider and safer habitat for various kinds of wildlife Goral, one of Thailand's rare animals, is found roaming here. With special ability, unbelievable that goral can climb or run on the high and steep cliff as fast as on the flat land. Therefore, the Musor hilltribe had so-called this animal as "lmmu Kuchi" or meaning in Thai an angel's horses of the Ping River.
            The evergreen forest supports endangered species like rufous-throated partridge, purple cochoa and hornbills. The Burmese yuhina, recorded nowhere else in Thailand so far, is present, and there have been reports of comb duck. Other species found include the crested serpent eagle, collared falconet, green-billed malkoha, fork-tailed swift, lineated barbet, lndian roller, greater racket-tailed drongo and Richard's pipit.
              
A trip by raft or other types of boats through the upper reaches of the Ping River down to the Bhumibol Dam is perhaps the most popular reason for visiting the park. The jour­ney is spectacular, with high cliffs often found on both sides of the river which broadens greatly just before entering the reservoir.
               Visitors can travel from Doi Tao Reservoir, south of Chiang Mai, southwards down the river to the substation at Ban Ko, a trip of about two hours.
               Another river journey can be made from Sam Ngao, located 65 kilometres northwest of Tak, in a northerly, upriver direction to Ban Ko. This takes five to six hours.
                A major attraction of the park is the seven-level Ko Luang Waterfall, which is fed from lime streams. lt is just 20 kilometres from the park headquarters and accessible by road. Unusual stalactites and stalag­mites are to be found inside nearby limestone caves.
                ln the east of the park are the Thung Kik-Thung Nangu meadows, where wild animals may often be seen. One particularly scenic spot along the Ping River is Huai Tham, which can be reached by car and where guesthouses are planned. lt provides fine views of the Doi Tao Reservoir.
               Pha Dam-Pha Daeng, reachable only on foot, are high cliffs surround­ed by well-preserved forest with an impressive cave in the area. Another rewarding visit can be made to Yang Wi, a large cave with picturesque limestone formations and the home of numerous bats. Flashlights are need­ed since no natural light penetrates the cave. 
               Kaeng Ko Reservoir is distin­guished by magnificent scenery and many small islands. There is a park substation nearby from which boat trips can be arranged to a number of waterfalls, islands and cliffs.
                      Nam Tok Sam Si (Nam Tok means waterfall) Mae Ping National Park has at least : major waterfalls, that is Nam Tok Ko Luang, Nam Tok Tad Sador and Nam Tok Ko Noi All of these waterfalls are never dry all year because they originate from the fertile forest of Mae Ping.
                 Nam Tok Ko Noi is a very beau­tiful waterfall but quite difficult to reach because the road is still suit­able for only four-wheel-drive cars. Ko Noi is a high waterfall cliff as great as Ti Lo Su Waterfall in Tak province not far to the south. The streams run continuously from Ko Noi Waterfall, which are the most beautiful and popular tourist places.
                 Nam Tok Ko Luang is a high waterfall running down from the hilly slope in 7 levels before reaching the lowest step. The approximate height of the waterfall's cliff is about 20 metres, with a big emerald green pond, Calcite from the limestone melts down to the water, thus creat­ing an exotic limestone flow as a wide curtain on the rock cliff.
                 Mae Ping National Park's topog­raphy is composed with limestone as base rock, thus, the waterfall within this area is so-called "Nam Tok Sam Si" (or three-coloured waterfall). The water's colour in the pond changes season by season creating different colours. On early rainy season, the current will erode great quantities of sediment as orange-brown, but its colour dramatically changes to light blue in the late rainy season. Finally, when the dry season arrives, the water's colour will be emerald green.
                  Tham Yang We (Tham means cave) is a huge limestone cave with unusual stalactites and stalagmites. Because of the limestone range in which Yang We Cave is located, there are plenty of long stalactites hanging down from the cave's ceiling and many stalagmites emerging from the floor. Outside the cave is surrounded by tall pine trees known as "Pha Prabaht Yang We". ln addition, thou­sands of bats inhabit the cave and can be observed by flashlight .
                Park headquarters is at Tambon Mae Lan in Lamphun Province. This may be reached by Highway 106 to the district seat of Li, then turning to the Li-Ko route number 1087. The headquarters is on the left side between Kilometres 19 and 20. The ranger substation at Ban Ko is locat­ed 30 kilometres from headquarters.
             There are bungalows near the park headquarters, which is set in a forest of Siamese sal trees that is particularly beautiful when it changes colour in January and February. A camping site is also available along with rafts furnished with sleeping accommodation. Visitors wishing to stay overnight are recommended to contact park headquarters.
Exploring Lamphun Town
               The historic town of Lamphun is probably the oldest inhabited settle­ment in Thailand The ancient fortified city was founded, according to leg­end, in 660 A.D., almost six centuries before the nearby city of Chiang Mai, and 1,122 years before the Thai cap­ital was moved to Bangkok. Historians, who question the date given by the annals, fix the founding of the city in about 950 A.D.
               At the peak of its power and influence, Lamphun was better known as the capital of the Kingdom of Haripunchai, Established by Buddhist monks from Lopburi, under the leg­endary Queen Chamadevi, Haripunchai flourished as a centre of Mon culture and influence until its eventual conquest by King Mengrai of Lanna, in 1281 -long after the demise of the more southerly Mon Kingdom of Dvaravati.
                Today the quiet, provincial town of Lamphun, located 26 kilometres south of Chiang Mai, is generally vis­ited as an enjoyable and rewarding excursion from the northern capital.
                The traveller should head south along the old road-Highway 106.
               
From the Chiang Mai suburb of Nong Hoi south, for a distance of 12 kilo-metres as far as the Chiang Mai-Lamphun provincial boundary, the road is lined by lofty 30 metre high yang trees, interspersed with fruit orchards, farms and paddy fields. En-route of the road passes through the quiet village of Saraphi, renowned for its basketry and bamboo furniture products.
                Little remains of Lamphun's ancient city walls, though the heart of the Old City is still surrounded to the north, west and south by well-pre­served moats. To the east, the shal­low, slow-flowing waters of the River Kuang once provided protection in times of war, but now offer shady banks for a peaceful place to fish.
               Those interested in the history and layout of Lamphun should begin with a visit to the informative and well-maintained Provincial Museum. Here there are displays of various fine bronzes, stuccoes and terracot­tas from Mon times, including masks and carvings of figures with the fierce eyes and enigmatic grin which are the hallmark of Haripunchai art. 
               On the east side of lnthayongyot Road, stands the splendid Wat Phra That Haripunchai. This magnificent temple was founded in 1044 by King Athitayaraj of Haripunchai on the site of Chamadevi's royal palace.
               ln addition to an impressive but modern viharn (big chapel), built in 1925 and housing the important Phra Chao Thongtip Buddha image, the temple complex also includes the unusual stepped-pyramid Suwanna Chedi, dating from 1467, one of very few surviving examples of Dvaravati architecture. By any standards, Wat Phra That Haripunchai is a remark­able structure, to be treasured-like Kipling's "winking wonder", the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, Myanmar.
               One more important temple in Lamphun is Wat Chamadevi This temple lies on the western side of town, about one-and-a-half kilometres from the moats down the road to Sanpathong village.
               Wat Chamadevi is the site of the two oldest surviving monuments in Lamphun, both brick chedis decorat­ed with stucco figures of the Buddha, dating from 1218. The larger of the two, Chedi Suwan Chang Kot, is a stepped pyramid 21 metres high, thought to have been modelled on a similar pagoda in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.
               
At the southern end of lnthayongyot Road, near the banks of the encircling moat, may be seen the striking Queen Chamadevi Statue This remarkable ruler, who was instrumental in the spread of Buddhism and of Mon culture in the region more than one thousand years ago, is one of the heroines of Thai history. By all accounts she was both determined and ingenious, so it comes as no surprise that to this day the women of Lamphun are consid­ered strong-willed and proud because of her influence.
 
              When Chamadevi's great war elephant, Blacky Purple, eventually died it was buried with great honour beneath a chedi which still stands near Lamphun Railway Station Here, too, can be seen monuments to Chamadevi's swiftest horse her favourite cat and a special cockerel 'which crowed so loud and shrill that could clearly be heard as far as Lopburi'.
                
Blacky Purple's monument, known locally as Ku Chang, is the most impressive of these monuments. The tall black chedi and neighbour­ing shrine are cluttered with wooden, plaster and stone elephants of every size and description. Fresh bananas and sugar cane are brought for the spirit of Blacky Purple every morning, and the frequent visitors-predominant­ly local ladies-offer lao khao (white liquor), pigs' heads, candles, incense and yellow chrysanthemum flowers.
               The shrine is certainly highly ven­erated-some of the giant wooden ele­phants within are so covered in gar­lands that it's almost impossible to see what they are. The whole area is shaded by ancient lime trees, and on sunny days-which is much of the time-a pleasant, dappled light illu­mines the scene.
                A smaller, bell-shaped chedi set close behind Ku Chang marks the site of Ku Ma final resting-place of Chamadevi's swiftest steed. Though less venerated than the shrine of Blacky Purple, local people make offerings of wooden and ceramic horses which crowd around the base of the monument. Harder to find is Ku Meo, the cat chedi. Hidden away down an overgrown path in heavy undergrowth, it is completely broken down. ln its present state, little more exists than a pile of crumbling bricks, in urgent need of restoration. There can be no real comparison with Blacky Purple whose noble action saved both the queen and City of Lamphun.
                Finally, the visitor may care to seek out Ku Kai, the chicken chedi, dedicated to Chamadevi's cockerel. Like the cat shrine Ku Kai is in a state of poor repair, being little more than a pile of rust-red bricks, all trace of stucco gone, beside the temple walls of Wat Kai Kaeo-the Temple of the Crystal Cockerel. Golden cockerels with red tails are set in the temple walls above each window, and a much more recent cockerel statue guards the temple grounds.
Beyond Lamphun
              Twelve kilometres south of Lamphun further along Highway 106 en route to the small provincial towns of Li and Thoen the visitor will find the village of Pasang noted for its cotton weaving, lamyai orchards and lovely girls They certainly caught the attention of one former French ambassador, who noted that they are 'fair with wide almond eyes, slender and supple, providing many prize­winners for beauty contests'.
                A journey of a further nine kilo-metres leads to Wat Phra Phuttabaat Taak Pha, perhaps better known to aficionados of the Rambo movies as the temple where Sylvester Stallone was found in retreat at the beginning of the film "Rambo lll" The temple is characterised by a footprint said to have been left by the Buddha when he stopped to dry his clothes.