Fang

Fang

Odd name, great scenery

Fang is an unusual name for what is a pretty regular, though larger than average, provincial Chiang Mai town. It’s a busy commercial and administrative centre for the district of the same name, which covers a large chunk of paddy-filled valley and forest-clad hills in the far north of the province along the Burmese border.

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To the east lies Mae Ai, Tha Ton and Chiang Rai; to the south Chiang Dao and Phrao and to the north and west the high mountains of Doi Ang Khan and Doi Pha Hom Pok separate the Fang river valley from Burma’s Shan State. The scenery is awesome in the true sense of the word, while the town is fun and friendly, but at best just a trickle of foreign visitors stop by on their way up to Tha Ton.

Wat Jong Pen. : Mark Ord.
Wat Jong Pen. Photo: Mark Ord

The town dates to the mid seventh century, meaning it predates the Siamese arrival in what is now Thailand and was founded by a Lawa King, Changkarat. Lying in its wide fertile valley, Fang was a profitable little region. It was occupied by King Mengrai on his way south to conquer Haripunchai, today’s Lamphun, before he found Chiang Mai as his new capital.

There were once rumours, or perhaps wishful thinking on the part of its residents, of Fang becoming a province in its own right, but nothing seems to have come of that, so today it remains a large regional centre but with great tourist potential and well worth a stop. The town’s inhabitants are an eclectic mix of Shan, Northern Thai, Yunnanese Muslims and ex-Kuomintang, with surrounding hills home to Palaung, Akha, Lahu, Karen and Hmong ethnic minorities. In town you’ll see churches, mosques and Chinese temples as well as Buddhist wats.

Doi Pha Hom Pok - at a distance. : Mark Ord.
Doi Pha Hom Pok - at a distance. Photo: Mark Ord

And that unusual name? We heard it derives from a fang tree (Caesalpinia sappan), whose seed apparently resembles in shape the Fang Valley. (There ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 500 words.)

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