Lamphun city is but a mere one hour easy drive from Chiang Mai and though many think there is not much of interest, you could not be more wrong in assuming that. A small little vibrant province, it offers much for a traveler to explore from beautiful temples to unusual crafts and food.
Recently, on the 2nd and 3rd of September, the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched an event called the Creative Lamphun Festival to showcase and introduce the many activities, crafts and food that is available in the province. The aim was to launch Lamphun as a creative city and province where tourism would be developed around the creative arts and food culture using especially the main fruit products the “Longan” which is grown in abundance in Lamphun.
The festival provided the media and travelers a glimpse into what one can look forward too when you visit this province. It was pleasantly surprising to see demonstrations of some of the various craftsmanship including how silk is made through a weaving demonstration. You could try your skills at weaving or you could admire and purchase some of the nicely woven products which is also on sale.
The visitors to the fair were also introduced to a new range of cuisine by specialist chefs using the local “Longan” fruit to produce traditional Thai dishes. The “Longan” fruit gave each dish a unique sweet flavor which you would not be able to find in other provinces. There were also several stalls showcasing the use of the fruit to produce a variety of goodies such as sweets, juices and more.
Live cooking demonstrations were available to show how various Thai snacks were made among some of which were the famous grilled bananas with a nice sweet caramel and the grilling of various skewered items like stuffed mushrooms, stuffed ladyfingers, locally made spiced sausages and more.
Travelers who would like to visit Lamphun will be spoilt for choice in the variety of local snacks here. Just like anywhere else in Thailand, snacking is a great past time. Lamphun being in the north of Thailand, has many food that differs from other regions. Their snacks can range from spicy to sweet and savory. The roll of sausage, also known as “Sai Uhua” is made from pork mostly with lots of spices and grilled over hot coals that provide that sweet pungent barbecue flavor, or even egg omelettes nixed with coriander, fish sauce and chilies then filled into banana leaf boats and grilled on hot coals. Sweet snacks are grilled unripe bananas served with a sweet thick coconut caramel or crispy rice wafers sprinkled with sweet coconut molasses.
Here at the festival, we also discovered that Lamphun province had a lot of small cottage industries that made a large variety of biscuits and cakes using again the now famous “Longan” fruit. This little brown shelled fruit which grows in bunches on trees has a variety of uses be it eaten as is, made into traditional dishes, dried as a snack, made into drinks, canned or even made into cakes, puddings and even biscuits and more.
Apart from food, Lamphun is also rich in the craft and fashion attractions. Silk and cotton are produced in this province, along with coconut based products. One can experience the making of coconut shell jewelry here or try your hand at making the owl bags which are very popular. A unique and diverse collection of silk and cotton clothing with accessories ranging from shoes to fashion accessories and bags can be found here.
A very unique item found in the northern regions is the signature blue cotton or silk fabric. This blue color is derived from the butterfly pea flower which has many uses and grown in abundance in the region. Some of the uses of this flower includes making a very healthy drink, provides a blue/indigo dye for fabrics, a food dye for the signature blue used in desserts such as the mango with sticky rice.
Cute handicraft souvenirs include the popular “Owl” bag which you can also try your hand in making at the demonstration booth. These handy little bags have become a rage in the bigger towns in Thailand, finding its way to cities like Bangkok and Pattaya where it is popular with the tourists. Other fun crafty items are the village dolls that mimic the various activities of the local Thai lifestyles.
If one wonders that since the festival is over and how would you get to go and experience these things, it is easier than you think. If you are really keen to discover more about Lamphun, there are also tours available from various tour agencies. However if you want a taste of the local lifestyle where you can learn or experience the creative lifestyle of the Lamphun peoples, I suggest that you may contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand northern region here for a list of places you can go and visit or check in here periodically for more Lamphun updates!