In the 10th century, this part of Thailand belonged to the Hariphunchai empire whose seat was located near the modern town of Lamphun. The Hariphunchai kingdom was conquered by Lanna King Mangrai who relocated the capital to Wiang Kum Kam, beginning its construction around Early on, this decision was ill-fated. The site was prone to regular flooding. When a particularly severe flood changed the course of the Ping, Wiang Kum Kan, which had been located on one side of the river, found itself on the other. King Mangrai decided his capital would be better suited in what is now Chiang Mai.
While Wiang Kum Kam still thrived throughout the Lanna years, it declined after the Burmese conquered Chiang Mai in and was subsequently abandoned. Rediscovered in when authorities were informed that ancient tablets had been found at Wat Chang Kam, Wiang Kum Kam was slowly uncovered.
These discoveries included proof the area had been settled as far back as the 8th century. On the days we visited Chiang Mai for the Loy Krathong holiday celebrations, we were grateful to quickly return by tuk-tuk to a more leisurely pace. Escaping the chaos in favor of quiet tranquility takes only a few minutes. There are two worlds: the world of the tourist and the world of everyone else. Staying put in a location allows us to catch up on work projects and factor in unscripted time. Daily life here occurs amid the vestiges of a rich religious history. Every few minutes on the bike yielded archeological treasure, ranging in size from low brick foundations to fantastically preserved temple structures.
Next to our hotel was a bedecked, carved shrine to the memory of elephants who were trained on the grounds surrounding this tree:. We could quench our thirst with a dipper of cool water at vintage stations outside many a home, or even from a tiny glass left out in case a passerby might be in need. This is a cornerstone of traditional Lanna hospitality: kindness to neighbors and strangers alike. Wat Chedi Liam was built around during the Hariphunchai years, and was used during the early years of the Lanna empire. In , the buildings were part of a renovation done by a Burmese trader, and reflect the Burmese style.
The artisans who adorned this temple worked with stunning devotion. The buildings literally glitter from thousands of mirrored squares and jewel-like adornments. Other renovations were made in This is a thriving temple with a weekend market and other activities.
Other parts of the structure date to the 15th and 16th centuries. This temple features crouching elephants from which it derives its popular name. Sandstone plates were found here with three different alphabets dating between and This temple is located directly across from our hotel. These ladies are masters of their art. Proceeds go to the temple. Each day, the outside world beyond Wiang Kum Kam receded. Though there has not always been peace on this land, and though we were to find remnants of war and destruction not far away, this moment in time was calming and optimistic.
Even bustling Chiang Mai seemed perceptually distant. In the night before we closed our eyes in Wiang Kum Kam, we could happily think of waking the next morning and then drift asleep carefree. We felt part of this different world of temple ruins and simple living, knowing the day would arrive and begin exactly as it always did.
And good morning it was, all day, every day.
Wiang Kum Kam – The Ancient Lost City
This was a very satisfactory happiness. Stopping at the temple to deliver a gift of fruit on our last day in Thailand, we were beckoned by an oranged-robed monk to sit with him in prayer. The lost city is very much alive in everyone who is fortunate to stay, no matter how long, in Wiang Kum Kam.
Tips and Information: Our headquarters, the hotel De Wiangkumkam , is a family-owned and operated boutique guesthouse with 9 air-conditioned rooms, each with their own balcony or patio. Prices are low by western standards, including breakfast and complimentary airport transfer.
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Free transportation is available into Chiang Mai at your request. Find and read reviews of De Wiangkumkam hotel. We were so comfortable here that we extended our stay by several days. De Wiangkumkam serves complimentary breakfast, Thai or Western style, in its onsite restaurant. Lunch and dinner are available, too. We were welcomed into the gregarious Thai family at De Wiangkumkam and might have even shed a tear at the lovely send-off they gave us. Disclosure: Our final dinner at De Wiangkumkam was compliments of the house.
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All other expenses were on our dime. Please note there are affiliate links in this post. PassingThru is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon. Wiang Kum Kam sounds like a perfect alternative to staying in Chiang Mai itself.
I loved watching how your tuktuk driver kept passing on the left! Hi Rachel — My iPad camera malfunctioned during that tuk tuk ride and I failed to get the footage when she drove us in the right lane forcing oncoming traffic to swerve!
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Yes, we were relieved and laughed with her when she pulled into our hotel. OK, I might rethink Thailand. Hmmm…I may seriously think about Thailand now. Thanks for your post. I always enjoy the interesting background you share about the places you visit — and oh, those photos! Wiang Kum Kam sounds like a real gem for an authentic experience.
Hi Cathy — Yes, Chiang Mai could be a little too much for us. We are happy we chose to stay in Wiang Kum Kam instead. What a wonderful discovery, so different from the popular Thai destinations that you read about more often. Hi Karen — The people are amazing and the surroundings are peaceful and beautiful.
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David and I have never been especially interested in Thailand. The thought of Bangkok traffic gives us the shivers but Wiang Kum Kam sounds lovely. Hi Lyn — We thought Bangkok traffic was chaos until we went to Hanoi. The smiles fueled optimism for their ecstatic family members awaiting word outside the cave, the Bangkok Post reported. Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, the mother of Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, smiled and hugged her family. She said she was excited to cook her son a Thai fried omelet, his favorite food, when he emerges from the labyrinth.
More: US rescue team aids desperate search for Thailand soccer team. More: 'We must find the children today': Desperate cave search underway. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a statement of thanks to "all international units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team. The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and cooperation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery.