Welcome to Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, and Ban Khun Chang Khian village, a Hmong tribe village located in the heart of the national park. In this blog we are going to look at a little of the history of the mountain, the people who live within the national park, activities in the park and what the residents do for employment.
The origins of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park date back to 1973 when the Royal Forest Department submitted a proposal that it be designated a National Park. In 1981 Doi Suthep-Pui became Thailand’s 24th National Park, encompassing approximately 261 square kilometers of territory.
The area forms part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range which stretches through several Thai provinces and includes Thailand’s tallest peak, Doi Inthanon at 2,565 metres tall. The highest point within Doi Suthep-Pui is 1685m which maintains a cool climate year round with average temperatures of 20-23 degrees °C. During the winter months of November – Jan the temperature can drop as low as 6 °C. The park consists of varying forest types, from evergreen forests at higher altitudes to deciduous forest, generally below 1000m. Whilst animal species have suffered from centuries of hunting, there are still species such as the common muntjac, boar and over 300 species of bird.
There are several Hmong tribe villages located within the park, notably Baan Hmong, Ban Khun Chang Khian which is featured in the video, and Mae Sa Mai. The Hmong people originally migrated from China and Myanmar to escape war and persecution and along with many other tribes such as Yao, Lahu, Lisu, Karen and Akha settled all over Northern Thailand including Doi Suthep-Pui.
During the 1950’s opium started becoming an important cash crop for the Hmong people, and fueled by the Vietnam war the demand grew quickly up into the 1970’s despite it becoming illegal to cultivate opium in 1959. The Hmong villages within Doi Suthep-Pui were at a geographic advantage as opium thrived at this higher altitude and traders would go direct to the villages to buy opium. The 1960’s was a period of turmoil with drug wars breaking out between various factions looking to control the opium trade, namely between the United Shan State Army of Khun Sa and the Chinese KMT army.
The turning point came in 1969 when his Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej visited the Hmong communities and initiated a project to help eradicate the production of opium and instead turn to other cash crops including fruit, vegetables, tea and coffee. This marked the start of the Royal Project, an initiative that can be seen all over Northern Thailand today and is considered one of his majesties lasting legacies.
Today Doi Suthep-Pui is very popular among tourists and locals with a wide variety of activities on offer. Many people take advantage of the wonderful scenery, forest trails and nature situated so close to Chiang Mai city. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most visited attraction within the park, which is said to have been founded in 1383. Other popular attractions are Bhuping palace and Huay Keaw waterfall as well as the Hmong villages mentioned above.