Table of Contents
The Doi Pui Hmong Village on Doi Suthep
The Doi Pui Hmong Village is located in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The village’s total area is almost 11 sq km of forest, agricultural land, and residential area. According to locals, around 2,000 and 2,500 people live in this village. The Hmong are an ethnic minority that migrated to Thailand from China. Most of the people in this village belong to the Green Hmong sub-group. The Hmong people settled at this location in 1975 after the government forced them to move from another place higher up the mountain. According to Steve Elliott, the Hmong people founded the village in 1951. Over the years, the village has become a popular destination for local and international tourists.
Is the Doi Pui Hmong village worth a visit?
The Doi Pui Hmong village is located on Doi Suthep, not far from the summit of Doi Pui. Although there are fruit plantations and vegetable greenhouses around the village, most people make a living from tourism. There are many souvenir shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. Villagers have created flower gardens and other photo opportunities for visitors. You can try shooting a crossbow and dress up in traditional Hmong costumes. All this might disappoint visitors who expect an “authentic” village, but there is much more to this village than meets the eye. I hope I can make that clear in this article.
The Doi Pui Hmong Village still appears in many tourist itineraries as a “hilltribe” village. Many expect to visit a primitive village with bamboo and wooden huts inhabited by poor people in traditional dress. If you have that expectation, you will be in for a surprise. One traditional Hmong house is on display, but most other houses are constructed with concrete and bricks. Pictures of the early 1970s of the Hmong villages on Doi Suthep give a good impression of how these villages looked 50 years ago.
German volunteer Werner Roepke took the pictures below in another Hmong village Chang Khian on Doi Suthep in the early 1970s. The Doi Pui Hmong Village is now a relatively prosperous community. Most families own a pickup truck. the local people have Thai identity cards and have access to public health services. There is one primary school in the village.
The settlement of Hmong people on Doi Pui
I have found no evidence that the Hmong people settled on Doi Suthep and Doi Pui before World War Two. German botanist Dr Carl Curt Hosseus (1878 – 1950) set up camp on the mountain several time in 1904 and 1905 to conduct botanical research. In his book Through King Chulalongkorn’s Kingdom (1904-1906) he doesn’t mention the Hmong people. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) visited Doi Suthep in January 1927. Footage of that visit doesn’t show any presence of the Hmong on Doi Suthep.
The Hmong probably moved to the mountain some time after World War Two. Some Hmong people told me that these settlers came from the Doi Inthanon area. Local guide Yuth told me his parents were both born in a village on Doi Angkhang and moved to Doi Pui in the early 1960s. It is likely that there have been several waves of migration to the Doi Suthep-Doi Pui area. According to information in the museum, there was a “second wave” of migrants in the late 1950s of Hmong people and Yunnanese Chinese (Chin Haw). Among the latter, drug traders convinced the Hmong people to grow opium in the mountains.
The beginning of the Royal Project
The presence of the Hmong people started to create problems at the end of the 1950s. In 1958 the Thai government prohibited the cultivation of opium and the trade-in as well the use of the substance. The agricultural practices of the Hmong people also caused damage to the forest on the mountain, which is the watershed area of the lowlands. In the early 60s, the government extended the sealed road up the mountain to construct a Royal Palace, only about 4 km from the Hmong settlements.
During a stay at the palace, King Bhumibol visited Hmong settlements on foot and became aware of the problems on the mountain, such as deforestation, poverty, and opium production. It inspired him to establish the Royal Project in 1969 to solve these problems by promoting alternative crops. The Royal Project was the world’s first project to replace opium with legal crops, such as coffee, cucumber, tomatoes and so on.
Exploring Doi Pui Hmong Village
As said, several areas in and around the village have been developed for tourism. There are flower gardens and attractions such as a traditional rice pounder, an original Hmong house, and shops where you rent Hmong dresses for photo opportunities. You can shoot the crossbow and have your picture taken with dressed-up Hmong children. The traditional dress that is on display is exquisite.
I recommend spending several hours in this village and trying to meet some of the villagers. The people are very friendly and hospitable. The village has a very interesting history and its inhabitants live interesting lives. The scenery around this village is superb, and there are many great coffee shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to visit the Ban Hmong Doi Pui Museum.
The Ban Hmong Doi Pui Museum
In 1984 the local Hmong village leader Mr.Yingyot Wangwanawat established this museum on his land to preserve Hmong antiques and utensils for future generations. He was afraid that visitors would buy them and take them away. He started to collect items from villagers and used his funds to buy them and display them in this museum. The entrance fee is 10 THB per person.
The museum has suffered from a lack of visitors during the pandemic. Still, students from the Faculty of History of Chiang Mai University helped him improve the museum and added good English information in 2020. This museum is worth visiting and can only get better.
Hiking and trekking around the village
There is an extensive network of trails in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. One of the best trails is the Buddha’s Footprint Trail to the Pha Khlong viewpoint and the Mae Sa Valley. This is a long hike of about 18km. A much shorter and easier walk starts near the summit of Doi Pui and takes you back to the village. These are fantastic hikes with exciting history, beautiful forests and great views. Be careful: some of the trails are very steep, and it is easy to lose the way.
How to get there
The village is located at one end of the road that leads from Chiang Mai Zoo to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and onwards to the Bhubing Flower Garden. After this, the road becomes relatively narrow until you reach a crossroad. If you go right, you will eventually end up at the Hmong village Chiang Khian, but we go straight to Doi Pui Hmong Village. The road is unpleasantly narrow and winding: beware of vehicles coming from the village so honk at every blind corner.
On Huay Kaew road, close to the Chiang Mai Zoo, songtaews (red trucks) are parked, taking people up the mountain. The price is 60THB per person, but you will have to wait until enough people are interested. You might want to charter a songtaew, but that will costs probably 400THB one way.
The location of the Doi Pui Hmong Village
Sources for this article
Warong Wonglanka and Feng Han, Doi Suthep Mountain, the Living Heritage, Journal of World Heritage Studies, 2020, Special Issue.