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Why Chiang Mai is big but Lamphun small

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In the past, Lamphun was a far greater kingdom than Chiang Mai. The kings of Lamphun had succeeded to the throne for many generations, while Chiang Mai was just a town newly-founded by a bunch of merchants and community leaders. However, Chiang Mai today is ten times bigger than Lamphun. Why is that?

The story has been told for countless generations that the kings of Chiang Mai and Lamphun one day discussed the sensitive question of the uncertain boundary between the two kingdoms. One of them suggested a clever way to define the appropriate borderline that would result in both cities have equal amounts of land. Since there were neither maps nor measuring instruments of any description, they agreed the best way to reach this equality of size was for the kings to travel from their capitals and accept that the point at which they met would be midway between them, and should therefore be the border. Having made the agreement, they then set a date on which this joint venture should be conducted.

On the morning in question, the King of Lamphun awoke early, was arrayed as splendidly as possible for the occasion, and having mounted his royal elephant, awaited the auspicious moment when the train of ruler, troops, pages and entertaining musicians should set out.

On the same morning, the King of Chiang Mai also woke early. Having dispensed with meals and all ceremony, his horse was brought out and - with a handful of trusted soldiers - off he and his party galloped just as fast as they could go.

Of course, having ridden until noon, it was the Chiang Mai royal party that had covered the greater amount of ground, surprising the Lamphun laggards with the inroads that had been made into what they had previously regarded as their territory. But an agreement is an agreement. Accepting that he'd been outsmarted in this battle without weapons, the Lamphun King dismounted from his elephant, put his seal to the border document that then became law, and turned back to the kingdom that had so suddenly been diminished.

Here then is the explanation as to why Lamphun - for all its greater seniority - is so much smaller than its neighbour...though whether this account is to be accepted as historical, the writer doesn't feel himself qualified to judge.

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