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Blink and you’ll miss Wiang Haeng, one of Chiang Mai province’s remotest little towns. It lies in a fertile valley surrounded by rugged mountains close to the Burmese border. As the crow flies, it’s roughly half way between Chiang Dao and Pai, though until recently it was near inaccessible due to the absence of sealed roads. These days, there’s still only one tarmac-topped road, but a truly spectacular road it is too, winding through the limestone mountains, forest and ridges of Pha Daeng National Park.

Wiang Haeng is situated in the valley of the Taeng River and though it is the official district capital, it’s little more than an administrative centre for the neighbouring villages. The town is largely Shan and the surrounding hills Lisu. While Wiang Haeng itself has little in the way of tourist sights as such, the area is truly stunning and the journey there worth it alone.

Wiang Heng scenes. Photo taken in or around Wiang Haeng, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Wiang Heng scenes. Photo: Mark Ord

The town sees very few foreign visitors but does have acceptable accommodation and restaurants, and if you’re feeling adventurous it’s well worth the detour. When the Pai road is sealed, it’ll be a big boost for both Wiang Haeng commerce and tourism.

Wiang Haeng’s weekly market takes place on Thursdays and is located at the entrance to the town on the left as you roll into town. It’s a lively affair, but it starts early and finishes early, wrapping up soon after 09:00. There’s an inordinate amount of clothing and underwear stalls as well as the fruit, vegetable, herb and spice stalls plus plenty of Shan and Burmese products on sale. (Most nearby villagers grow their own fruit and veg but obviously don’t weave their own bras and T-shirts so… )

Just keep going. Photo taken in or around Wiang Haeng, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Just keep going. Photo: Mark Ord

There are usually lots of dressed up Lisu women in town, so it can be colourful and is certainly worth catching if you’re around on the right day. Piang Luang’s weekly market sets up on Saturdays at the entrance to the town on the east and runs at similar times, with similar stuff for sale.

A classic one street town, Wiang Haeng is laid out along Route 1322 as it makes its way from Mae Ja on the Chiang Dao/Arunothai road to Piang Luang on the border of Burma’s Shan State. The town lies in a bowl filled with paddy and bordered by forest-clad hills, while the Taeng River flows south of the town and highway on its way to meet the Ping near Mae Taeng town.

These days, as in many such tiny settlements, everything seems to revolve around the 24-hour convenience shop, so buses stop by the incongruous, air-con, brightly lit modern building; the market is just shy of it, and the post office just after, as you enter town.

Hard at work. Photo taken in or around Wiang Haeng, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Hard at work. Photo: Mark Ord

The large district hospital lies a short way further, on the opposite side of the road, and the main police station and district admin buildings are up a side street to the right. Noodle shops, coffee shops and the town’s best guesthouse are all located in this central stretch.

Route 1322 continues 15 kilometres north to Piang Luang – probably the area’s primary tourist destination – while a dirt track to the southwest leads 60 very rough kilometres to Pai.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Wiang Haeng.
 Read up on where to eat on Wiang Haeng.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Wiang Haeng.
 Read up on how to get to Wiang Haeng, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Wiang Haeng? Please read this.

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