Palong hill tribe – History and Culture

Palong woman weaving, Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai.
Palong woman weaving, Chiang Dao. Picture by Frans Betgem.

Origins of the Palong

The Palong hill tribe who live in Thailand came from Myanmar (Burma). It is likely they originated in Southern China and later migrated to Myanmar. The Palong in Thailand moved to Thailand from Myanmar in 1984 as refugees from the unrest in Myanmar.

Where do they live?

Most of the Palong hill tribe people live in Shan State and Northern Kachin State in Myanmar, in China and in Northern There are only a few Palong villages in Thailand, all of them in the northern part of Chiang Mai province. There are Palong villages near Chiang Dao and there is a Palong village on Doi Angkhang.

Green Trails Palong
Palong Dara Ang. Picture by Donna Wanderlust.


Culturally and linguistically the Palong hill tribe can be divided into three main groups: The Shwe and the Pale. The Shwe are also known as Golden Palong or Ta-ang. The Pale are known as the Silver Palong or Di-ang. Ta-ang and Di-ang are the names used by these two groups of Palong to identify themselves.


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


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

Palong hill tribe girls dancing, Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai.
Palong hill tribe girls dancing, Chiang Dao. Picture by Frans Betgem.

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).