You can sleep in and be lazy. Your day trop to Lamphun, Chiang Mai's sister city, is merely 30 minutes drive from Chiang Mai, along a route traveled by both kings and invading conquerors. Away from the bustle of its big sister, a Lamphun afternoon is filled with small treasures endowed from centuries of everyday life.
Your guide and driver will collect you late in the morning for an afternoon of history, culture, and the simple charms of traditional upcountry life. Head south, following the grand, ancient avenue which connects Chiang Mai to Lamphun. This road is lined with majestic gum trees planted during the reign of King Rama V. Along the way you may wish to stop at some of the old shops along this route which feature woven basketry.
The oldest temple, and one of the North's most beautiful, is Wat Phra That Haripunchai. Built in the 11th century, it includes a chedi (stupa), crowned with a nine-tiered, sacred umbrella made from pure gold. Young monks, who go to school here, wander the grounds amidst a number of architectural treats. The nearby Lamphun National Museum is worth a look if open on the day you visit.
For lunch, we suggest the open-air Dao Kanong Lamphun restaurant and its special Northern-style sausage made with mint, lemongrass, garlic and ginger. (The waiters are especially charming, too!) Afterwards, make a brief stop at the old city wall where a statue of Lamphun's beloved Queen Chama Thewi receives floral offerings from her devotees.
Wat Kukut, originally erected in the 9th century, sits on a grassy lawn with a number of unique features in its garden compound, including Chedi Suwan Chang Kot with its five levels of stucco Buddhas.
You might want to end your day wandering through the local city market - always bustling with a unique variety of goods and foodstuffs. You will also spot a number of lovely old wooden buildings in the vicinity, harking back to a time gone by.