Lampang Off The Beaten Path

  • Wat Lai Hin, Lampang, Thailand.
    Wat Lai Hin, Lampang, Thailand.
    by planxty
  • Elephant at work, TECC, near Lampang, Thailand.
    Elephant at work, TECC, near Lampang,...
    by planxty
  • Elephant with prosthetic, FAE, Lampang, Thailand.
    Elephant with prosthetic, FAE, Lampang,...
    by planxty

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Lampang

  • planxty's Profile Photo

    A proper charity and a wonderful place.

    by planxty Updated Jul 8, 2012

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    Elephant with prosthetic, FAE, Lampang, Thailand.

    I have put this tip in the "off the beaten path" section prely because it is at some distance from Lampang, although the path is very well beaten with travellers and Thais alike.

    FAE Elephant Hospital

    I sincerely hope the reader is reading this in conjunction with my Thai Elephant Conservation Centre tip, and will draw their own conclusions.

    In the interests of balance, again I will let an excerpt from my blog explain.

    "[After the TECC], back onto the scooter, having thoroughly enjoyed myself, and it is here that the story becomes incredibly happy, sad and confusing all in about equal measure. I took myself to the elephant hospital which, in contrast to the TECC was deserted. For most of the time there I was on my own. The Elephant Hospital was started in 1993 by a lady called Soraida Salwala who was concerned at the plight of the elephants in the region and their sometimes appalling conditions. For the full story go to Elephant Hospital. At first she was met with scepticism, the comment being "Why care for sick elephants when we have not enough hospitals for sick people" but she persevered. The result is quite amazing but the things I learnt there are disturbing in the extreme. I know this will sound incredible to you but this woman has received numerous credible death threats over the years for her work. Allow me to explain as best I understand it for I am not sure I do.

    Elephants are routinely abused involved in the illegal lumber trade mostly in Burma, Lao and far Northern Thailand as well as being used for drug smuggling in places where they are the only creatures that can operate. These illegal trades are controlled by big business and, inevitably, politicians. Annoyed by the profile she was giving the elephants, they decided to try and frighten her off. There are documented instances of the workers from the nearby TECC where I had just had such a good time hassling her from such petty things as obscuring or removing her signs to setting forest fires near her hospital and physically threatening her staff. Can you imagine the consequences of a forest fire in this tinder dry place with sick elephants panicking and stampeding? They don't bear thinking about. I am really at a loss to understand it.

    The work however continues, supported largely from Europe, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation being a large contributor. And what work it is. If I have mastered the technology, you should see on your screen now the mind-boggling sight of an elephant with a prosthetic leg. Really, can you imagine such a thing? Her name is Motala, a beautiful creature who lost a leg to a landmine whilst illegal logging. That is another evil that must be eradicated from the world, landmines. Don't get me started on that one, and it shames me to say that the UK was one of the largest producers of the vile things for years. Motala is arguably the most famous elephant in the world now having appeared in countless documentaries and I have to report she looks remarkably happy wandering about her paddock. Actually, she features in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of vets involved in one operation during which they used enough anaesthetic to knock out 70 humans.

    Another patient here is lovely little Mosha, a baby female who similarly lost a leg to a landmine. She is in an enclosure and seems totally unaffected by her hideous injury. Having visited this place and read about the terrible actions of the staff from the TECC, who are supposed to be elephant lovers, I am not sure that I would have visited the TECC at all, and given the entrance money to the hospital instead. Sure there is no show and I would not have seen the wonderful SriSiam in action with a brush but I think it might have done more good.

    I do not wish to be controversial with this, and I shall leave the reader to make their own decision as to what to do.

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Eco-Tourism

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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    A slightly soured experience.

    by planxty Written Jan 15, 2010

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    Elephant at work, TECC, near Lampang, Thailand.

    I have put this tip in the "off the beaten path" section prely because it is at some distance from Lampang, although the path is very well beaten with travellers and Thais alike.

    I do not like to make, broadly speaking, political comments on VT and I know the website rightly bans them. This is a travel website not a political forum. However, in the boradest sense of the term "political" I have to make comment here. You need to read this tip in conjunction with my tip on the FAE Elephant Hospital nearby for all this to make sense. Like most people, I love elephants. An evolutionary quirk, they are hugely intelligent (as I shall show) and, despite their huge physical size, the gentlest of creatures except in extreme circumstances.

    On reading of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre near Lampang (about 35 km. distant) I set off on my trusty little scooter to visit. I shall allow an entry from my blog to describe the scene.

    "A very interesting day out is the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC) which I scootered to. I was slightly confused to see signs pointing one way for the TECC and other signs pointing the other way on the same track to the Elephant Hospital which all very clearly stated they were nothing to do with the TECC. More of this later. I bought my entrance ticket and was then transported in a bus to the area where the elephant bathing and show were to take place. The bus was packed, predominantly with Thai primary school kids and their teachers. I was sitting beside a middle aged man, a teacher as it transpired. First, at his insistence, I was treated to a song and then had to conduct an impromptu English lesson along the "Hello, how are you, my name is Fergy" variety, great fun.

    We arrived at the large pool, small lake really, and were treated to the display of elephant bathing. It took me back to when I had done the same thing in Nepal some years ago. After that, a short walk to the "arena" for the show. I am always a little uneasy about performing animals. I certainly do not like dolphin shows as I do not think they should be in captivity at all. However, there are very few wild elephants in Asia and much of the show involved the skills they employ when working, mostly in the lumber industry. The TECC, a Government run organisation, also runs conservation programmes and even an artificial insemination operation. In fact, the smallest elephant, a lovely little thing of just under three years, is somewhat frankly named A.I. Boy. Work it out yourself.

    The show itself lasts about 45 minutes and is really great fun. Apart from all the mounting, dismounting, picking up the mahouts stick and the pushing, pulling and piling of logs I spoke about there is a really fascinating display which involves elephants painting, I kid you not. The mahout gives them a brush in the trunk and these huge lumbering beasts are so intelligent they manage to draw pictures. There were three elephants involved in this and two of them produced creditable depictions of elephants under trees with rainbows etc. It was the third beast, a seven year old male named SriSiam that really got my attention. He does abstracts and they really are, to my untutored eye, very good. My artist friend Dino dragged me to the Tate Modern in London a few months ago and I am tellng you that the things produced by this elephant are vastly superior aesthetically to most of the garbage (in some cases literally) displayed there. I would dearly have loved to buy one of his works which are on display but carrying it even in a protective case would have been too much of a hassle.

    Back to the carpark in the bus and I needed to use the loo. There is another elephant stable there (is stable the right word?) and when I emerged from the facilities it was to the sight of an elephant doing, well doing the same thing. They have trained them to defeacate in a specific concrete structure bearing the rather prosaic legend "Elephant Dung". Bearing in mind an adult animal eats up to 250 kilos of food a day, it was quite some pile!"

    This is what I wrote in my blog, and I had been led to believe TECC was a Governmant organisation but it's website, as shown has a .com suffix rather than a.gov.th, so I wonder. Certainly an enjoyable day but please read my FAE Elephant Hospital tip for the full story.

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Zoo

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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    A road less travelled.

    by planxty Written Jan 15, 2010
    Wat Lai Hin, Lampang, Thailand.

    If you are going to visit the very impressive and nearby Wat Phra That Lampang Luang under your own steam or indeed by private vehicle (hired taxi or the like), you may want to consider a slight detour to the very attractive Wat Lai Hin, a very attreactive temple complex. It is obvious that this place attracts few Western travellers as the looks I got from the locals when parking my scooter up were, frankly, incredulous. On entering the complex, I had a brief look round and the place appeared entirely deserted, although I eventually located an elderly monk sitting alne. He seemed to be the only person about the place. I greeted him respectfuly and enquired by means of mime etc. if I could take photos to which he answered, quite brusquely, in the negative. The photo I have here, therefore, is one I had taken outside before entering. Perhaps the old man was just having a bad day or had misunderstood my request, thinking I wanted to photograph him, but I obviously respected his instructions. I did find them slightly odd as apparently the complex was the set for a very large budget Thai film called Suriyothai in 2001, so the concept of being camera shy is a little odd.

    Unfortunately, none of the actual buildings was open but the exteriors were well worth visiting

    For the historically minded amongst you, the wat was begun in 1683 and is in the Lanna (Northenr Thai) style. It was founded by a Prince from Keng Tung in Burma, and, like several other Lanna temples, is reputed to have been founded on the site where an elephant stopped whilst carrying a sacred relic.

    If you are following the road to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, there is a small road, in good repair, to the left about 1km before it. Follow that for 6km and you will be there, it is on the right and very obvious.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    Out of town but worth a visit.

    by planxty Written Jan 13, 2010

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    Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, Lampang, Thailand.

    One of the major attractions in the area of Lampang is the temple complex of Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. It is a place of huge religious and historical significance to the Thais, and includes what is believed to be the oldest standing wooden structure in the country, the Wihan Luang. There are numerous other interesting structures in the complex, and when I visited Thais outnumbered tourists by a considerable margin. There were various school groups and tour parties in evidence. If you are making your own way as I did on a scooter (an easy ride) the carpark is on the left of the complex as you look at the front of it.

    Even as you enter the complex, you are steeped in history, as the gateway is believed to date from the 15th century. Walking up the few steps you are propelled into a veritable smorsgabord of history and religion, it is instantly impressive.

    One of the more interesting buildings here is the Haw Phra Phuttabaht, a small structure. You ascend a fairly steep set of steps, duck into a very small door and you are treated to a view of the main wat projected, camera obscura style, onto a white bedsheet. It is simple but effective given the sunlight the day I visited. For reasons I never managed to ascertain, only men are allowed into this particular building.

    Another building of note is the Wihan Nam Taem, to the North of the main chedi, which has some very fine murals, believed to be amongst the oldest extant in Thailand and dating from the 16th century.

    If you make your way out of the Southern gate (the one on the left side of the complex as you enter the front) there are several other small wats and a museum, although this was closed the day I visited and looked like it had been for a while. Another small wat here is called the "House of the Emerald Buddha" and it serves as a sort of museum with a selection of old banknotes and coins, and various historical artefacts from the region.

    Although I am not particularly fond of the phrase, I would have to say this is a "must see" for any visitor to the city.

    There is another local custom here which I had not seen before. Much is made in Buddhist thinking about giving donations for the upkeep of temples, building new ones etc. and in many places I have had my name painted on walls or noticeboards as having given a donation. It is slightly contrary to the European way, where many benfactors to the Church like to remain anonymous. There is a slight twist on the theme here. They have laid out on trestles longish tree branches, stripped of bark, and for a donation (not necessarily much by Western standards)much) you write your name on one of them with the provided felt tip pen. I was somewhat confused as to what the branches were used for, but when I went outside the main complex it appears they are used to hold up the sagging branches of the very old and sacred Bo trees. A very practical way of "supporting" the religion, I thought.

    Near the town of Ko Kha approximately 18 km. Southwest of Lampang. I went there under my own steam although you can hire a taxi from Lampang or go by public transport fairly inexpensively.

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel

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