Name: Pratu Ma City Gate
Where: Lampang, Thailand
Location: 18.307546, 99.512408
What to do: Climb a restored section of old Lampang’s city wall.
Getting there: Bicycle or motorbike from the city center.
Northern Thailand is full of cities that coexisted hundreds of years ago with more famous cities of the country’s past, like Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, and Chiang Mai. The little-visited Lampang is one of these historic cities. And though obscure, the city and its defensive fortifications reinforced Lampang’s position as an important buffer at many points throughout its history.
The Story of Lampang’s Pratu Ma City Gate
The city that would become Lampang, historically known as Khelang Nakorn, was established in 680 CE (1223 BE). The city’s original name meant “conch-shaped city” after the city walls built on the banks of the Wang River, which resembled a conch-shell.
The city wall of Lampang’s old city developed in 3 stages. The first of these was no more than a raised earth mound surrounded by a ditch/moat. The mound walls measured 3 meters wide and 1.5 meters high and were bordered by a moat 3 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep. The second phase began during the reign of King Mengrai, when Lampang became a part of the rising Lanna Kingdom based in Chiang Mai on the early 1300s. At this time, the wall was expanded and brick reinforcements were added, although excavations show these to only be 1-2 bricks thick in most locations. During this time, this fortification measured 1.1 kilometer around, 13 meters wide, and 5 meters high.
The third and final phase of Khelang Nakorn’s (Lampang’s) city wall began in the mid 1400s CE, when the city stood as an important defensive outpost during a series of wars between the Lanna Kingdom and the Ayutthaya Kingdom to the south.
A little off to the side of the tiled area is a small shrine with a horse statue. This is fitting, since Pratu Ma translates to “Horse Gate”.
Visiting the Pratu Ma City Gate
What remains today of the Lampang city wall lies on the northeastern side of the city center on what would be considered the main road through the northern part of the town. On either side of the road were reconstructions of what the wall would’ve looked like at its prime, although likely a narrower width for the gate.
We drove here on a motorbike rented from our guesthouse, but a normal bicycle could suffice as well. On the interior side of the Pratu Ma Gate is a small and pleasant cafe. We parked here, as it is directly across the street from the stairs to the top of Pratu Ma wall’s defensive interior.
While I exited the gate via the swift roadside, my girlfriend remained inside and wandered up the stairs. On the outside of the gate, one can readily see the city moat extending in either direction, narrow though it is.
Atop the gate, there isn’t much to see. It’s obviously been reconstructed recently and the top walkway is tiled over to protect the wall itself. An oddity is two glass tiles spots on the southern section of the Pratu Ma gate. They are meant to make something historically significant visible, but they have become so cloudy that it’s impossible to see what is underneath them.
How to Get To Lampang’s Pratu Ma City Gate
When you’re on the north side of the Wang River, head a few blocks north. You’ll come to what is obviously a main road. This is Pratu Ma Road or Highway 1035. Turn right and head northeast. You’ll come to what is unmistakably an an old brick wall on either side of the road. This wall is Pratu Ma.
For a pleasant bonus, you turn right on the road just inside the city gate and ride alongside nearly a kilometer of the overgrown, ancient city wall. Occasionally piles of centuries-old bricks will be visible through the shrubbery. Look hard, they’re a treat to find.