Lampang city is famous these days for ceramics, horse carts and its prestigious Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. Despite being a city of approximately 250,000, with good facilities and more than its fair share of tourist sites for a provincial Thai town, some of the residents seem to have a distinct feeling of underachievement. Indeed, some even say Lampang is cursed!
One legend relates how an early king of Lampang mistakenly executed an innocent goddess, Nan Suchada. Before dying, however, she cursed the city — so the city’s current provincial backwater status is all her fault. The city began life known as Kukut Tha Nakorn, or City of the Roosters, supposedly founded in the seventh century by the Mon queen, Cham Thewi from neighboring Haripunchai. The name was derived from a legend describing an upcoming visit by Buddha. The god Indra was worried that the locals would not wake up in time to give him alms, so he created a white rooster to crow at dawn. It has remained the city’s symbol ever since.
Lampang grew in the shadow of Lamphun. It was rebuilt in the 13th century by King Mengrai as a regional outpost to his new capital at Chiang Mai. After periods of Khmer and Burmese rule followed by incorporation into the Ayutthaya kingdom, the town had to wait until the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries to have its heyday when, as the centre of the hugely profitable teak industry, French and British entrepreneurs, Chinese and Burmese traders, American missionaries, plus Shan and Lao workers flocked here.
The city became the most important and cosmopolitan business and transportation point in the region. North Thailand’s first university was built here and the future looked rosy until, during the 1960s and 70s, new road links opened to Chiang Rai, Phayao and other towns, and the logging industry fell into decline. Lampang then once again fell under the shadow of Chiang Mai, by then firmly established as the kingdom’s northern capital at Lampang’s expense.
While not exactly a tourist hotspot, the laidback town is pleasant, with plenty to see for a day or two, plus some decent accommodation and several good eateries. The sizeable province meanwhile boasts extensive still-forested hills and is home to several national parks.