Located in attractive countryside about five kilometres south of Chiang Mai along the Ping River, Wiang Kum Kam is an ancient city dating back to the eighth-century Haripunchai Kingdom. Later on it served as the capital of the then Lanna Kingdom for a short while until Chiang Mai was chosen to replace it in 1296.
Expect to see many interesting items and structures such as stone tablets with Mon inscriptions, Buddhist sculptures and architecture, earthenware and pottery. Taking a horse-drawn carriage is a popular way to enjoy the ruins although some visitors prefer to take their time to appreciate this large site on foot or by rented bicycle.
Interested in this tour? Book it here.
A Short History – The Demise and Rebirth of Wiang Kum Kam
The demise of Wiang Kum Kam as the capital city is slightly different from those of other ancient capitals. Rather than being left in ruin, the city was completely submerged under the Ping River, which suddenly changed its course and swept the whole city under. Had it not been accidentally rediscovered (in 1984), the story of Wiang Kum Kum would just be a legend.
After a number of archaeological expeditions were carried out, experts unearthed extensive city foundations and more than 40 ancient structures within an area of 850 metres long and 600 metres wide. The Fine Arts Department has done restoration works on some of the structures whereas many are left in their original ruined state and others completely destroyed by the floods, leaving only traces of their previous existence.
Highlights – What to See in Wiang Kum Kam
The centrepiece at Wiang Kum Kam is Wat Chedi Liam (or Temple with an Angular-based Chedi). Widely depicted in postcards, the temple features a Burmese-style pavilion (restored in 1908 by a Burmese trader) and a five-tiered chedi set on a square base – the signature style of the early Lanna period. Each corner of the chedi is guarded by an outward-facing lion, an architectural feature that is unique to the Haripunchai style (today’s Lamphun).
Other important structures include Wat Chang Kham, containing the spirit house of King Mengrai (founder of the Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai kingdoms) and the Cultural and Local Wisdom Learning Centre which exhibits Lanna objects and traditional Lanna-style houses. It’s a good idea to drop by Wiang Kum Kam Information Centre, where excavated earthenware pottery and artifacts are displayed in the exhibit rooms.
Wiang Kum Kam
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
- Location: About 5 km southeast of the Old City
- Tel: +66 (0)53 277 322
- How to get there: Take Route 106, or Chiang Mai – Lamphun Highway, from Chiang Mai City