Some 30 km to the south of Chiang Mai lies the town of Lamphun; I have passed through before but never visited. Some of the larger Thai towns/ cities can be very ‘urban’ and filled with concrete monstrosities, but I found Lamphun to be quite a pleasant place.
As an extra: many of the overhead wires that dominate Thai cityscapes are buried in Lamphun – the mayors gift to the city – read here. I wish more towns would adopt this approach.
Riverside setting, moated old city and lots of temples – bit like a mini Chiang Mai, but much sleepier and more tranquil. Well worth a day trip, especially to see the main temple in the middle of town (Wat Phra That Hariphunchai), which features on the 1 Satang coin.
The market facing the main entrance is built on a bridge over the river, some local handicrafts in here – which are well priced.
There are 2 possible routes to Lamphun – via the Super Highway, or the old road. As the distance is not that great, out of rush hours there is not much time difference and the old road offers more views as you drive past paddy fields and lamyai orchards. The old road is lined with giant trees that must be a couple of hundred years old – at least… It makes for a pleasant and shaded drive.