Tradition & Tourism On The Hillside.
In the Doi Suthep national park, about 20-min drive further on after the temple, lies the tiny hill tribe village of Doi Pui. The population of this somewhat secluded, but absolutely magical place is Hmong, an ethnic group of about 150000 people in total, mainly living in the northern part of Thailand. The village is remote, but completely on the tourist map, which is definitely reflected in the designated entrance route, taking you through a long path of stalls and shops, selling everything from nuts and dried fruit, to pillowcases, handbags, clothes and jewelry (we were even offered a good price on ‘diamonds’ which certainly were beautiful, but probably fall under the category of ‘not all that shines….’ 😉 ). Prices were overall more than reasonable, and the handicraft so colourful and beautiful, that it was definitely a challenge to make it through there, without going shopping-berserk! Miss L did get herself a new day pack, which we had looked at in Chiang Mai as well, but at the double price – and I was happy to support this local community, rather than a shop in a city mall.
Once you’re about half way up the ‘marketplace’ you come to a small booth, where you have to pay 10THB to continue, as you’re now entering the part of the village where the gardens are, as well as the small museum that hosts a display of different traditional items as well as informative posters. On the way up, there was also this one, solitary funfair type of booth, where you could shoot a homemade crossbow aiming at papaya’s (I think it was). Absolutely fun and surprising thing to find!
After the museum, you can continue up a path through the gardens. There’s a cafe on top, with a nice deck to sit and enjoy a cup of locally grown coffee (excellent & organic btw) and of course, the absolutely amazing view. We spent a good hour or so there, sipping coffee, chatting and playing cards.
A Small Moment Outside Time.
Even if the local population doesn’t live ‘traditionally’ in the sense that they’re a commerce-based community with modern amenities (and virtually every seller appearing to be less than 50 years old would be on their smartphone watching youtube or netflix behind their counter), this was still a place of an incredible peaceful vibe. The entrance to the village is quite bustling and filled with motorbikes, cars and songthaews waiting to bring a load of visitors down the mountain again – but behind all this, lies a small haven of tranquility, that is definitely worth the visit. It’s quiet, the views are majestic, the people smiling and friendly and I promise you walked out of there feeling like you had just stepped in and out of time for a short while!
The Practical Info.
We did a combined visit with the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and had hired a red truck for the day from Chiang Mai. We left at 9.30 and came back at around 4pm. Cost of this was 1200THB. There are tour operators who have both places on their program, but it’s honestly just as easy to self-organise, so not worth the price of a tour package, imo. Aside from the cafe, there’s also a small restaurant at the top of the hill, so no worries if you forgot to pack lunch – you can get your fried rice or Pad Thai with a superb view as a bonus 🙂