Villages surrounding Pai

Slow days, easy wanders

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What we say: 3 stars

Most of the surrounding villages are quite modern now, including the hill tribe ones, but some have pleasant Shan-style wats worth a peek. Wat Nam Hoo in Nam Hoo village northwest out of town is a picturesque one with an unusual Buddha statue.

If you follow the road through the village you'll reach the old KMT village of Santichong, which was settled in the 1950s by fleeing Republican army units taking refuge over the border after their defeat by Mao's communist forces. (A string of these villages loop across northern Thailand. US-backed Thailand was more than happy to accept these staunchly anti-communist and well-trained troops as extra protection for their northern frontier, even if it meant turning a blind eye to their opium activities used to fund themselves.) Even now it still has something of a South Chinese feel to it, with low Yunnanese-style houses scattered across a steep hillside, but it's a lot tamer than it was even only 20 or 25 years ago. That's when opium was still the mainstay of the village and old Chinese soldiers still wandered the streets in their old Republican uniforms, automatic rifles in hand. Today it's quite popular with Thai tourists, with a large tasting area for tea (which has replaced opium as an important crop) and a souvenir market at the village entrance.

Just past Santichong is a Lisu village. While many of the village women still wear traditional dress, the houses are much more Thai than Lisu. For any more authentic villages you're going to have to either head for Pang Mapha or walk a long way into the hills.

Last updated: 13th August, 2009

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