Great trekking on Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep, the Temple on the Mountain
Our guide and driver will meet you at the hotel at 0800 for your “Trekking the Historic Opium Trail”. We will drive to Doi Suthep, the mountain dominating the landscape around Chiang Mai. “Doi” means “mountain” in the Northern Thai language. Doi Suthep and Doi Pui are the two peaks in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. This fantastic national park is also part of the core area of the Chiang Mai UNESCO World Heritage project. We recommend you turn off your phone and enjoy your digital detox today. First, we will visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, arguably the most famous temple of Chiang Mai, before the crowds arrive. Walk up the 300 steps up to the temple from where you have a majestic view over Chiang Mai.
Visit to Doi Pui Hmong Village
We continue to Doi Pui Village, a Hmong community, close to the top of Doi Pui. Most people here don’t wear their spectacular traditional dress on a daily basis but you will see some of it. Your guide will tell you about the turbulent history of the Hmong communities. In the past, the Hmong villages on Doi Suthep were involved in opium cultivation. Nowadays the Hmong village Doi Pui is a major tourist attraction on Doi Suthep. We will walk around the village before we meet our local Hmong guide who will accompany us on our hike to another Hmong community Baan Mae Sa Mai in the Mae Sa Valley.
Trekking with Local Hmong Guide
This hike through Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National park will take about 5-6 hours, including many stops to take pictures and enjoy the forest and views. The trail goes up and down but is never steep. Our Hmong guide will share his knowledge of the woods with us and will tell stories of the past. Both Hmong villages were located at a higher elevation until the Thai government forced them to move to their current location.
In the late 1960s the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IV, initiated a development program, known as The Royal Project, to alleviate poverty in the villages of the ethnic minorities. One of the aims was to eradicate the widespread opium cultivation and offer the minorities alternative cash crops. During our trek, we pass former opium fields and also fields of cabbage, bell pepper, and other alternative crops. The Hmong people on Doi Suthep are very grateful to their late king.
Forest Restoration on Doi Suthep
After a walk uphill we will arrive at an open area with fantastic views on both sides of the mountain. We will stop briefly to look at a footprint of Buddha before enjoying a picnic lunch at a scenic spot. We will continue through agricultural fields and the forest to the Baan Mae Sa Mai. During the walk, we will try to teach you a couple of words in the Hmong language: “Ngo shong” is the Hmong greeting. This village is the largest Hmong community in Northern Thailand and gets very few visitors, a marked contrast with Doi Pui Village.
At the small Hmong museum we will show you some of the amazing Hmong traditional dress. You can dress in these beautiful garments, if you wish, and be a “Hmong for a minute”. You will learn about an exciting project of FORRU, the forest restoration unit of Chiang Mai University. Over the past twenty years, the Baan Mae Sa Mai has worked with this institute to restore as much as possible the original forest on denuded, former poppy fields. Drive back to Chiang Mai. Your guide will drop you off at the hotel. Here your Doi Suthep trekking ends.