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Traditional life in Hmong Dui Pui

Hmong villagers welcome tourists

The Doi Pui Hmong Hilltribe Museum chronicles the life and customs of the Hmong people.

By Nopniwat Krailerg

Most people think of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep when they hear of Doi Suthep – Doi Pui National Park. Most visitors make the pilgrimage to the top of the mountain to worship at the Buddha image there wishing for prosperity and happiness. Doi Suthep overlooks Chiang Mai city but visitors would do well to travel on its winding roads to sample the beauties of the park and its residents.

Travel to the park is easy, either via car or motorcycle or even the red songthaew trucks parked in front of Chiang Mai University and Chiang Mai Zoo. The trip is only 30 minutes.

The village of Hmong Doi Pui lies nestled on Doi Pui with views over the valleys and peaks of Doi Suthep – Doi Pui National Park.

Most travelers make the royal residence of Bhubing Palace their next stop. HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej ordered construction of the beautiful building and its surrounding gardens in 1961. The palace is the Northern residence of the Royal Family and for visiting foreign dignitaries. The palace is open to visitors twice a day, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The gardens close at 4:30 p.m.

Further up winding mountain roads is the Hmong Doi Pui village, the 7 kilometer stretch of road is narrow and drivers must use caution, tourists can also take a red songthaew rom Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep to the village. Another interesting place to visit on the way is Baan Hmong Khun Chang Khian.

The handicrafts of the Hmong people include elaborately decorated caps.

The ride through the park shows the large pine forests that cover the mountains. Doi Pui is the highest mountain of Doi Suthep – Doi Pui National park and stands 1,658 meters above sea level. Popular with bird watchers with over 300 species of birds making this their home as well as many migratory birds that stopover in the winter. Lucky bird watchers may spot several rare species of birds.

Doi Suthep – Doi Pui National Park is the 24th national park of Thailand and is its peaks, which consist of Doi Pui, Doi Suthep and Doi Buakha make it an important watershed for Muang Chiang Mai and nearby districts. It’s cool climate, average minimum temperatures of 10 – 12 degrees Celsius, it is a major destination for city folk to get a real taste of mountain life.

The Hmong are known for their silverwork and beautiful textiles.

The entrance to Hmong Doi Pui Village is filled with numerous shops selling intricate Hmong crafts including silver, textiles and gemstones as well as locally grown season fruit, winter flowers and the famous oolong tea.

Next to the market is the Doi Pui Hill tribe Museum where visitors can understand the Hmong lifestyle. The destination at the top of the hill is a garden area, visitors need to pay a ten baht entrance fee to help maintain the beautiful exhibits of vegetables and flowers, including the opium poppy which used to be a mainstay of the economy of the hilltribe dwellers. In winter the area is filled with the pink blooms of the Wild Himalayan Cherry or the Sakura of Thailand. There is also a restaurant and coffee shop where visitors can enjoy the view of Doi Pui while sipping locally grown Arabica coffee.

The Chiang Mai Mail had the opportunity to talk with village elders at the Hmong Doi Pui Village. Yingyot Wangwanawat, former head of the village said, “From the past to the present, Hmong Doi Pui Village has been growing steadily, especially residential. Currently there are approximately 200 households, with a population of about 1,300 people. The main income of the villager comes from tourism but in the past this has been affected by the political situation. Villagers also have orchards, mainly lychee which is very popular but whose production is uneven from year to year.”

Yingyot noted, “The lifestyle of the village has not had many changes, villagers still hold on to their traditional culture by wearing traditional Hmong clothing during the important festivals. The children have adapted to both city culture and Hmong culture but often the elders live more traditionally.”

The village is committed to educating visitors on Hmong culture and customs; he noted that foreign tourists seem more interested in the cultural aspects while Thai tourists are more interested in nature. He said that the community is committed to keeping their traditions and culture alive and have a rule forbidding exploitation by tourists. He said that while some people do go and work and study in the city many come back after graduating to work in the village. He concluded, “All villagers work together to conserve and maintain Hmong culture and the traditional customs of their ancestors.”

The garden paths are popular with visitors enjoying the scenery and cool mountain air.

Doi Pui also has many blooming Thai Sakura trees making for beautiful views.

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Traditional life in Hmong Dui Pui