Having spent a week and a bit back in Chiang Mai, the Wombats decided it was a good opportunity to take a trip to other local areas to see what was around.
Mrs Wombat did her research and we settled on a couple of destinations to investigate further, one of which we ruled out due to the fact that it would take a 4-5 hour mini van ride just to get there. We settled on Lamphun, a small town which is often overlooked by travellers, about 1/2 an hour from Chiang Mai. Mrs Wombat assured me it was a laid back town with many historical temples.
There are a number of modes of transport we could take to get there, there is the train which sparked my interest, but we discarded this idea mainly due to train timetables and getting to and from stations. We settled on a songthaew from Warorot Market.
A songthaew literally means "two rows" and is a passenger vehicle in Thailand and Laos, adapted from a pick-up or a larger truck and used as a share taxi or bus with two rows of seats.
We walked up to the market and found the blue songthaews, these have Chiang Mai-Lamphun on the door and are the only ones that travel this route. We decided to find the driver to verify that we have the right vehicle and confirm the price, he quoted 20 THB each, we climbed aboard and within a few minutes many other local travellers also got on, along with everything they have bought from the market, including their bags of fresh fruit and vegies.
Typically there is seating down each side, with room for 12 people in total and there are a couple of small stools on the floor for a couple of extras. You can also stand and hang off the back if you like, the fresh fumes, bugs, smoke and whatever else is in the air, can blow through your hair and over your face. Nice!!
We are now full, with 14 people on board and we are off. Of course we are the only westerners and we do get a few strange looks from time to time, we nod politely and occasionally speak a few english words to our fellow passengers. The trip starts off slowly, dropping off and picking up passengers as we go and before long we have left the city limits and our speed picks up. We only slow down to do the occasional drop off and pick up and we rattle our way through small towns and villages. If anyone wants to get off, they signal the driver and he will pull over. Hence it can be a lengthy trip.
About an hour down the track, we are on the outskirts of town. The driver pulls over to the side of the road and collects his fare from us. We suspect this is done to avoid missing out on some fares when he reaches his final destination as people scramble to get off. We paid our 20THB each and he drives on a little further and stops. At this point, half of the passengers get off and we wonder if we should too?? We were unsure whether this was the stop we needed, so we stayed on a little longer until everyone else gets off. We finally alight and he drives off, leaving us standing on the side of the road and wondering where to go from here, there are absolutely no tourists, nor are there any signs in English in this town.
As luck would have it we spotted a coffee shop across the road. It appears to have the only English language sign in town and simply says - “Coffee Shop”, so this is the place we head for and our overdue morning caffeine fix. The shop is air conditioned, the man brings us a menu and he speaks no English, but we pointed to what we would like and sat back. Our coffees arrive and they are not too bad, the shop is quite eclectic and it is cool, so we work out our plan for the day, pay the bill and head out towards the town area.
We wander through the town, through the grounds of a museum, stopping at a local Saturday market, buy some cold water and make our way to a large temple in the middle of town. Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is a Buddhist temple and its origins date from the 11th century, but the central Stupa in the grounds is thought to originate in the 9th century.
We spent the next couple of hours in the lovely grounds, watching the world go by, listening to the Monks chanting and the bells ringing as people walked around the golden Stupa. We walked around the gardens, visited the Buddhist Museum, took some photos and soaked up the day.
Time to move on, so we found a convenience store and bought a cold drink, whilst contemplating where and how to catch our ride back to Chiang Mai. We wandered the streets trying to agree on which street may be the one to catch our ride and before long we are flagging down a blue songthaew and climbing on board for the journey home. We picked up and dropped off a few passengers as we did on the journey here, the return trip is a little slower and before long we are once again jam packed with travellers, including 2 girls hanging off the back.
We trundled our way along the road through the towns and it felt like a typical Saturday afternoon and before long, we are back at the market where we started. We really enjoyed our day to this seldom visited town, it is always fun to travel like locals. It's only a short walk back to the hotel, where once again, the biggest decision we have to make, is what to have for dinner, just too many choices!!