The Meo hill-tribe village is just over three kilometers (two miles) past the palace. Where the road forks, stay on the asphalt and go downhill with it. The village is commercial, but don’t weep. “Real” hill-tribe villages are scruffy, dusty and desperately poor. This one will show you all you want to see of hill-tribe life. The two museums in particular, displaying opium and hill-tribe artifacts and housed in earthen-floored, poorly lit huts, offer vivid impressions. The entry fee is 5 baht at each museum. Don’t pass the shops by. With one or two exceptions, those near the temple and palace are a waste of time. Here, however, you can find some lovely things, genuine hill-tribe handiwork and even some items from Burma. But bargain determinedly, or you’ll pay more than at the Night Bazaar in town.
To get about, best hire your own minibus. There is also a regular minibus service from the bottom of the mountain by the zoo. One-way fares are 30 baht to the temple and 50 baht to the palace. Back down it’s cheaper: 20 baht from the temple, 40 baht from the palace. Round trips to the hill-tribe village start from the palace at 40 baht a person, or 400 baht if you want the pick-up to yourself. If the Meo village on Doi Suthep inspires you to explore further, join an organized trek or sweet-talk your hotel staff, and see how many tribes they can drive you to see. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, but be prepared for long road trips and plenty of bone-shaking four-wheel-drive work in the hills.