Family Fun In Lamphun
We should have taken the scenic route to Lamphun, the old tree-lined highway that we’ve followed as far as Saraphi, marveling at the massive ribbon-wrapped trunks.
Route 106, the old highway, even sounds gentler and slightly classier than the Superhighway. Built for big rigs and fast cars, we felt exposed and vulnerable burning down the Superhighway, the engine of our Honda Click whining as we strained to reach 60 km/hr.
Still in our no-guidebook phase, we were pretty much lost before we got there. Luckily, our potterings delivered us to Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, which may or may not have been the one we were heading towards. Our plan was to wat, then have lunch by the river, then drive home.
But it turned into one of those magical days of exploration and wonder.
Miss M needed a bit of a gallop after a few days at home. The wat was the perfect place for her. There were the usual hordes of adoring baby-fans, steps to jump up and down, wide open spaces to run across …
… and temple flowers for her to steal.
(I love how Buddhists celebrate the boisterousness of children rather than shushing them. I remember a LOT of shushing went on when I was dragged to church as a child.)
I found the temple flowers just as fascinating as Miss M. I’d never seen this particular method of seeking merit before.
The requirement seems to be that you donate money to the temple (or to Buddha, I’m not really sure) through the temple flowers. The lovely old ladies who make them will give you a flower for free. You slide some money into the stem and use your flower to help form a money tree. (Boy, were my parents wrong about money trees. They do exist!)
What I found fascinating was that these beautiful flowers ….
… are made from cut-up advertising fliers!
Happy and hungry, we left the pilgrim-filled wat to find food.
Sitting in a shack by the river, I was once again amazed by the friendliness of Thai people, and their English language skills. Here we were in obscure Lamphun, and someone emerges from the kitchen to take our order AND the dishy man at the next table saunters over to recommend some Lamphun specialties – green papaya salad with spicy fish powder, sticky rice and honey-roasted chicken. Tt was a lovely feast, finished off with some syrupy sweet sun-warmed strawberries from a highway stall. (The Superhighway wasn’t all bad.)
Our excursion could have ended there and it would have been perfect. But somehow, between Miss M saluting a traffic policeman enjoying the river breeze and Darling Man finding a place to do a U-turn to get back to the highway, we decided we should drive around for a bit. Đi vòng vòng it’s called in Vietnamese, literally “go around”.
We found a playground, a fabulous multicoloured affair, vastly superior to the one sad and sorry playground in Chiang Mai. We found a convenient male toddler at the playground (who somehow happened to have a mother who spoke excellent English).
And across the road we found another fabulous temple, Wat Mahawan, where we spent a few hours oohing and ahhing and playing with the various small children who arrived with their parents in fancy cars to make a tribute in the temple.
And when we went back to the playground, we realised it was across the road from the market. And the market was next to the Nong Dok park, dedicated to the first ruler of Lamphun, Queen Chamthewi.
The park had statues and cats and flowers – something for everyone, really.
As the light faded, we finally set off for home, a floppy sleepy two-year-old wedged between us.
Lamphun, 23 kilometres from Chiang Mai, is a fabulous place for families. Just remember to take Route 106 (unless you have a strawberry craving and want to stop at a highway stall).
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