Monday, April 6, 2009

Golden Triangle, North Thailand

It is located at District of Chiang Saen(เชียงแสน), near town of Wiang Chiang Saen, not far from the border town of Mae Sai.

The Golden Triangle is one of the two Asia's most extensive opium producing area in Asia and the world since 1950's. The other area being in the area along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan,which is called Golden Crescent.

Golden Triangle is the area of 350,000 sq km that overlaps the mountains of 4 countries, namely Thailand, Laos, Burma(Myanmar) and Vietnam. Burma is the world second largest producer of illicit opium, after Afghanistan. Thailand had took great effort to stop opium planting, some of the poppy farmers had changed to other cash crops, like coffee, fruits, lye chee etc.

But the Golden Triangle that we went, was not the Golden triangle of opium producing area; but a tourist area also called Golden Triangle(金三角, สามเหลี่ยมทองคำ) by the industry. It is also called Sop Ruak. It is the place where river from Yunnan China (Mekong River)and Myanmar(Ruak River) met and the place covered Laos, Thailand, Myanmar. It is actually not four countries,but only 3 countries. But the river from Yunnan, China in the north, is flowing down to join the River Mekong, and Ruak River from Myanmar joined it at the place. So China is not bordering it, but boats and ferries can traveled from China to the Golden Triangle,that is why the tourist poster mentioned 4 countries.

You can traveled by boat to the coast of the three countries, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar; in Burma there is a casino; in Thailand there are restaurant, resort and Opium museum, and shopping area in Laos. The Thai side is more developed for tourism, they have all the facilities for tourists; the Myanmar is more focused on casino; the Laos is still under developed, merely business huts at Done Xao, selling tourist items. We took a river boat to cruise the Mekong River fromThailand side.

In the coast of Thailand there is one large sitting Buddha facing the river; there is also one giant cross that we can see from the river, it is from the church along the river. From far you can see the wording " God love you" in English as well as Chinese.

We only visited Laos, in Done Xao, it is mainly business operated from the huts. There are souvenir items, traditional clothes, local exotic wine which included cobra king wine, scorpion wine.....and that is the reason why the boat take us there.

The Opium museum located at Thailand is also called Hall of Opium. The museum attempt to educate the people about the history of Opium, poppy planting and opium production,the use of opium(medical and addiction), opium trade and even a section on how to smoke opium. It should be educational, but we do not have time to visit the hall, just take some photo at the place. We need to rush to Piang Lung, the border town in the Chiang Mai district.

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