Photo: Dawn views at Phu Chee Fah.

Pathang and Prathu Siam

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Mountain-top Pathang is the kind of sleepy village where dogs lie, (best let them), and kids skip, in the middle of the main street; well, during week days anyway! At the northern end of Phu Chee Fah, Pathang is the first settlement you reach after climbing up the 30 or so kilometres from Wiang Kaen and is actually another old Kuomintang village, so established in the early 60s. Being stuck on top of a mountain and founded by KMT – and being a smart arse – we did ask why they weren’t growing oolong but apparently fruit and veg are the main crops in these parts, along with a bit of coffee. (There are some old, full sized tea tees of the Assam variety, which are interesting if you can spot any.)

Sunset view. looking west from Pathang

Sunset view. looking west from Pathang

The village, atop a ridge, (Doi Pathang), has spectacular views and the even more dramatic Prathu Siam, (‘Gate of Siam’), is located a short walk from the village. Pathang’s few buildings are clustered around a T-junction with one bad and one good road heading down hill to meet the 1155 Wiang Kaen to Thoen, valley road and the 1093 continuing south along the slopes of the Doi Pha Mon Range to Phu Chee Fah and Rom Fah Thai village. Just as the 1093 leaves the village, before passing the Chill Chill and Pathang Hill resorts, is a recently made concrete road leading some 2 kilometres up the mountain to the entrance to Prathu Siam.

Doi Pathang

Doi Pathang

The excellent road continues a short distance past a row of souvenir and snack stalls to a car-park and the Chong Pha Khat viewpoint looking north while on your right a flight of steps leads you to the start of a dirt path taking you up to Prathu Siam itself. The former has a good ‘sea of fog’ view in winter months but misses vistas of Lao and the Mekong. The latter takes it’s name from a pair of limestone rocks with a gash between them – so resembling an open doorway – through which you can see magnificent views of the Mekong below and Lao opposite. The path is a narrow, dirt track around 450 metres long; not steep, but take a flashlight if you’re heading up for dawn since there’ll be far fewer fellow tourists than at Phu Chee Fah. 200 or 300 metres more takes you on to a second, higher summit – Hill 103 while the ‘Gate’ is on Hill 102.

’Gate of Siam’ with Laos and the Mekong beyond

‘Gate of Siam’ with Laos and the Mekong beyond

The view through the crack in the rocks has to be your best dawn option though, even here, during high season weekends, things can get busy. The path’s dotted with small azaleas – we’re not sure whether wild or planted – and leads on along the ridge past hill 103 if you want to make a longer walk of it. (These bleak, windswept cliffs had a strong feeling of Cornwall to us though you’re looking down on the Mekong rather than the English Channel.) Back down the steps the roadside stalls sell tea, preserved and dried fruit and other local produce plus drinks, coffees and snacks such as fried chicken and papaya salad are available.

The village and Wat Pathang

The village and Wat Pathang

In the village itself facilities are limited compared to busy Rom Fah Thai at Phu Chee Fah, but there is a grocery store, a coffee shop and a couple of restaurants, (one Thai and one Chinese/Yunnanese), in addition to a clutch of resorts – the best of which can be seen in our sleep section. Wat Pathang, at the western end of the village, is worth a peak and has fine views looking west into the valley below. Far less crowded, more authentic and with equally dramatic views Pathang makes for a good alternative – or complement – to more famous Phu Chee Fah.

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Location map for Pathang and Prathu Siam

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