I like to travel, and I have always enjoyed off-the-beaten-track destinations. So, when the Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Tourism and Sports held the Chiang Mai International Adventures 2011 conference, I was happy to be a member of press invited on one of their jaunts.
Doi Pu Muen is a new eco style tourist attraction focused on local Lahu traditions and culture. A village located in the Pa Hom Pok mountain range in Mae Ai, Doi Pu Muen sits at the source of our very own Ping River, and is an area where Lahu people emigrated to from south Tibet 130 years ago.
The drive from Chiang Mai took us to Phumanee Lahu Home Hotel, in Fang town, it is also the contact point for the village, which is not exactly what we would call ‘connected’. We were then transferred from a van into a four-wheel truck and driven the half hour up the mountain to the village. Our local guides gave us a brief intro on the background of the area prior to departure, and we learnt of the area’s opium growing past. A village chief named Jafa, met His Majesty and was so inspired that he ordered the eradication of all opium plants and the cultivation of tea plantations, for which villagers have been reliant upon for many decades now.
The drive up the mountain was no picnic and it was a challenge to reach the 1,300 metre summit, with our four-wheel drive consistently shuddering and shaking as we blasted through mud and rock.
So why go?
Well, firstly because I was invited! But in all seriousness, this is an enchanting part of Thailand, and well worth the small trouble of getting there. Things here have not changed for years, and local customs are interesting to see, with villagers being welcoming and friendly. Once in the village, you will be invited to visit the tea plantations, take a trek into the jungle, frolic in a waterfall and generally spend time chatting to villagers. Those wishing to spend the night may do a home stay in one of the traditional Lahu houses and join the family in their evening meal and activities. The views from the peaks are nothing short of magnificent, and anyone with a bit of adventure in their soul will be impressed.
Though a slog, this is also a great destination for a day trip from Chiang Mai.
The drive? It is a fair drive to Mae Ai District, around 140 kilometres (2.30 hours) from Chiang Mai city to Fang, and 9 kilometres to get to the village. Four wheel drives are necessary during the rains, and advisable most times of the year, though in dry months a regular car or motorbike could make the schlep.
Homestay Information: Udomporn Tour organises tours here and claim to be eco friendly (053 204 718, 053 204 334) or stay at Phumanee Lahu Home Hotel in Fang (053 452 875-6), 350 and 600 baht per night. Contact the hotel to receive home stay information.