7 Authentic Things to do in Chiang RaiNovember 22, 2019
Hill Tribe Villages in Chiang RaiFebruary 6, 2020
The Hmong sometimes called the ‘Meo’ are the second largest hill tribe group in Thailand making up approximately 17% of the total hilltribe population. There are an estimated 125,000 Hmong living in Thailand, which make it the second largest minority group (after the Karen).
The Hmong are spread out throughout Southeast Asia, and can be found in Southern China, Northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Hmong in Thailand
There are 3 types of Hmong in Thailand
– The Blue Hmong (also known as the Black Meo, Flowery Meo or Striped Meo)
– The White Hmong (Hmong Daw)
– The Gua M’ba Hmong (which literally means Armband Hmong, and who are subgroup of the White Hmong mostly living in refugee camps now)
The Hmong tend to locate in higher altitudes (1,000m above sea level). Of all the tribes the Hmong were the most heavily engaged in opium growing, but since this was outlawed in 1958 they mainly grow rice, corn and other crops now.
The hemp plant was abundant in areas, which the Hmong resided in historically. Therefore over the years they learnt how to make material from the plant, and so a lot of their traditional costume is made from hemp. They will decorate the hemp using batik methods and embroidering it which they are highly skilled and famed for. The Blue Hmong females wear pleated skirts made of hemp dyed with blue and white batik patterns. The women’s jackets are made of black cloth decorated with elaborate embroidery. The male’s clothes are also made of loose-fitting black material, with colourful embroidery on the jackets. In addition to colourful costumes, the Hmong wear silver for adornment and as a display of wealth. Today the Hmong mainly wear their traditional costumes on special occasions such as at New Year.
Hmong houses are easily identifiable, as they are built directly on the ground. Compared to other hill tribes such as the Karen, whose houses are on stilts. Traditionally the Hmong believe in household spirits and souls, and in each village there is a shaman to exorcise evil spirits away, and to treat sick villagers. Today many of the Hmong have been converted to Buddhism or Christianity, and may hold this religion alongside their animism traditions too. Their origins in China, mean that a lot of their beliefs and practices are the same as the Chinese, for example ancestral worship, and many elders read and write Chinese.
Hmong Villages in Chiang Mai
The most famous Hmong village in Chiang Mai is ‘Doi Pui’ located near Doi Suthep temple. This area has been widely promoted by tourism authorities, and so this village is quite touristic and there’s little to see in the way of real village life. Although the village mostly consists of souvenir stalls, these are an important source of income for villagers, therefore buying souvenirs from them, ensures they benefit directly from your visit. At the top of the village there’s a small museum showcasing various artefacts and information about the different hill tribe groups. There’s also a small manicured garden at the front, where you can rent traditional Hmong costumes to wear for a just-for-fun photo shoot. The entrance fee to Doi Pui village is 50THB per person.
The Hmong can also be found at ‘Baan Tong Luang’ Eco village , which is a demonstration village where you can see a variety of tribes (such as the Long neck, Palong and Karen).
There are plenty of ‘real’ Hmong villages scattered across northern Thailand, which exist and function independently from tourism, and which give you an insight into normal daily life for the Hmong. The Hmong can be found in Chiang Rai , Mae Hong Son and in the Sameong district of Chiang Mai.
Hmong Textile Market
There is a Hmong textile market is located in Warrorot (Kad Luang ) market in the centre of Chiang Mai. If you’re looking for Hmong textiles, or just have an interest in ethnic fabrics then you should definitely pay a visit to this market. The Hmong section consists of tarpaulin covered stalls which carry both new designs and vintage cloths. They sell everything from rolls of Hmong batik, hand-stitched quilts, wall hangings, bags and baby carriers. Some of these fabrics may be produced by Hmong women in Thailand, and some are shipped from China. Some are factory produced and some are handmade. Its a bit of a mish-mash, but guaranteed fun for lovers of ethnic textiles.
How to visit a Hmong village
If you are looking to visit a Hmong village, why not join us on our 1 Day Authentic Hill Tribe Tour , which visits authentic Hmong villages in the countryside of Chiang Mai. These are non-touristic villages, and will offer you an authentic glimpse into how the Hmong work and live. We often see the Hmong female elders sat in front of their homes embroidering colourful pieces of fabric. One of our favourites is a Hmong elder we visit, who is believed to be more than 100 years old ! Our longer multi-day tours also visit Hmong villages further afield such as in Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai . For more details contact us