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Ancient Lamphun: The Enduring Kingdom of Hariphunchai

Archaeological travel guide to the ruins and ancient temples of Lamphun — capital of the Hariphunchai Kingdom and last of the Dvaravati.

Centuries before Chiang Mai’s famous Lanna Kingdom, northern Thailand was ruled by the Hariphunchai Kingdom, based in the modern town of Lamphun. This quiet provincial capital may not seem lively today, but its history goes back over 1000 years — with the legends of its earliest years taking on aspects of royal intrigue, pioneering frontiers, and wars with the locals. 

This frontier Dvaravati city of Hariphunchai would go on to outlast all of its sister cities in Central and Northeastern Thailand, which would eventually succumb to the ever-expanding Khmer Empire from Angkor in Cambodia. In their absence, Hariphunchai would continue flourishing for another 300 years. 

Welcome to Hariphunchai, the last of the Dvaravati Kingdoms.

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Ancient Lampang: The Hariphunchai City of Nakhon Khelang

Archaeological travel guide to the ruins and ancient temples of Lampang — a Hariphunchai Kingdom city later absorbed by the Thai Lanna Kingdom.

Lampang is a quaint, atmospheric town straddling the narrow Wang River. Unlike other Thai towns that run rampant with the iconic tuk-tuks, small, horse-drawn carriages are the staple of transportation here. For the rare tourists that do visit, whether the few Thai or even fewer foreign, the town provides a tangible tranquility with its local street markets and architecture bearing an authenticity not found in nearby Chiang Mai.

At the heart of Lampang is Nakhon Khelang, the ancient name of the walled city that fortified the Wang River Valley for the Dvaravati Hariphunchai Kingdom, and its successor, the Thai Lanna Kingdom. This city was not only an important buffer for both kingdoms, but served to project their power through what is now northern Thailand.

This important role meant that Lampang later eclipsed its parent city of  Hariphunchai (Lamphun) as the Lanna Kingdom moved the power center to Chiang Mai, although it later fell into a relative obscurity which helps it retain a historic feeling to this day.

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Cultural Profile: Dvaravati, Ancient Thailand’s Lost Civilization

A brief history of the Dvaravati, the first ancient civilization of ancient Thailand who built massive brick ruins and introduced Buddhism to the region.

During your travels throughout the remnants of ancient Thailand, there are some terms you’ll see often —Khmer Empire, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Lanna — and these are all massively influential cultures throughout the country’s history. However, a culture long pre-dating them laid the groundwork for the cultural amalgam that would become modern Thailand’s history: the Dvaravati civilization.

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