Palong hill tribe – History and Culture

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 name these people are known under in Thailand. Palong refers to a group of Mon-Khmer speaking peoples living in the mountains of Shan State and Southern Kachin State in Myanmar. Culturally and Linguistically the Palong can be divided into three main groups: the Shwe, the Rumai and the Pale. The Shwe are also known as golden Palong or Ta-ang. The Pale are known as Silver Palong or Di-ang. These two groups of Palong people identify themselves as Ta-ang or Di-Ang. Not sure about the Rumai at the moment.

Palong woman in traditional dress in the Chiang Dao area
Palong woman in the Chiang Dao area

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 and about 12,000 in China. In Thailand there are about 2,000 Silver Palong living in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces. These numbers are based the book by Michael Howard, The Palaung in Northern Thailand, published in 2001. The Palong in Thailand moved to Thailand from Myanmar in 1984 as refugees from the unrest in Myanmar. The first group of Palong crossed the border into Thailand in 1982. They called themselves Dara-Ang. In 1984 they established a village and called it No Lae. It is located on top of  Doi Ang Khang, about 175 kms north of Chiang Mai. This first group numbered about 200 persons. There are now Palong villages near Chiang Dao , Fang, Wawee and Mae Sai (Chiang Rai province).

The Palong in Chiang Dao

The Palong in the Chiang Dao area call themselves Dara-Ang. They are Silver Palong.

Palong hill tribe girls dancing, Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai.
Palong dance near Chiang Dao

Language

The language of the Palong hill tribe belongs to the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic linguistic family. 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

Religion

In former times the Palong hill tribe people were animists. Many Palong have now converted to Buddhism.

Culture and lifestyle

Their main livelihood is the cultivation of tanatep, a large leaf to wrap Burmese cigars, and Tea. Besides tea, they also grow rice, beans, yams, sugar cane, hemp, chillis and other crops. The Palong hill tribe features in the Palong Experience.

Interesting links and books

We highly recommend this excellent book on the Palong, 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).

Palong women in the Chiang Dao area
Palong Tribal experience

Meet the Palong people on Green Trails tours

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

New
From: 3,200.00 ฿
New
From: 6,400.00 ฿
New
From: 7,800.00 ฿