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Wiang Kum Kam

Wiang Kum Kam

Wiang Kum Kam And Saraphi

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One of the most interesting and attractive day excursions to be made from Chiang Mai is to Wiang Kum Kam and Saraphi. It doesn't take long - half a day will comfortably suffice - and it isn't on the usual tourist itinerary. Yet it offers a fascinating combination of historical interest, natural beauty, local handicrafts and - that indispensable ingredient for an enjoyable day out - fine food.

The road to Saraphi leads south-east towards Lamphun. In days past this was the main thoroughfare from Chiang Mai Gate, in the southern wall of Chiang Mai Old City, to the picturesquely named "Elephant Crash Gate" in the northern wall of Lamphun. Today it is known as the "Old Lamphun Road" (Route 106) to distinguish it from the nearby Chiang Mai - Lamphun Superhighway. This latter is to be avoided unless great haste is required; the old road is slower, but far more attractive.

It's easy to know when the Old Lamphun Road begins. Just south of Kavila Barracks, near Chiang Mai Gymkhana Club, an avenue of yang trees appears. These tall, beautiful trees are about 150 years old, and 30 to 35 metres high. They are much venerated and carefully looked after. Most have an identifying number on a metal plaque, and are protected by a saffron ribbon blessed by the local Buddhist sangha. The numbering starts beyond Saraphi, on the boundary of Lamphun Province, and stops before Nong Hoi Market, by the Chiang Mai ring road, at around 1,000. In all, there must be over 1,200 trees. All are meticulously pruned, a process which requires a hair-raising ascent by the topiarist on a series of wooden pegs inserted in each trunk. The avenue, which is clearly visible from the air on the approach to Chiang Mai International Airport, provides shade, a haven for wildlife, and visual beauty. Yet it is unique in Thailand; why this should be remains a mystery.

At the northern end of the yang avenue, still within Chiang Mai, is the busy market district of Nong Hoi. The Wiang Kum Kam - Saraphi excursion really begins here, with a right turn at the busy intersection along Koh Klang Road. Here the traveller passes two well-known restaurants, Nang Nuan Seafood, and Le Coq d'Or, housed in the residence of the celebrated former British Consul to Chiang Mai. W.A.R. Wood, which specialises in French cuisine. Neither are cheap, but both can be recommended.

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Photos by Pictures From History - © CPA Media