When Matt and I were in Chiang Mai, we jumped on the opportunity to take a tour to the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is where three countries meet: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. The Mekong and Ruak Rivers meet here creating the triangle where the three countries meet. This area is best known for the historical opium trade that occurred between these countries. The area got its name because the three countries met in a triangle and because each country has its own currency, they traded in gold.
Our tour offered a boat into ‘No Man’s Land’ an island in the rivers that’s technically part of Laos. We didn’t want to pay just to visit Laos for two hours. I think they said there is a casino there. Instead, Matt and I took the time to explore the area.
From this sign, you can look out to see the Golden Triangle.
The Deck Overlooking the Golden Triangle
When you arrive at the overlook point just over the rivers, you’ll find loads of statues, decor and more. In addition to the many large figures, the market filled with kitschy items and restaurants that line the river, there’s a large Buddha figure.
This large, gold Buddha looks down on the river.
Here you can see a little of the market along with some figures and the Big Buddha.
House of Opium (Museum)
Apparently, there are two opium museums in the area House of Opium and Hall of Opium. I’ve heard that the Hall of Opium is actually the better museum to visit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t within walking distance. So, we visited the House of Opium, which was still very informative.
Left: The exterior of the opium Museum // Right: Examples of dried opium pods.
212 Opium House had a lot of information about the spread of opium as a crop throughout the hill tribes in Thailand. In addition to opium knowledge of the hill tribes, it also talks about other aspects of the culture of the hill tribes in Chiang Rai Province. It’s very interesting to hear about this crop and its byproducts spread.
This is one legend from the Lua Tribe which tells the tale of how opium and tobacco came to them.
There were hundreds, if not thousands of different examples of opium pipes. Each of the three countries have their own style of pipes. In addition to the pipes, they have loads of examples of opium scales as well.
They showed the opium production, and one poster in the museum actually shows how to take opium and turn it into heroine. Serious. I mean, it’s just the chemical compounds, but still. I was a little surprised to see that. I think the only thing that was more surprising than that was this…
The kid corner at the Opium museum. There were toys and these very interesting coloring book pages of opium pods. We were seriously cracking up.
Some beautiful orchids just outside of the opium house.
Phra That Doi Pu Khao / Golden Triangle Overlook
This is actually a temple, but we couldn’t peel ourselves away from the overlook long enough to visit the temple – since we were limited on time because of our tour. To get to this temple/overlook you can either climb up loads of steps or take the road up. When you get to the top in addition to the overlook, you get to see the Big Buddha and there’s another super small market up there.
Seriously, isn’t this beautiful? Looking into Myanmar.
Just a quick look at No Man’s Land.
Left: The Big Buddha at the overlook // Right: Matt + me standing up there together
The Golden Triangle was an interesting visit. I have to say I wouldn’t call it a must-see for Thailand if you had to take a huge journey to get there. Getting to experience this was cool, but if it wasn’t part of a tour package or near where I was staying, I don’t think I would go out of my way to get up there. However, if you’re nearby or you can add it to a tour for the same price, I would check it out. It felt a little bit like ticking something off of a list because there doesn’t feel like there’s much of a culture to dig deeper into.
Have you visited the Golden Triangle? Did you find a richer culture than I did? Did it just feel surface-level to me because I was on a tour?
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