Photo: One wat one border post.

Wat Fa Wiang In

Our rating:

Though not an architecturally remarkable temple, Wat Fa Wiang In possesses significant historical significance and comes with an unusual and to our, knowledge unique feature—it could legitimately feature in either, or both, our Thailand or Burma coverage since the border literally runs right through the centre of it.

The small temple is located in the border hamlet of Lak Taeng, four kilometres north of the town of Piang Luang. To the north is Burma’s Shan State and to the west Mae Hong Son Province. Wiang Haeng lies some twenty kilometres south.

A base with a view. Photo taken in or around Wat Fa Wiang In, Wiang Haeng, Thailand by Mark Ord.

A base with a view. Photo: Mark Ord

Most of Wat Fa Wiang In, as you see it today, was constructed in the late 1960s when the village was chosen as the base for the Shan United Revolution Army who were fighting the Burmese military for autonomy under the leadership of General Mo Heng, (aka Zao Korn Zurng). A shrine to this great Shan hero, who died in 1991, lies on the hill above the temple overlooking Burma.

When Burmese government forces reached a peace deal with the Shan Army in 1996 (after their then boss, drug warlord Khun Sa, went into retirement), the area reverted to Burmese government control. As long as both sides of the border had been under de-facto administration of the Shan there wasn’t an issue. The Thais were always sympathetic to their ethnic cousins and the Burmese weren’t in a position to do anything about it but when the time came to mark out the legal frontier both governments realised that—according to earlier British/Siamese surveys—the actual border was found to go straight through the middle of the temple grounds. Well, it’s been that way ever since.

General Mo Heng’s tomb. Photo taken in or around Wat Fa Wiang In, Wiang Haeng, Thailand by Mark Ord.

General Mo Heng’s tomb. Photo: Mark Ord

The Thai half of the small temple complex is these days a popular local tourist destination while the off-limits Burmese part is principally an army base. The surrounding hills and scrub are mined so do not go off the paths! While the buildings aren’t the most attractive of Thai temples, the Shan-style chedi is impressive and the track up the hill past the temple proper leads to a viewpoint with a very good view of the Burmese temple (as well as their army’s defensive positions). From the viewpoint, and Thai army lookout, the track leading back down to the village takes you past a large seated Buddha overlooking tiny Lak Taeng village.

If you take the other way down to the village, behind the chedi, you pass by a local community weaving project which is worth a peek. Shan women, many recent refugees from over the border, use traditional wooden looms to weave Shan-style sarongs and scarves. The small village main street also has a shop selling the handicrafts as well as a couple of simple noodle shops.

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How to get there
Continue through Piang Luang on Route 1322 and Lak Taeng lies some four kilometres further north. The wat on a hill overlooking the village is hard to miss and the access road is signposted in English. There may be occasional songthaew buses travelling between the two villages—especially on market days—otherwise, if you don’t have transport you’ll have to negotiate with the moto-taxis next door to the Coke and Coffee restaurant in Piang Luang. Offering around 100-150 baht should suffice for the round trip.

Wat Fa Wiang In
4km north of Piang Luang
Admission: Free

Location map for Wat Fa Wiang In

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