Golden Triangle – Border of Thailand, Myanmar & Laos

  • History of the “Golden Triangle”
  • Getting into Chiang Rai
  • Journey to “Golden Triangle”
  • “Golden Triangle”

History of the Golden Triangle

The triangle area shown in the map indicates a dense poppy cultivation area of three countries, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. The area covers more than 100,000 square kilometers of mountainous areas reassembling a triangle. The center of the area is at the boundaries of three countries where two rivers, the Mae Khong and Ruak, meet. In Thailand the tri-boundary area is at Ban Sob Ruak, Tambon Wiang, Amphoe Chiang Sean, Chiang Rai Province. In Myanmar it is at Ban Pak He Tambon Muang Pong, Amphoe Tha Khi Lek, Heng Tung Province and in Laos at Ban Kwan, Muang Ton Phueng, Khwang Bo Keaw.

The golden triangle owes its name to the opium traders of the area. Opium is an extremely expensive narcotic analgesic drug and thus is known as the “Black Gold”. In the former time gold was commonly used instead of money in opium trade in this area. However, because of betrayal by stuffing, it was a must to prove by cutting both opium and gold to ensure that there was no stuffing. Consequently as a result of the extensive use of money and gold in opium trade the area got its name- “The Golden Triangle.” (Source: http://houseofopium.com/history.htm)

Getting to Chiang Rai

For many years I had always heard about the infamous “Golden Triangle” one of the world largest mass opium producing areas and the area which borders Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. I had read and heard of many stories based around true crime in Australia whereby the Golden Triangle was the most prolific source of opium throughout the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and which resulted in huge organised crime syndicates dealing in importation and supply of heroin. With such an infamous past this place always intrigued me and I guess in my own little fantasy Rambo land I thought that the Golden Triangle would be a small triangular area whereby there would be everpresent opium crops guarded by heavily armed militia and Asian gangsters.

Since I was all grown up and off venturing the world on my own I thought that I my satisfy my curiosity and take a journey up to the Golden Triangle. Ihad flown in to Chiang Rai from Bangkok and I got stung 200BHT for an airport taxi to take me about a 20 minute drive out to “Jed Yod Road” where I decided to stay at the Baan Bua Guest House as recommended by my Lonely Planet Guide. I waited at reception for about an hour until I got the shits and just moved myself into one of the vacant rooms without any permission – by this it was about midnight and I was tired from such a huge and somewhat stressful day so I really didnt care. Finally, some lazy Thai guy wandered over tapped on the rooms window and I was able to check in properly.

I wandered off to get some dinner since I was starving  however since it was just after midnight there were not a lot of places open. However, I did find a cool little bar just round the corner from the guest house so I immediately pulled up a stool and ordered a refreshing tall bottle of Singha beer with a large green chicken Thai curry, hmm tasted so good. I had a good old chat to some other pommy backpacker and the bar girl. After talking for a while and mentioning that I was planning on hiring a motobike and riding up to the Golden Triangle the next morning the English backpacker mentioned that he was travelling in the opposite direction (South I believe) from Chiang Rai to visit the “White Temple”. I did want to visit the White Temple because it is meant to be an amazing temple, however as it turned out time did not permit. After 2 tall bottles of Singha and an awesome chicken green curry I return back to the guesthouse and passed out.

Journey to the Golden Triangle

I slept in until about 10am and didn’t really get myself together until about midday. I plan on traveling from Chang Rai up to the infamous Gold Triangle.

To do this I decided to rent a motorbike from the Baan Bua guesthouse I was staying at for 150BHT for 24 hours – great value I thought considering the taxi ride from the airport to my guesthouse cost me more. However, I did have to pay for petrol and this cost me approximately 300BHT for the day.

I finally got organised and took off with my day backpack, a Kermit green helmet, the motorbike with a top speed of 120km/hr and a map of where to go. I must admit I did get slightly lost along the way, so really what should have taken me just over an hour actually took me 2 and a half hours. Ok ok perhaps I got really lost then!

I kind of realized that I must have been lost when I reached a muddy dirt track, surrounded by stick huts where I was receiving looks from the locals as if to imply that I was the first white guy they had ever seen. I backtracked and finally found my way back on route to the Golden Triangle. Its amazing how one small wrong turn can take you way off course.

It was not hard to recognize the place when I found it as it was in the middle of nowhere  but the infrastructure was highly developed, well for the North of Thailand it was. I walked up to the main look out area on top of a small mountain, at the lookout I was able to look out over to my left was Myanamar (Burma) and then off to my right was the Laos mainland. It was very beautiful and picturesque.

Beside the amazing views there was quite a large amount of shops along the main street selling lots of souvenirs and fake clothes to the visiting foreigners. I jumped on my motorbike and travelled further down the main road to where I can across the Opium Museum which was an interesting place – it basically gave you a walk through run down on the history of the region, opium and how opium has actually effected society today. I believe that some of the money raised from entry fees in the museum are used to promote against the use of opium, whether the money actually is used for this I am not so sure, perhaps its just an incentive for people to fork out an entrance fee.

Needless to say my initial impressions of the Golden Triangle being a drug smuggling gangsters paradise run by gun totting drug lords was quickly diminished as soon as I found my way to the main street. Nevertheless, the hike out there was amazing and the scenery was incredible. For me it was worth the trip, if anything to satisfy my curiosity, however if its danger your looking for then the central Golden Triangle area which border the three countries is not the place to go. In saying this I am confident from what I have heard that surrounding farms in the Golden Triangle are still very fertile in the opiuym production and trade, however these farms are simply large areas with poppy plants growing on them – not that exciting really. I guess I wasnt to sure what to expect from the area but now I know.

Around the Golden Triangle there was a gigantic golden wat statue which was sticking out like a sore thumb just on the side of the Mekong River and just near this there was a local temple which was mounted up the mountain above a large and quite impressive set of stairs. It was so hot and humid around here that even the walks up and down the stairs was a sweaty affair.

I had lunch whilst I was there – coconut chicken soup and Singha beer, can’t get enough of Thailands chicken soups and curries. After lunch I wandered around and before you know it twighlight was setting in so I decided to head back when I realized that my petrol tank was almost on empty and I didn’t recall seeing a petrol station from miles away.

Hedging my bets I decided to head back to Chang Rai – luckily I got lost again on the way back, since the wrong turn ended up being a blessing in disguise as it led me straight to a small local petrol station – saved me spending the night away from my backpack and in the middle of nowhere or even worse walking.

I was then able to back track until I found the right road and returned to Chang Rai worry free. I really did give the bike a flogging to and from the Golden Triangle – no one could keep up with me, on my return to Chiang Rai I was really burning the “midnight oil”. Quite dangerous driving like an idiot on a Thai highway dodging in and out of traffic at night time but it was fun and provided for a decent adrenalin rush!

I returned back to the guesthouse and was so exhausted – I crashed to sleep for a few hours when I woke up at about 8pm. I stuffed around for a bit and didn’t have a chance of getting in to town until 10pm or 11pm. Most places were closing being a Sunday and all. So I felt dejected when I had to sit down for a cheap and nasty meal from the local 7/11. Oh dear what a mistake it was awful. A two-course 7/11 dinner of a tin of tuna and crackers and for desert a couple of packets of double filled Oreaos.

I drank a tall bottle of Heineken and crashed to bed. What a day and what an adventure. I recommend the trip out to see the Golden Triangle, whilst the place itself is not that spectacular (besides the views and scenary) the actual trip out their via motorbike was an adventure in itself.

Next stop Laos!

Josh Boorman

Editor-in-chief

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Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman
About The Author

Joshua Boorman

Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.

2 Comments

  • Eugene Breslauer

    March 28, 2010

    Hi, I’ve been a lurker around your blog for a few months. I love this article and your entire site! Looking forward to reading more!

  • admin

    admin

    March 29, 2010

    Thanks for “lurking” Eugene, thats what I like to hear. Stick with us as we will only be getting bigger and better in the coming months.

    Josh

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