In a nutshell
Lamphun is a small and quiet town in the Northern Thailand. The capital of the namesake province, it is located just 20 km south of Chiang Mai making it an easy day trip from there.
Why go to Lamphun
History buffs and lovers of ancient temples – do plan a visit to Lamphun. A charming provincial town of today used to play important role in the history of kingdoms which once ruled there. By some inexplicable reason, Lamphun is overlooked by almost all the western tourists visiting the North.
Lamphun is in fact one of the oldest towns in the country and several buildings, temples and monuments are still there to prove it. While walking around the old town, you’ll notice that two names are repeated constantly: Nakhon Hariphunchai, which is the first name of Lamphun (and this is how the old part of town is still referred to) and Chammathewi, which is the name of possibly one of the most revered women in Thailand, who was the first ruler of the town in the 7th century.
If you decide to stop in Lamphun for the night you’ll be rewarded with authentic Northern Thai food at low prices than in Chiang Mai, friendly locals and the relaxing atmosphere of a quiet river city with almost no tourists.
The province of Lamphun features a couple of interesting National Parks for nature lovers, one of which is conveniently located close to town and easily reachable via a short train ride.
When to go to Lamphun
The rainy season in the Northern Thailand runs from May to October but, besides August, when storms can be quite heavy and persistent, this wouldn’t stop us from visiting Lamphun if we were travelling in the northern part of the country during these months.
The best time of the year is the cool season from November to February, when walking around the old town will be more pleasant thanks to lower temperatures. It’s also a good time for a visit to Doi Khun Tan National Park, since the weather will make your treks a lot easier.
Many festivals take place in town all year round with our favourite being Lamphun Wine and Sausage Festival in the mid of January; no need to further explain our choice since the name says it all.
Where to stay in Lamphun
Large numbers of western tourists are unheard of in Lamphun hence accommodation options are somewhat limited. Yet Lamphun has a few solid digs in the low and mid-range budget (THB400 and up), but none, except for a unique room, aiming at people on a really tight budget (THB300). All these accommodations come in hotel-style buildings while fancy backpackers’ guesthouses with English speaking staff and western menus are non-existent.
You won’t find any budget accommodation within the old city walls, but all the addresses we listed in our accommodation can be reached via a short walk.
What we didn’t expect is the abundance (considering the size of the city and the very few visitors) of high budget solutions, some of which are still close to the city centre while others can be found farther away especially on the road to Chiang Mai.
Where to eat in Lamphun
Street vendors, noodle shops and night markets can be found in the old city and even if Lamphun is not the best place in Thailand for street food lovers, there’s enough choices for a quick lunch or a cheap and tasty dinner.
What Lamphun lacks in street food, it compensates with its traditional restaurants; and we can name Lamphun one of the best places to try traditional regional food, with quite a few restaurants offering authentic and delicious Northern Thai cuisine at lower prices than in Chiang Mai. If you’re looking for decent western food, the best piece of advice we can give you is to wait until the next destination.
How to get around Lamphun
The old town of Lamphun is surrounded by moats and what remains of the walls and can be easily covered on foot. Some of the most interesting temples in town are within a walking distance from there, too.
An easier way to visit the most important attractions of Lamphun is to hop on an electric bus that will take you to all of them for THB100. The downside is that you don’t have a lot of time to spend at every stop.
Motorbike taxies and rickshaws are ready to take you anywhere in town for roughly THB60. There are no motorbikes rentals in Lamphun while a few hotels will offer to you bicycles for THB50.
How to get to and from Lamphun
The train station is located 2 km north of town and motorbike taxies and rickshaws are always available to take you to your hotel or elsewhere in town. There are at least 5 train departures every day from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong railway station; skip the afternoon ones that will drop you in Lamphun in the middle of the night and choose between the morning (8:30am) or the overnight trains (7:35pm is the best choice). Rates start at a ridiculously low THB170 (third class, quite uncomfortable) and climb up to THB1500 for a first class AC sleeper. The trip takes around 11 hours.
From Lamphun you can hop onto a train to Chiang Mai, Lampang and Khun Tan (for Doi Khun Tan National Park).
The bus station is located just south of the old city and can be reached on foot. From Morchit Bus terminal in Bangkok several companies operate numerous daily departures to Lamphun, the majority of which head to Chiang Mai calling to Lamphun en route and thus they don’t even stop at the bus station in Lamphun but let the passengers get off the bus on the main road. An overnight journey will take almost 12 hours and tickets cost from THB500.
Many buses coming from Chiang Mai and heading to Isaan provinces will make a stop in Lamphun; check the schedule and prices at the bus station if your next destination is Khon Kaen, Udon Thani or Phitsanolok.
If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, a very convenient bus departs from the old city near the National Museum and will cost you just THB25.
Is Lamphun a safe place to visit?
Lamphun is a safe place to travel, possibly safer for western tourists than the rest of Thailand where driving a motorbike is the first cause of injuries; here there’s no way to rent one, so problem is solved.
Be careful at night while walking around the old city as there are a lot of stray dogs which can be quite intimidating sometimes, especially if you are alone. They’re usually harmless and if they get too close, use your voice to scare them away or pretend to pick up a rock from the ground.
There is a small hospital in town, but for any serious problem we would recommend you to head to Chiang Mai.