I recently re-visited the Doi Pui Hmong Village with some trepidation; on my first visit nearly 10 years ago I’d found it tacky and touristy, and had turned my nose up at a hill-tribe village with Visa stickers and a coach park. As it turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around.
This time it reminded me of some tourist village in Provence, perched on a hillside with windy stone alleys and stairs, tourist cafes and handicraft shops, with occasional glimpses of magnificent mountain vistas. Yes, they were selling a lot of tack, but they’re smart enough to sell tasteful items as well, and village vendors, despite their 35 years of mass tourism, were friendly and fun. (See here for some info on Hmong handicrafts.)
A small hill-tribe museum is well worth the 10 baht fee, which also includes entrance to some gardens where you can have your photo taken in front of their opium poppy plot in full Hmong regalia. (The village actually has 2 gardens with 2 poppy plots; one above the village and the other below. Both charge 10 baht but the upper one is better.) You can also fire a Hmong crossbow, have a cafe frappe in the car park or eat a basic lunch but we enjoyed exploring the maze of alleys, exchanging banter with the Hmong shopkeepers and picking up some very good value souvenirs.
Yes, a few older women wear genuine traditional dress, but don’t compare it to other hill-tribe villages or you probably won’t enjoy it –- compare it to the night bazaar and we think you’ll have fun.
It’s probably not worth going all the way from Chiang Mai just for the village, but a stop is well worth adding on to any Doi Suthep visit.
By Mark Ord.