Palong Hill Tribe - History and Culture

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Palong hill tribe who live in Thailand came from Myanmar (Burma). The name Palong or Palaung originated in Burma. We will use the spelling “Palong” on this website as this is the word that Thai people in general use. Palong refers to Mon-Khmer-speaking peoples living in the mountains of Shan State and Southern Kachin State in Myanmar. Culturally and Linguistically, the Palong consist of three main groups: the Shwe, the Rumai, and the Pale. The Shwe people are also known as golden Palong or Ta-ang. The Pale people are known as Silver Palong or Di-ang. These two groups of Palong people identify themselves as Dara-ang. Our former partner Haute Culture Textile Tours, made this video for us:

Where do they live?

It is likely they originated in Southern China and later migrated to Myanmar. There are approximately 600,000 Palong living in Myanmar. Palong communities are present throughout Shan State and southern Kachin State. They live in Shan State from Namhkam in the north, near the Chinese border, to Muang Mit and Namhsan in the west, to Kalaw in the southwest, and the east Kengtung near the Thai border. The Palong who live in the north of Shan State’s mountain areas are called Shwe or Golden Palong by the Burmese and the Shan. A small number of Palong people, about 12,000, live in the Dehong region in Yunnan Province in southwestern China.

woman in traditional dress Palong Hill Tribe

The Palong Hill Tribe in Chiang Dao

Between 1982 and 1984, groups of Palong people crossed the border into Thailand. Points of entry were Doi Angkhang and Tachileik, amongst others. They escaped fighting between government forces and rebel armies. Some Palong were allowed to stay at the border, but other groups had to move to other areas. There are now Palong villages near Fang, Wawee, and Mae Sai (Chiang Rai province). The community on the border is called No Lae, on Doi Angkhang, about 175 km north of Chiang Mai.

In Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai province, there are now four Palong villages: Mae Chon, Pang Daeng Nai, Pang Daeng Nok, and Huay Pong. There are eight Dara-ang villages in Chiang Mai Province – No Lae, Huay Cha-nu, Huay Mak Liam villages in Fang; Mae Chon, Pang Daeng Nai, Pang Daeng Nok and Huay Pong in Chiang Dao; and Huay Sai Khaw in Mae Ai. The total Palong ethnic population in Thailand is approximately 4,500-5,000.

The Palong people in the Chiang Dao area are mostly Silver Palong. They call themselves Dara-Ang. The women are recognizable by the silver waistband.

Textiles of Palong people

Palong Language

The language of the Palong hill tribe is a Mon-Khmer language aka Austro-Asiatic. Here are some helpful sentences and words:

Good day

Thanks

What is your name?

Very delicious

Very beautiful

Where are you from?

How old are you?

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Saatoo

Hai moo dtuh

Sai mai djuh?

Haab sngai

Mai djee

Moo mae ta?

Asaa keymow?

thlee

aa

oei

m’phuan

m’phan

n’do

m’boo

n’daa

n’deem

guh

Ong lives in the Dara-ang village Mae Chon in Chiang Dao district, north of Chiang Mai. She teaches us counting from 1 to 10 in Dara-ang language.

The Palong Hill Tribe in Chiang Dao

Between 1982 and 1984, groups of Palong people crossed the border into Thailand. Points of entry were Doi Angkhang and Tachileik, amongst others. They escaped fighting between government forces and rebel armies. Some Palong were allowed to stay at the border, but other groups had to move to other areas. There are now Palong villages near Fang, Wawee, and Mae Sai (Chiang Rai province). The community on the border is called No Lae, on Doi Angkhang, about 175 km north of Chiang Mai.

In Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai province, there are now four Palong villages: Mae Chon, Pang Daeng Nai, Pang Daeng Nok, and Huay Pong. There are eight Dara-ang villages in Chiang Mai Province – No Lae, Huay Cha-nu, Huay Mak Liam villages in Fang; Mae Chon, Pang Daeng Nai, Pang Daeng Nok and Huay Pong in Chiang Dao; and Huay Sai Khaw in Mae Ai. The total Palong ethnic population in Thailand is approximately 4,500-5,000.

The Palong people in the Chiang Dao area are mostly Silver Palong. They call themselves Dara-Ang. The women are recognizable by the silver waistband.

Two Palong women Chiang Dao Palong Hill Tribe
Palong women Chiang Dao

Palong Hill Tribe Traditional Textiles

Many of the Palong women still wear traditional dress daily. Their clothing is very distinct and recognizable. The women are excellent weavers. For a couple of years, tourists have been visiting the Chiang Dao district to learn about traditional textiles. We have successfully organized several textiles tours in the past. We can arrange a weaving workshop in the village Mae Chon upon request. If you are interested, please contact us. We also offer a photography tour in which the traditional dress of the Palong people features.
Donna Bramhall of Haute Culture Textile Tours took these pictures for Green Trails. To enlarge, click on the image.

Chiang Dao Dara-Ang weaving project Tribal Textile Weaving Palong Hill Tribe
Dara-Ang weaving project

We support the local community

In the village Mae Chon local people sell souvenirs. Not all these souvenirs are made in the village. Local weavers produce beautiful textiles. We support the local weavers as much as possible. It not only generates some cash income but will also help the preservation of the traditional Palong textiles.

Three women in traditional dress and one man
Palong weavers and their textiles, Mae Chon, Chiang Dao district

Interesting book

We highly recommend this excellent book on the Palong hill tribe, their culture, their history, their migration to and settlement in Thailand: ‘The Palaung in Northern Thailand’. It is written by Michael C. Howard and Wattana Wattanapun and published by Silkworm Books in Chiang Mai (ISBN 974-88325-1-1).

Meet the Palong people on Green Trails tours

On these Green Trails tours you can meet the Palong people: