Pushing on past Doi Suithep, going up over the top of the mountain, you will find yourself on an ever narrowing road that deteriorates to a bit of a pot-holed goat track before finally arriving at a small village that cascades dramatically down the hillsides, through a steep valley and up the other side.
This is the home of the White Meo hilltribe (also known as White Hmong), who were pushed out of south-west China and now occupy many of the high peaks and plateaus in northern Thailand.
There are many different hilltribe groups in northern Thailand who have moved here from China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and elsewhere, usually following conflict or persecution. They live a mostly agricultural, self-sufficient life but supplement their meagre incomes with tourism. Each tribe is different in its appearance, culture, dress and traditions.
While the White Meo hilltribe village is commercially oriented, because it’s close to Doi Suithep and so an easy extension of any tour there, it is still reasonably authentic and dramatic with its beautiful gardens, tiny walking trails wandering down into the steep gully below and cascades of water piped through bamboo.
The village itself is a development sponsored by the Thai royal family.
At the entrance there is a hilltribe market selling all kinds of handcrafts and trinkets, but be warned it is expensive. You can buy what’s here in the markets in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for considerable less, but I believe that at least if you buy here most of the money is going to the local tribe, not some commercial operator.
The White Meo hilltribe village is a nice way to complete a day trip to Doi Suithep.
Did you know you can stay at Doi Suithep? We didn’t find out about this until the 3rd or 4th visit to Chiang Mai and I wished we’d heard about it much earlier. Check out some of the great hotels and resorts up in the foothills of Doi Suithep: