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Wiang Kum Kam

Pu Pia Temple
The remains of Pu Pia temple.

In 1984, just outside the modern Chiang Mai metropolitan area, archaeologists uncovered the remains of an ancient city. Research concluded that this was the city of Wiang Kum Kam, one of many fortified cities built by King Mengrai as he consolidated his hold on the north. In fact, it appears that Mengrai may have lived at Wiang Kum Kam for a few years before Chiang Mai was constructed.

Nearly 20 temple sites have been uncovered in the area, which lies between the Ping river and the Lamphun highway, south of Mahidol Road. The buildings were buried under ground by years of flooding, which apparently is the reason Mengrai eventually moved his capital to Chiang Mai. In fact, the Ping river originally flowed along the north side of the town, but at some point during the Burmese occupation from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, the river changed course and now flows along the west side of the site. The change of course was apparently the final straw which caused the city to be largely abandoned for 300 years.

Pony Carriage
The small pony carriages that can take you around the ancient city.

The site is too large to cover on foot. The best way to see it is to start at the still working temple of Wat Chedi Liam, and tour the site by bicycle, tram or pony carriage. The nine main sites taken in on a typical tour are not greatly interesting compared to many of Thailand's ancient sites. What does make the trip worthwhile is the gentle pace and scenery of the countryside viewed from the back of a carriage or on a bicycle.

Khan Tom Temple
The square chedi of Khan Tom Temple.

Although most of the sites are not much more than platforms and ruined chedis, there are two working temples in the area that date from the city's heyday at the end of the thirteenth century. One is your logical starting point, Wat Chedi Liam. The other, more vibrant temple is Wat Khan Tom (also known as Wat Chang Kum), where in fact the spirit of King Mengrai is said to still reside.


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